2015 Posts

How we didn’t necessarily want to be

Recently turning 25 came with it an expected yet still slightly painful quarter-life crisis.

From 24 to 25 feels like you’ve aged at least nine to 10 times that overnight and it requires an honest look at yourself in a glass coated with metal amalgam, or as many people refer to it; a mirror. You assess your finances, relationship status, career progression and then naturally of course you weigh up whether or not you will ever witness a St Kilda premiership. Now no longer at the tender age of 24, this plight had been turned up a proverbial notch almost instantaneously. Amongst brushing up my resume, Google searching “community work” and signing up to eHarmony, came the thought of what the last 25 years has been and meant on this earth, and a large a part of that has revolved around being a St Kilda supporter.

When you’re a kid and you attend Auskick – or, as my junior football club’s program was very controversially named, “Midgets” – you’re happy just running around in a team’s colours courtesy of Dad; for me a traditional long sleeve Saints guernsey with Aussie Jones’ number 5 on the back. You’d hear a result and maybe care about it for all of 15 seconds before you’re chasing a footy around again worrying about your own very important career. This was more often than not made up of deliberately tightening angles for goals to have a shot at momentary glory. When Tom and I were little, we couldn’t wait to play for St Kilda when we were older, it was going to be fantastic. It turned out for us that the selection process was sufficiently more stringent than we could have ever possibly anticipated; our playing careers teetered out (not without serious injuries) and our success as footballers would now have to be fulfilled vicariously through the St Kilda Football Club, the passion no longer exerted on the field would have to be inflicted from the stands. That transition from being a child and being given a St Kilda jumper, to it being 100% apart of me: well, this was now complete.

Too young to appreciate, but I still observed the trail of destruction left by 1997; I sat there and watched but couldn’t really understand Stewart Loewe’s goal kicking yips, Joel Smith’s broken leg, Peter Everitt’s collarbone. I then saw Tim Watson and Malcolm Blight come and go; I saw Max Hudghton cry, Caydn Beetham lose the passion, I witnessed Daniel Wulf run in and hit the post, I watched Steven Baker suffer “amnesia”, Justin Peckett getting run down from behind with Troy Longmuir the beneficiary, Justin Koschitzke get blindsided by Daniel Giansiracusa, a nastily snapped Matt Maguire leg; I listened to the media circles of Grant Thomas being too friendly with the players, I’d seen Ross Lyon stop the other teams from scoring, I’d seen Luke Ball walk; I’d seen a toe-poke and I’d seen the unexpected bounce of obscurely shaped ball on the biggest stage.

On the contrary I’d watched Jason Heatley kick a few bags, Aussie Jones tear down the wing, and Troy Schwarze bang home a winner against Brisbane. I’d watched Robert Harvey, Nathan Burke and Lenny Hayes; Barry Hall’s winner after the siren against Hawthorn, Fraser Gehrig’s 100th goal in a season, Clint Jones run down Buddy Franklin; I’d seen Michael Gardiner come from nowhere, Nick Riewoldt’s soccer goal in the 2009 preliminary final; I’d seen a 55-point comeback, a last-minute Montagna goal, and the highlight: sharing a few lanes of bowling with Andrew Thompson, Justin Koschitzke and Justin Peckett in Moorabbin (watching elite athletes plough through my bucket of hot chips was slightly disheartening on the eve of the season but it was still a highlight).

I had ridden the St. Kilda wave since 1997 and upon reflection in the metal amalgam-coated glass, I was spat out the back witnessing 0 premierships. Regardless, on the eve of entering my 18th season as a member, despite the amount of times we have uttered profanities under our breathe to ourselves and sometimes regrettably out loud in front of families and children, there is never any doubt we’ll be walking through the gates again, daring to dream of the very best outcomes; even possibly putting our heads on our pillows at night and hoping we are the Leicester City of the AFL. We’ve witnessed the “How I Want to Be” slogans, and whilst we didn’t necessarily choose our own destiny, the first quarter has been one hell of an opening.

Without a fight

Round 22, 2015
St Kilda 1.5, 3.9, 4.12, 4.14 (38)
Sydney Swans 4.3, 10.6, 15.10, 20.15 (135)
Crowd: 27,856 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, August 30th at 3.20pm

In the character-based comedy stylings of the St Kilda Football Club Adam Schneider was farewelled today with the opposition supporters having infinitely more reason to be thankful for his services.

He was not just a part of the history-making Swans outfit that broke the longest VFL/AFL premiership drought in 2005, but he was also pivotal the week before in which the Swans won their first final at the MCG for 69 years. Of Course, who else would it be against? (Just as a further tease, the same number of years the Saints took to win out first and still only flag).

