Saints wear new clash jumper (and play meaningless game)

By Tom Briglia

2015 NAB Challenge, Round 1
Brisbane Lions 0.2.5, 0.4.11, 0.7.15, 0.7.16 (58)
St Kilda 0.2.1, 0.4.1, 0.6.4, 0.8.7 (55)
Crowd: Dunno, 150? at Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex, Saturday, February 28th at 3.10pm EST

Right, so Australian Rules football is officially back, notwithstanding the bizarre and unexplained match I walked past in the backstreets of Ivanhoe on a couple of Wednesday evenings ago. (And of course the NTFL, but that operates strictly within its own calendar.)

Uh, yeah. So naturally it was off to Moreton Bay on Saturday to kick things off in a competition which really has been reduced from a legitimate cause for celebration to “glorified practice matches” and I think this year might have finally hit “glorified match simulation drills” (BUT WITH 9-POINTERS *FLASHING LIGHTS*).

I’m not going to do an entire off-season/pre-season wrap right here and now but before anything else it would be remiss of me to not say anything about Madeleine Riewoldt. The occasional Twitter comments exchanged were the most interaction I had with her – like probably a few you reading this did with her, in fact –  but for the one post I feel I actually did OK with amongst the bloated slop I write for this blog she said some really nice things. The point of me bringing this up is that the post centred around family and the context of following the club and having those closest to you around you. During the day of that particular match I was at a club function and was sat next to her and Nick’s father Joe Riewoldt (Nick was there and spoke briefly as he were playing that night) and I featured it in the match review – Joe was incredibly warm and personable, and sensing I was a perhaps a little uneasy made me feel included at the table and in conversation. Madeleine took an interest in the piece when I mentioned Joe’s name in the Twitter post; she also said to me passed the piece on to him and he “loved it” – although to be honest I could never tell if he actually did read it or she was simply just saying that to be nice. Either is lovely.

Short story long, my very, very brief interaction with the Riewoldt family came at a particularly momentous point for my own family. So my reaction to hearing of her passing ranged somewhere between awful sadness for her family, as well as the hopeless dismay you feel when terrible things happen to decent people. And then you might listlessly put your hands up and say “Fuck. That.” It’s crass, but how else to frame it?

* * *

To get the 2015 pre-season underway, convention dictates that everyone has to agree on what time the game actually starts. Twitterers, Facebook users, forum posters and football clubs all struggled with the concept of daylight savings time before figuring out that the first bounce was at 4.10pm AEDT (as opposed to the temporarily redundant hunk-of-junk AEST).

For the most part it didn’t seem as if it would matter because until the day before; this was one of the few ultra-dud pre-season games which Fox Footy wouldn’t bother with. In fact if you looked at this and then our broadcast schedule for 2015 you’d think we’d gone down the Falcons’ route and slapped a giant Channel 9 logo across the tri-panel and Candy Stripe #2.

The AFL broadcast agreement apparently decided that no one was allowed to see anything if Fox Footy (or Channel 7) weren’t gonna be there, but announced the day before the game that there would indeed be streamed video with Crocmedia’s AFL Live commentary on club sites for the non-broadcast games. Look, I’m being very cynical here, but did anyone think this was a nice little PR stunt the AFL executed so as to seem another empowerment-of-the-fans move on the eve of the game – once people have actually realised they won’t be able to see the game and cracked the shits – rather than several months ago when the Corporate Challenge draw is announced and no-one’s paying attention?

Either way, we were left with a single camera on the wing – that’s fine, that’s all you need for this – but no replays, and then anywhere between one and several small children and their parents wandering loudly around crowd microphones throughout the game, and in one of the more absurd broadcast in brief history AFL live stream history, “Do You Remember” by Phil Collins cutting through loud and clear for extended periods in the second quarter (bonus: the second time it cut through it was in higher quality than the first, and I’m sure it wasn’t the broadcast audio overall).

It was out to Oakleigh for the game (pre-relative’s 21st, which incidentally required driving past what’s left of Waverley to get to) to be bunkered down at dear cousin Evan’s and strap ourselves in for all the half-hearted thrills and spills that the NAB Challenge has to offer.

