Round 5, 2020
Carlton 1.1, 2.4, 5.6, 8.7 (55)
St Kilda 4.3, 7.4, 9.5, 11.7 (73)
Crowd: 0 at Docklands, Thursday, July 2nd at 7.40pm
No sooner had Gary said on SEN on Monday morning, “Carlton-St Kilda at 1.45 at the MCG on Saturday has match of the round written all over it” did it become “Carlton-St Kilda at 7.40 at Marvel Stadium on Thursday night”.
Direct from the Brunswick West frontline, the absence of travelling to the ground and sharing the pre-match experience has been exacerbated, never mind the rare Thursday night timeslot. I spent the evening Stress Eating For St Kilda. Cleaning my room. Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle was on but only being half watched. I balanced with the novelty of watching the pre-match on Fox Footy and then, of course, Channel 7. Until this point we’d been Bruceless and BTless (and Hamishless and Darce-less).
During the Thursday, thoughts of footy and wanting to see the Saints still made it through the checkpoints. Not so much that a good game or a win was guaranteed, but how the team and individuals would back up another week of positivity, after only allegedly making it to the MCG a couple of weeks ago. Part of the pressure of being an actually good team is the unfamiliar positivity in the media. That’s just really tempting fate for the Saints. AFL.com.au asked if Dan Butler is “recruit of the year?”, Herald Sun style, and the Herald Sun itself went all-out out with a “Saints’ accuracy a gold mine in goalless world”.
An early trend that’s been vaguely agreed upon this year is there is a premium on fast starts. This game was won in the first one and three-quarter…quarters in a fast-moving style of play from a young side with some decent recruits that echoed 2004. Even from the Brunswick West couch, resplendent in my giant pink fluffy dressing gown and slightly-too-small Kmart tracksuit pants, this was slowly turning into an Almost Fun Carnival of Footy and Recession and Death and Health Concerns and Destroyed Livelihoods.
When was the last time St Kilda did something good tactically that came off? Beyond a straight-up Clint Jones tag (maybe Jack Steele too a few times more recently), or casually throwing Goddard/Fisher/Gwilt up forward at moments during Roo’s 2010 hamstring recovery? Geary kicking two goals from very strong marks was fun, kicking a third might have kept him forward for some time. Almost impossible to keep Cripps entirely out of a game, so the next best thing is to force their hand and Steele made sure of it.
Never mind the Thursday night timeslot. As someone who is fortunate enough to be able to buy a membership every year and go to every Melbourne game, taking in the game through lens(es, literally) of Channel 7. We’ve been neatly tucked away on dud Fox Footy timeslots, and it was strange to hear that the outside world knew any of our players, or what they do, or vaguely praising them. Even if it was just BT getting excited about Dan Butler and articulating it poorly.
Perhaps the 7 team was surprised. That early part of the game showed off a lot that they wouldn’t have seen live or had to call in real time. Max King kicked the first of the night from a high mark, Callum Wilkie had eight touches in the first eight minutes, Geary kicked two as a leading target lol, Ben Long took an excellent mark going back with the flight.
Steele attention for keeping Cripps quiet. Gresham hadn’t had a touch at the first break but opened the second quarter with a clearance, a give back from King and a running goal with a borderline arrogant celebration. Butler gave off a deft and selfless Richmond chip on top of Max. Butler’s running goal was the peak of the night – both in margin, intent, execution and quality – and was mostly met with silence from the couch. It was disarmingly slick. We’d forgotten what genuinely good teams do.
Slowly the momentum turned. BT, Bruce and the Channel 7 hierarchy were really hoping for a closer game, coaxing supporters even at half-time with their talk about the Blues comeback against the Demons a few weeks ago. The flowing game of St Kilda disappeared. North Melbourne #2 loomed.
Geary took another mark on the lead but poked at it. Bruce’s reaction and the camera angle would have had you thinking you could think we were home, relax, and think about the news reports highlighting that Geary had kicked three. Hannebery was done, Wilkie may or may not have been done (as per slightly-too-excited commentary), Paton’s nose was a tap. Steele’s tackles on Cripps weren’t sticking, and Cripps was making an impact wherever he was. Geary got shown up and the Blues had all the momentum. Cripps making an impact whenever he was.
There were some quality moments dotted a different points of the quarter that were ultimately enough to see us through. Max King deserves a bit more attention for his score involvements. The intercept of Jones’s cross-goal kick and the curling no-fuss snap to Butler on the goal line was obscenely athletic and clinical for someone his size. Ben Long took the mark of the year contender we thought we would take. If Butler’s goal was the peak of what Saints Footy looks like in 2020 Pandemic Resumption Phase #2, then Billings’ set shot on the Zac Dawson 2009 angle might be a checkpoint – Marsh’s lead-up mark and Battle joining the dots in between (with a contested cameo from Geary) allowed a team up against the momentum to pierce through on quality alone. Bruce noted it was perhaps the most important goal of the night.
Some dumb luck in the final seconds of the third quarter could have effectively sealed it. Ross took the ball out of bounds on the wing, then threw it, and Battle received a non-free not too far out from goal. Out on the full. The club needs to have more unforgiving hardarsery to take those.
The response early in the second half of the Bulldogs game was great because the team had gone out of its way to address the half-time lead and make sure there wasn’t a repeat of the Round 1 fade out. What made this different was that a challenge materialised, and the team maintained function enough to hit back.
After an objectively funny Geary shot on the run early in the last, Membrey and Kent both produced quality forwards moments. Membrey’s kick reaching just far enough to get over the line was a small wink (although we are pattern-seeking mammals), and Kent’s fantastic finish made things a little more comfortable. Long put his body on the line later on, in another moment of evolution for the team. Maybe we can start to rely on these guys to do the right thing more often, no matter the circumstance.
Time for Aesthetics Corner. Firstly, Carlton vs St Kilda is the kind of Grand Final jumper match-up I have in my head. The contrast in colours and match up of two founding clubs with traditional jumper designs is excellent. There’ll be more time for this in the next St Kilda Jumper State of the Union, but it’s disappointing the design aspects yield to the Deliveroo logo on the back, rather than the Deliveroo overlaying the stripes on the back (which are very welcome).
Immediately post-siren, I have a feeling that Channel 7 took the audio of the club song playing from its sound library from a game last year (off the top of my head the Hawthorn match they broadcast in Round 4), because it didn’t sound like it was being played at the ground (happy to be corrected). It would be nice if the club actually took steps to make sure The Fable Singers version of the song is used – I’m sure if Collingwood (one of the first and most vocal clubs to reject the bemusing new versions of 2018) wanted their Fable Singers version being played on the broadcast, they’d get it. This is the only way fans are going to be able to hear it this season. The Carlton Draught Home Game used the bad cover version of the song during the week. The club was silly enough to allow it for 2018 and 2019 and now it might float around in perpetuity
Another week soaked in the artificial lighting of the Concrete Disney Store, were any game could have been played at any time of day or night, in any season. We’d never know. Part of footy’s place in our lives is that it marks the time and frames the year. The t-shirts and bright colours in the crowd of the warm pre-season, the wetter, darker days of the winter, the renewed sunlight of September. This might have been the last for the year. Perhaps the last in Victoria. Maybe not. Bruce said this looked like a club reinventing itself on and off the field. Hamish and Jobe both said we could win it. Never mind worrying about if we’re a premiership fancy – we didn’t even know where we’d be playing next week.