In This Round…Qualifying Final – Loewe, Keogh and Harvey guide the Saints to victory

By Tom Briglia

On the Thursday of each week of St Kilda’s season, we take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at memorable clash in St Kilda history from the corresponding round.

For this week’s “In This Round”, we go back to a time where a “Qualifying Final” was for every top-eight team, as part of a finals system that threw up some rather curious match-ups in its short employment.

1997 First Qualifying Final – St Kilda vs Brisbane Lions
St Kilda 4.5, 5.10, 13.12, 20.15 (135)
Brisbane Lions 3.1, 6.9, 9.9, 13.11 (89)
Crowd: 50,035 at Waverley, Sunday, September 7, 2.30pm

Under the McIntyre Final Eight system, minor premiers St Kilda – just the second time they could be described as such – would meet eighth-placed Brisbane Lions at Waverley, just six weeks after the Saints had smashed the same opponents at the same ground.

This far more important match would have a much different script, though a predictably similar ending. The Lions had been held to just 5.14 in the Round 17 clash, but had bettered that at half-time of this game with 6.9, and led the Saints by five points at the main change.

St Kilda, playing their first final in five years, had started strongly with brilliant ruckman Peter Everitt dominating early. He’d kicked two of the Saints’ first four goals, one from a curling snap from 30 metres out, the second from a high mark over three Lions on the goal line from long-range shot from Nicky Winmar.

But disaster would strike soon after when Everitt’s collarbone would fracture after a collision with Lion Darryl White near the middle of the ground. The mercurial Robert Harvey had already hurt his back, and was playing on with constant attention from trainers. Meanwhile, spearhead Jason Heatley, perhaps the best recruit of the 1997 season, had limped off the ground with an ankle injury.

Added to this, young pair Jason Akermanis and Steven Lawrence were creating headaches for St Kilda’s defence. Moves had to be made for the Saints, and coach Stan Alves made several that paid off incredibly handsomely in the second half.

The hard-working but unassuming Rod Keogh was moved onto the ball and he proved to be somewhat of an x-factor for the Saints in what was surely his best match for the club; a nice running goal in the second quarter was backed up by two hugely important goals in the third.

The first of these came from a strong mark outside 50 metres from an Alistair Lynch kick-out; Keogh immediately played on and with a raking left-foot kick banged the ball through for a brilliant goal. The second was the reward for some hard running through the forward line that saw him receive a handpass from Darryl Wakelin, moved forward in Heatley’s absence, deep in the pocket, and Keogh didn’t need to break stride before putting through his third from close range on his right foot.

Wakelin’s move forward allowed the Saints more unpredictability, and brought Barry Hall into the game as well. Wakelin kicked two goals of his own, whilst Hall kicked one from a turnover and quick snap deep in the forward pocket in the third term, and had a hand in others.

But it was Stewart Loewe, moved into the ruck to cover the loss of Everitt, who exerted an unmatched dominance on the match. He finished with 19 kicks, nine marks, 19 hit-outs and three goals to guide the Saints to a runaway victory.

His ruckwork helped a large fleet of midfielders that lifted when needed most, who not only gathered a lot of the ball, but helped to set up and kick goals. Austinn Jones, Nathan Burke and Nicky Winmar – before he suffered a heavy concussion – were all of handsome assistance to Loewe; they were backed up Jayson Daniels, Matthew Lappin and Tony Brown.

Robert Harvey, however, led the midfield charge, finishing with 33 telling possessions and final quarter goal under duress after his back strain early on. His and Loewe’s previous finals experiences set an example for the rest of the team; St Kilda slammed home 15.5 in the second half to extend their fantastic winning streak to seven.

The Saints’ week off was utilised to maximum effect against a dangerous North Melbourne a fortnight later in the preliminary final. St Kilda were tough and uncompromising as they rammed their way through the feisty Kangaroos on the way to the club’s first Grand Final appearance in 26 years. The night was one of magic for all Saints supporters, but it would all end only in tears.

Other installments of “In This Round”:
Round 22 – Essendon vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2008
Round 21 – St Kilda vs Adelaide Crows, Telstra Dome, 2008
Round 20 – Essendon vs St Kilda, Etihad Stadium, 2009
Round 19 – Sydney Swans vs St Kilda, SCG, 1997
Round 18 – Sydney Swans vs St Kilda, SCG, 2009
Round 17 – St Kilda vs Brisbane Lions, Waverley, 1997/St Kilda vs Geelong, Colonial Stadium, 2000/St Kilda vs Collingwood, Telstra Dome, 2005
Round 16 – St Kilda vs Kangaroos, Telstra Dome, 2003
Round 15 – St Kilda vs Adelaide Crows, Colonial Stadium, 2001
Round 14 – St Kilda vs Western Bulldogs, Waverley, 1998
Round 13 – St Kilda vs Fremantle, Telstra Dome, 2008
Round 12 – St Kilda vs Collingwood, MCG, 1992
Round 11 – St Kilda vs Richmond, Waverley, 1998
Round 10 – Carlton vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2004
Round 9 – Western Bulldogs vs St Kilda, Colonial Stadium, 2000
Round 8 – Essendon vs St Kilda, MCG, 1997
Round 7 – Sydney Swans vs St Kilda, SCG, 1994
Round 6 – West Coast vs St Kilda, Subiaco, 1998
Round 5 – St Kilda vs North Melbourne, Junction Oval, 1933
Round 4 – Collingwood vs St Kilda, Victoria Park, 1993
Round 3 – St Kilda vs Collingwood, Waverley, 1997
Round 2 – St Kilda vs Carlton, Moorabbin, 1989
Round 1 – St Kilda vs Geelong, Telstra Dome, 2004
NAB Cup Grand Final – St Kilda vs Carlton, Waverley, 1996
NAB Cup Semi-Final – Essendon vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2008
NAB Cup Round 2 – St Kilda vs Carlton, Waverley, 1995
NAB Cup Round 1 – Collingwood vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2006