Sub-standard footy with sub-standard broadcasting with sub-standard picture quality (we had the stream up on the TV via HDMI) – it had all the making of a sub-standard teaser for the real thing. And so it was. Now, the only thing that was amazing about this was the new clash jumper. In short: I love it, and it’s one of the best jumpers this club has ever had. But I will save the usual extended drivel on that and this year’s other jumpers for my usual removal of pants re: St Kilda jumpers in St Kilda Jumper Talk Vol. One Billion.

It was great to see Jason Holmes in actual St Kilda jumper, and not blue, gold and black. He didn’t have much impact as one of the subs (and also in his first vaguely AFL game obviously). His awareness in terms of actually knowing where to be to get involved in the play will required some further development. He took he a nice mark near half-back; Roberton was aware that Holmes can’t really kick an Australian Rules football and looked for the give-off but Robinson was onto it, so Holmes had to kick the thing and hit the target, I guess.

Again, Bruce has flown under the radar in his potential to importantly shore up our structure. But it might be because he’s not that good at football. I hope he does, because right now he’s sitting at number two of My Favourite Hair at the St Kilda Football Club, and I want it out there. There were a couple of soft efforts early, and the one time he looked really excited was when he got goalside of his opponent on the wing against the line and took off, hoping the boundary umpire didn’t notice the ball was 10 rows back when he gathered it.

He actually took a really nice mark on the outer wing, but dropped a relatively easy one after Saad (welcome back) gave us a rare good kick forward. Off the ball, Bruce’s tackle on Paparone late was exactly the kind of aggression you’d want to see from him in his role up forward, but Saturday’s effort or not I still feel like he’d struggle to get a spot if Roo, Paddy, Spencer and Lee are all available.

Of course, with no Roo or Spencer it was a very new forward line overall. Spencer only signed a one-year deal and I dare say his manager’s picked him out as one he can get a massive commission from. Fine by me if Spencer can’t be arsed playing here but we don’t know that yet. Strangely he didn’t get a run at all in this one and isn’t playing this week.

We did get some Big Tommy Lee and Paddy action though. Paddy moved exactly as I thought he would – direct at all the ball and he looks physically solid enough to get going from Round 1 if he stays in the action. I’m quietly really excited about him, particularly owing to the seasonal good words about his attitude coming from the club and the players. He finished with the most casual goal known to science after a 50-metre penalty and five marks which is certainly a tick at this ridiculously early stage.

Tommy Lee again showed himself to be haphazard at times and, as always, an easy dropped mark punctuated his day as much as anything else. But a couple of well thought-out centering kicks (including to Paddy on the lead for his second shot at goal) showed a little bit of maturity on his part.

On a day when slick skills were as rare as St Kilda premierships (cheers), Jack Lonie provided some much needed spark. Otherwise it was all pretty dour – two teams with only 11 wins between them out of a combined 44 games last year probably weren’t going to dish up anything more palatable at this stage of the year, and probably not at this stage of their development.

As good as it was to see Armo, Steven and Geary get involved in some really tough contest, and Jack Newnes kick a real captain’s goal – OR SHOULD I SAY 2018-2028 PREMIERSHIP CAPTAIN’S GOAL? – even though he’s not the captain yet, everyone’s dream is to see their entire team walk off the ground after a pre-season match injury-free. But lo and behold, Andrew Wallis casually revealed to us that Farren’s out for 12 weeks (hamstring), Jimmy Webster for six, Sav for a monthish (another hamstring), as well Jack Billings (yet another hamstring) taking all of 30 seconds to ruin his next four weeks. Roberton’s  done something to his hamstring as well and is going to miss too (I can hear you all shrugging). We do potentially get to see St Kilda’s Own Stephen Merchant in Tom Hickey, Luke Dunstan and Hugh Goddard play this Saturday though, and Minchington, Wright and Sinclair have all been named in the squad.

Ultimately, what do we get out of this one? In reality, just another essentially meaningless Brisbane vs St Kilda match in Queensland in the first game of the pre-season, and another narrow win by the Lions – by seven points in 2007, nine in 2009 and three in 2015. But who remembers any of that?