“It’s great to be amongst family”

By Tom Briglia

Round 20, 2013
St Kilda 2.5, 3.6, 4.12, 7.14 (56)
Hawthorn 3.3, 8.13, 10.18, 14.18 (102)
Crowd: 24,765 at Etihad Stadium, Friday, August 9th at 7.50pm

What we were assuming would be my Dad’s final match before heading overseas – several weeks ago against the Power – expanded somewhat into a farewell tour. Friday night, however, was officially the last.

He and Mum are moving to the UK indefinitely over the next week or two. So this was Dad’s last Melbourne match, and it was fitting that it was this St Kilda and Hawthorn match for a few reasons.

This is the 20th year I’ve been going to the footy with my Dad. He took me to my first game in the opening round of 1994, which was between St Kilda and Hawthorn. The first Grand Final he went to (indeed, the first he was old enough to comprehend and have any sort of memory of) was Hawthorn overrunning St Kilda in 1971.

The first St Kilda match following my first move out of home, as a 22 year-old, was Round 17, 2010, St Kilda vs. Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium on a Friday night. I remember going to the ground feeling how familiar it still felt to be at the footy with my Dad, Evan and Matt. My brother moved out for the first time during week, at the same age, ahead of St Kilda and Hawthorn playing in a late-season game on a Friday night at Etihad Stadium.

Some further useless stats similarities: that first game that Dad took me to, St Kilda lost by 56 points, and kicked 15.7. On Friday night, they kicked 7.14 (56), and lost by 46 points. In 1994, Hawthorn broke open the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Saints by 31 points; on Friday night it was the same scenario, winning that term by 33 points.

My whole Friday in fact revolved around the St Kilda Football Club. I was fortunate enough to go to the Saints in the City luncheon at The Point in Albert Park. I hadn’t actually heard of this before – it’s basically a business networking opportunity aimed at Saints fans over a nice lunch and it’s a good fundraising opportunity for the club. This was the third of four for the year.

Amazingly (for me – this information doesn’t help your life in any way), I was sat next to Joe Riewoldt, father of My Favourite Hair in the AFL. Being a corporate function aimed at St Kilda supporters, essentially everyone in the room was a Saints supporter or had ties to the club. Several of us in a group were chatting before the lunch, and Joe came over. He was introduced to us all by Peter Summers, and then warmly said, “It’s great to be amongst family”. I loved it, I thought it was a genuinely sweet thing to say.

He really is a very lovely guy; very enthusiastic to chat with people on the day, and at one stage went out of his way to put his hand on my shoulder and draw me into a conversation he was having with another attendee. I had a good chat with him throughout the lunch; we spoke about the Essendon saga, my job, Joe being a St Kilda supporter whilst Nick grew up in the ‘80s going for Hawthorn – because his mother did and they were successful (Joe said that when Nick didn’t go for St Kilda when he was a kid because, in Nick’s words, “they always lose”) – and the unseen respect players have for each other before opening bounce and after the final siren.

Roo himself was there, albeit only briefly, given he lives around the corner and it was game day. Spud Frawley was the MC, and he gave a casual interview with him, about his preparation on game day, the chance of any father/sons, the way his role has changed over the years and so on. Spud also spoke with Sammy Hamill, who let slip that Adam Schneider would be playing. He actually thought he’d let slip that Minchington was playing, then he asked the audience if Minch was included in the team sheet (everyone said yes, he had), and went on to say he was looking forward to seeing how Minch would go alongside Schneider. Cue stock audio track of audience discussing things concernedly.

Sammy also drew the raffle tickets, and a whole lot of people from the same table won prizes. I think you actually need to shake up the tickets before you draw them. Not that I’m bitter – I wouldn’t have known what to do with a Volvo racing jacket.

Also in attendance were Stewart Loewe, both Wakelins, Frankie Peckett, Andrew Thompson, Dean Anderson (who was at my table) and, as bonus, Brett Moyle. It was really nice to have guys like that going to these things and maintaining a link to the club.

A few wines, pork belly and 120-day grain-fed something-or-rather steak, and a costume change back at Brunswick later, I was on my way to the game on the tram along Lygon Street poring over Twitter. I also had a cheeky Mac Attack pre-game on the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale. I was so entirely not nervous at all I was actually keen on stuffing my face before the match.