That 2005 season would go down as one of the most tumultuous in St Kilda history, and one that for a brief fortnight appeared could be the one that delivered its second flag. Instead the unfancied Swans – whilst they’d finished above us on the ladder in third spot, they were lucky to be there due to Nick Davis’ heroics – ran away with the Preliminary Final in the final quarter. Schneider finished with three straight as the Swans kicked 7.0 to 0.4 in the final term.

I’ve only ever seen one highlight from that game, one day being daring enough to bring myself to watch some footage from it (a YouTube that has since been taken down, but a couple of more in-depth highlights videos of that night have been posted). That on passage is Schneider’s third goal halfway through in the final term to seal the deal once and for all. Tim Lane’s commentary befits the mood and context of that moment wonderfully.

Obviously not the best way to ingratiate yourself to an opposing club’s fans but it was a very popular trade indeed that brought him and Dempster to the club. Curiously (as pointed out in Herald Sun yesterday), the only three players remaining from that match are Goodes and the St Kilda duo.

Schneider brought a slickness to the side that we really needed more of; a goalsneak foil to Milne but one that could play higher up the ground and use pinpoint disposal going into attack.

But so it will be that the 2009 Grand Final will be the defining point of his St Kilda career. Going into the day he’d already banked a premiership as a 21 year-old in just his third season, and for all intents and purposes he should have had a second. He wasn’t the only villain on the day the Saints kicked themselves out of a premiership – Milne, McQualter, Gram and Dempster all wasted multiple gettable chances – but he was the ringleader.

His return of 2.3 doesn’t tell you that his first chance at goal was a snap from directly in front to give us our first major but, as we saw close-up from the Punt Road end pocket he tried kicking the proverbial off the Sherrin and missed. Nor does it tell you about the moment that will be branded painfully, searingly into my memory will be his miss in the last quarter that would have set the tone and put breathing space between ourselves and the Cats. At the time it was another miss we feared might come back to hurt us in the worst possible way, and now it hurts immensely.

I’ve never seen footage from the game; I still turn away when a highlight appears on TV and I know it’s from the game (including when watching the 2009 Season Highlights DVD). And so I’ve seen Scarlett in the seconds before “the toepoke” but I still don’t exactly know what it looks like (likewise Chapman’s goal). But this Schneider moment is still clear in my mind, from the viewpoint of our seats at the other end of the ground. It’s as much the feeling I had at the time as well as the visual memory itself. When he broke clear into space, well inside range, the first instinct was that he would kick it. But in the wider context of what the kick meant this was a completely foreign position to be in. When he broke clear, I remember thinking…well, I don’t know if I want to say I felt “this is it”, because the goal in itself wasn’t going to win it at that point, rather, that if he kicked it we would be very difficult to shake from there. But for that brief moment before he physically kicked it we were going to be in that incredible position in the last quarter of a Grand Final. His getting the ball and heading for goal on his own seemed to represent the situation we were in: there were no obstacles; no thunderbolts from the footy gods, no personal hang-ups. It was only space; I guess “weightless” is the best way to describe how I felt. The only thing standing in our way from this point would be ourselves. And within seconds, so it proved to be. The kick curled to the right and missed.

Maybe it was the 21 year-old frame of mind I was in at the time, but in writing this even now I can feel myself getting worked up about how I felt. There are few singular moments in St Kilda’s history I personally feel so pained about; so simply sad about. For a few seconds I thought we were on our way. But we gave it up and ultimately lost it. That’s a long way down.

From that point on his key contribution was set in stone, officially so after the Grand Final Replay and the team was psychologically ruined. Time would run out for him well before he would make it anywhere near another Grand Final in which he could atone for that day. It raised its head again this year against the Bombers early in the season. A missed set shot from directly in front to put us up by over a goal with several minutes left; the resulting kick-out was taken straight up the other end for what proved to be Travis Colyer’s winning goal. It didn’t prove to be as much until after Schneider missed from 15 metres out directly in front.

Every player from the 2004-2010 era who retires feels like a victory for everyone that enjoyed seeing the Saints fail to win a premiership throughout it, and for those who thoroughly enjoyed the St Kilda schoolgirl saga to bookend it (as an entree to the dour awful 2011 season). We’re that far away from those Grand Finals now that we’re more prone to thanking Schneider for his work with Lonie (surely he takes #13?), Sinclair and Minchington in the immediate sense of what we’re losing. Unfortunately, as a St Kilda supporter, his career will be defined by that moment on that amazing, awful, defeating day. In a wider context, his career’s peak will have come with the Sydney Swans as part of their 2005 premiership, with him personally disposing of St Kilda en route.

Hard to review a (non-retiring) player’s game at this stage of the year without turning it into a faux-season review, or “Where are they at?” BigFooty-style irrationality convention. It’s hard to review anything with this one in that light because I went to the Savoy for lunch and drinks with RWB cohort Rich, Dad, Lewis and family friend Jim, but we already know the Savoy will have to echo it’s comeback act from the time that construction begins on the 68-floor tower on its site.

