Reaching new heights, in the novelty sense only

By Tom Briglia

I think what we’re all looking forward to more than anything else this Sunday is Jackson Ferguson joining Luke Miles as the player to have worn the highest official number for St Kilda in over two decades.

That number is 45, which Miles wore for a couple of games at the end of the 2010 home-and-away season. Being a mature-age recruit and after a pretty good season at Sandy, some of might have thought he might have been getting ready for a finals tilt. Alas, he was demoted to Grand Final Sprint Club Representative, and just like the Saints went back-to-back(-to-back; even the Ferg Burger and Miles have a draw in this one) in unsuccessful Grand Final attempts, he took them to back-to-back victories in the little novelty event at half-time that barely anyone remembers. That’s not true, actually: everyone remembers BIG RHYS BANDWAGON winning the 2009 Grand Final sprint, because that’s what was responsible for so much of his hype in the following years. I think we’ve cooled our jets since we realised he’s going to need to time to develop like every other younger guy; for now he needs to get more attention more having a pug and his work with Pugs SOS.

The highest number that my Twitter pals (you know who you are) and I could find worn by a St Kilda player officially in a senior match was 60, worn by Robert Mace in 1982 for 13 games, for three games by Dermot McNicholl in 1990 and, in the Open competition, by Nicky Winmar as a replacement for his usual 7 in the 1991 Elimination Final against the Cats.

EDIT: My RWB co-guy Richie Lee has just brought to my attention Dale Kickett wore 52 as his full-time number in 21 games with the Saints in 1992, somewhere in between playing for 12 other clubs. It makes him the last St Kilda player (unless someone can correct me here) to have worn a 50+ number as their official number.

Winmar leads the Open competition in the post-Sheldon era (the past 20 years) too, wearing 50 in Round 16, 1997 against the Hawks after getting blood on his jumper. Of no-one’s interest, that day the Saints kicked their equal-highest score for a year in which they finished on top of the ladder and made the Grand Final. However, they took the long way around, kicking 20.21 (141) to match Round 9’s 22.9 (141), with Jason Heatley kicking 4.8 on an incredibly windy day, even by Waverley’s standards.

Special mention must go to Lazar Vidovic, who wore 58 in 1989 for one match and 50 in 1990, but I think the real winner here is Robert Mace. Not only did he win lead the Official competition – that is, like McNicholl 60 was his actual number – but he wore it for more games than anyone else and he wore it in this font (only Port Adelaide in 1997 have come close to have something so stylised, and so quickly outdated).

The Ferg Burger comes in fresh from promotion to the senior list. He’s been really impressive off half-back for Sandy for a couple of years now, having joined the Saints as a NSW Scholarship holder. The questionable thing, however, is that we already have a lot of medium-tall running defenders, or at least the idea of promoting the ever-busy Tom Curren would make more sense to let him have a crack at winning the contested ball. Armo’s back in and Lenny’s back out, but Wright back in with CJ out seems reasonable enough, with Big Beau the other out.

It also reunites the Hardarse Triumvirate of Wright, Newnes and The Only Ross at St Kilda, with the latter two some rare shining lights over a couple of dud weeks. Ridiculous fade-outs or not, I’m not going to the game as one of those overly optimistic fans who think we’re going to knock off the Roos. That doesn’t make me stupid or a bad supporter, by the way, regardless of the result – basic numbers and form (yes, taking those fade-outs into account) say North should be too strong in this one.

What I am looking forward to seeing is Wright, Newnes and Ross attempting back up their good form that they’ve carried through their last few respective games, and Wright’s attack on the footy in particular. I’m hoping Jimmy Webster can get a full game, and of course that the The Ferg Burger shows something.

Bemusingly, North dropped Hype Machine of 2013 Majak Daw. I say “bemusingly” because the Saints have had a rubbish record against tall, athletic forwards through Swat’s reign, and, as I brushed on before, even having BIG RHYS BANDWAGON in defence hasn’t been able to entirely remedy that. Throw Petrie in the mix too and it should be a recipe for disaster, but they’ve got Aaron Black in anyway so if the midfield is custard again look out for him to really announce himself.

Big Ben and Big Tom Hickey will really want to step up this week after getting pantsed by Big Will Minson last week, but they’ll have Big Todd Goldstein as Opponent #1 and if they’re only as good as their last couple that will be enough for Swallow, Bastinac, Boomer and co. to run riot and deliver that bag Aaron Black.

It’s also Joey’s 200th. Before I end things upsettingly, did anyone else realise that the picture of him on the right in the background of St Kilda website has been photoshopped to have the Centrebet logo in it?  The picture is from 2010 – you can tell by the rounded collar on that clash jumper (it was an old-style V-neck in 2009) and Jeld-Wen was our major sponsor that year.

Right, so, it’s a shame that unlike the Tip Rat and BJ last year, he probably won’t get the deserved victory in a milestone game. The number of kids playing shows just who the focus will really be on for the foreseeable future, i.e. everyone aged David Armitage-and-under. Any celebration for Joey is about looking back on a closed era.