There was a bit of love for TOM LEE BANDWAGON for most goals for the match amongst Saints fans having a crack at the SEN guess-the-stuff thing, but I was more concerned that Roughead alone would kick more goals than us. General consensus in the football world, and quite rightly, was that this was sure to be a drubbing: a young Saints side playing inconsistent footy at best and with three wins for the year up against one of the competition’s slickest, hardest and most disciplined sides. On the flipside, it was strange being on the receiving end of reasonable expectations for 100 point-plus predictions, less than a year after the club’s third biggest win ever, and one that was less than two kicks from the club’s biggest ever win in 140 years.

The Hawthorn away jumper is sensational, but it flawed in its implementation. Even though it is darker than their home jumper, as the brown and gold are inversed, they wear it was an “away” jumper in Victoria – not as a “clash”. So they’ll wear this darker jumper against Victorian teams with a “dark” home jumper, i.e. St Kilda, Collingwood and Essendon. It takes us back to the days when St Kilda wore the hot-cross bun design for home games, and the traditional tri-panel as the away – purely as an “away” jumper, not as a “clash”. Hawthorn should make this one a “dark” home jumper, with brown shorts, and have its traditional mostly gold jumper the away/clash “light” jumper, with white shorts. And get rid of that rubbish hawk-on-white jumper.

Minchington was debuting wearing number 41, inheriting the number from other heroes that have worn the number at St Kilda, such as Brad Campbell and Paul Cahill, and those at other clubs such as FRIEND OF RWB, Tom Murphy in his early days at the Hawks.

Minch and returning Bull Murdoch were doing short kicks to each other in the pre-match warm-up and both managed to drop absolute sitters. Roberton kicked an awesome goal around as body as the team ran out, but after watching the dropped marks I became surer that it was going to be a long night. It turned into a long night more because of Hawthorn dominating but messing around (“lairising”, as GT would call it), particularly around and in front of goal. It would have been an absolute rubbish game for a neutral supporter. I would have been watching because I wanted to see records potentially broken, as I have for Gold Coast and GWS games over the past couple of seasons. Instead, viewers were treated to a whole lot of faffin’. The game, really, was beyond the Saints once the Hawks crept out to four goal-plus lead in the second quarter. The Hawks weren’t in any hurry, either. They just did what they had to do.

That’s probably selling the Saints’ first quarter efforts a little short. But for inaccurate kicking (although the same could apply to the Hawks), they should have been a couple of goals in front. Murdoch in fact did a couple of good things – he took a nice contested grab, and booted a big penetrating kick forward into 50, and then took another tough mark and dished it off to Josh Saunders, who could have run another 15 metres to about 30 metres out from goal, but he hurried it and missed.

Saunders had already completed a very exciting passage of play a few minutes earlier. Newnes won a free kick on the members’ side, and he hit Tom Lee high on the flank who really hit the contest and brought the ball to ground front and centre against two Hawks. The ball ended with Roo, fresh from fluffing a set shot at goal, and he gave it off to Saunders who goaled. I wasn’t sure if it was Roo not backing himself or him trying to get Saunders into the game – probably a bit of both. Whichever way, it worked.

If anything, Saunders’ haste later in the quarter was the exception to the rule. Several times through the night he looked to take on or burn an opponent, even when faced with a bit of traffic. He didn’t get too much of the footy but that kind of play is already becoming an expecation of him.

Like so many games this year, there were signs early that the Saints were working much harder for not much more reward than their opposition. The Saints had had most of the play but the Hawks took things the length of the boundary from a kick in and Breust delivered neatly to Roughead, who went back and kicked the goal.

Roughy never looked truly restricted by the Saints’ defence. His lazy snap goal in the second quarter really summed up the game. The second quarter did, really. Spangher was made to look good; the Hawks had the skill and discipline to dominate play and to have 15 scoring shots; but they also had the lack of urgency to kick 5.10 from those shots – because they could afford to.

Again the lack of a genuine key defender was exposed. Gwilt, who was never a full-back to begin with, was subbed out at the main change; The Blake was commendable and used his experience to good effect in a number of contests but isn’t quite a full-back either, and Sean Dempster, too – he isn’t a full-back. Roughead kicked five, St Kilda kicked seven.

TOM LEE BANDWAGON certainly didn’t get anywhere near that number of goals, despite some fans’ thoughts. In fact he didn’t get any number of goals; he did hit the post though. The stats will show he only took four marks, had 10 possessions and kicked 0.1, but I thought his presence was much bigger. He hit a lot of packs and hit them really well and he took a lot of heat off Roo. He had a couple of articles written about him during the week, maybe he felt a bit of pressure?

Roo was his usual hard-working self, not much need for analysis other than to say he benefitted from TOM LEE BANDWAGON’s presence, and that 1.3 wasn’t an ideal result, but he did more than so many others.

Murdoch put in some notable efforts through the game. In my head he ended up with three really strong contested grabs for the game, as well as a nice bump on Head’s brother after he took a mark and a really lovely long set shot goal. Only seven touches from seven marks, but most of them had a positive aspect.

Bull’s goal really came from Minch taking a contested mark out at half-forward, and then bulleting a pass to Roo who kicked it on to Bull. Minch likewise didn’t get much of the ball, but showed something with most of his touches. Some really slick disposal is what this side is crying out for and

One thing Dad and I noted was how wide the Saints tried to keep the ball when coming out of defence. At one point Farren was on the wing cracked the shits at everyone for not going wide, and then making sure they went wide out of defence – I think it was Dempster that went short and a little inboard from the back pocket, and Big Ben ended up with it soon after – but I really liked that he was taking control of things on the ground.

Dad and I ended up watching the third quarter from Livewire, but we wanted to watch the final quarter in our seats together. It was nearly all Hawthorn supporters one the way there, at the bar, and on the way back to our seats, although the St Kilda turnout wasn’t too bad. Oh wait, yes it was. You could say that, well, 24,700-odd that showed up and Hawthorn has 63,000-plus members, where were all they? A better question is, why did Hawthorn supporters clearly, clearly outnumber Saints fans at our own how game? The guy sitting next to us was talking to Dad about it during the final quarter and said something along the lines of that the Saints turnout was down because of the number of Jewish supporters we have and it was a Friday night. Dad and I agreed after the game that it was more to do with rubbish football. There’s a lesson: bad football is bad football regardless of race, religion, colour, or sexual orientation. Bad football doesn’t discriminate.

Joe pointed out when he was talking about Nick barracking for the Hawks that there were so many Hawthorn supporters in their early 30s now because of that stretch of dominance through the ‘80s. I worry that St Kilda might have blown a chance not just for the club itself to be strengthened by winning a premiership in the last decade or so, but its supporter base also. I’m optimistic about Scott Watters and where he’s taking us. I like what I’ve seen in a lot of young guys, but we’re still the laughing stock that’s only won one premiership and blew a golden chance over a decade to win at least one more.

Dad and I went to 90 Secondi, the new pizza place that has opened up at the bottom of the NAB2 building, in the space closest to Gate 3. We had a (very nice) pizza and a coffee. I think we just wanted to be close to the ground for a bit longer. Going to the footy is something we’ve always loved doing together. Even beyond that – going to the footy to watch St Kilda is instinctual for us. I grew up going to the footy and I grew up watching the footy, and I did all of that with him.

Simply supporting a club leaves its own legacy for those around you, particularly your family members. Dad’s just turned 50 and is making a huge life change with Mum. What has he passed on to Matt, dear cousin Evan and I as a St Kilda supporter at this key checkpoint in his life?

Obviously this isn’t about measuring him on what the club has achieved, but rather it’s an inherent mindset; a sharing of ambitions and heartaches. What will our legacy be as supporters? What will we be yearning to see in the future with those dearest sitting in the stands with us? Indeed, what will we see?

I wrote after the Richmond game last month that being a St Kilda supporter is already loaded for those my age. It’s a precarious period this club is in at the moment. Already there is the need to right a number of wrongs that I’ve seen first hand.

As Joe said, “It’s great to be amongst family”. If Dad and Mum are still overseas when we’re back into the pointy end of September, they’ll definitely be flying back here to see it. I couldn’t have it any other way. When St Kilda, finally, do reach the summit, it’s having those closest to us alongside us that will make it truly special.