I keep coming back to this but I always will – Mum and Dad returning to the country gave a welcome expanded dynamic to gameday. The problem was that they so late in the season and only now I was getting used to the pre- and post- match drinks, burgers and chats, let alone the games themselves. And just like that, with next week a meaningless match over in Perth, the season is essentially over for the supporters.

The takeaway from last week was the performance of J Holmes; big leaps, good hit-out numbers and some tapwork that gave our midfield its best service for years. Holmes opened up early with a big leap and healthy tap, Armo winded from hit, Schneider caught immediately

Holmes looked quite lost for much of the game, with Mike Pyke the beneficiary. Pyke floating forward on his own was a dreaded but predictable outcome, and Tippett helped himself at the right time of year to plenty of the action as the ruck foil and up forward.

The signs weren’t that good whichever way you looked at it. Even our better passages were wasted. Holmes out of the ruck to Armo, to Ross, to Murdoch and then to dicking around should simply have been a straightforward entry to the advantage of a moving forward in 50. Instead, the Swans forced a stoppage and went straight to the other end and a chance to reset at a throw in next to their own goals.

Tom Hickey obviously either got comfortable or injured after signing a two-year deal last week, doing fark all and subbed out just after half-time with leaner numbers than J Holmes. Playing as a forward he kicked one behind and elsewhere he was disappointing, punctuated by weak efforts in a marking contest against Grundy in front of the members and then a weak tackle on Pyke, which ended with Riewoldt flying back into a marking contest and Tippett goaling immediately.

Novelty team line-ups mean novelty passages of play. Anything featuring Murdoch (like the above) probably qualifies, but he and the poorly-haired Seb Ross were busy across the ground early, linking up for Ross to hit the post. Other behinds registered at quarter-time were barely decent opportunities (e.g. Gilbert off the ground from 12 rows back behind the goals), but such was Sydney’s pressure and our ability to execute, pressured or not.

Armo didn’t kick a great chance for goal on the run after some good work from a Schneider and Sav double team, and the footy went straight up for Mike Pyke running into goal with Holmes nowhere near it. What could have been a three-point margin was now 15, and moments later 21, despite the Swans leading the scoring shots count 9 to 8 at that point.

Things were looking really droll when Dempster came out of defence and just vaguely kicked it out of play. No tact, no cunning, no plan from the wider team to give him something further down the ground. But we plummeted further with some more St Kilda comedy gold as Armo strolled in to goal and missed, Webster dropped an easy mark in defence and Tippett and Goodes goaled immediately afterwards. Murdoch’s nice kick after goal the half-time siren was barely sugar coating.

As far as those booing Goodes goes, several points to make. Firstly, a few are jumping to their own defence or that of others that they’re booing him because he’s a “thug”, “diver”, “cheat”, etc. They would then have to argue that people have begun booing him en masse in recent times for all of those things specifically, and just purely coincidentally after he called out someone making a racist comment directed at him and then after performing an indigenous culture-themed war dance on field. Because no crowd ever booed him in the past unless after he’d done something specific during a game, as all players are susceptible to (and you’ll be hard-pressed to find too many of those games). I can guarantee you no St Kilda crowd has ever booed him like that before any on-field incident involving Goodes and race (and I invite anyone to prove otherwise). Goodes was clearly booed the first time he went near the ball, with muted boos the following couple of instances. But it was back in the second half, particularly after a free kick decision in front of the members wing went against St Kilda, as if he made the decision himself. Rather, this was about a number of people feeling they had been justified booing because in their mind this was loosely linked to the “diver” theory, even though he actually hadn’t played for the free (and didn’t for the entirety of the game). This carried on clearly to the end of the game (see Goodes’s touch in the final seconds), and people were still trying to at least bat it away as something they could barely hear at the ground (again, refer to the video). This is something that happened, whether you did it or not. This is what a St Kilda crowd sounded like. And I hated every second of it. I don’t think the club will acknowledge it, quietly putting it down to a minority of supporters that caused a minor stir that will disappear if no one mentions it. That would be an awful shame and a rather hypocritical stance given the wonderful work the club has put into involvement in the annual Pride March and launching a “Pride Match”. If you’re accusing me of putting words in their mouth then please tell me what kind of take no comment would reflect on the club’s behalf.

By three-quarter time the game was ready for some more comedy and the club decided for whatever reason to play Tex Perkins’ version of the club song, which was met with exactly zero fanfare considering we were about to endure another quarter Sydney mopping the floor with us.

We just didn’t look like it all day, and specifically Josh Bruce didn’t look like it all day. Lest We Forget his 20-game streak of kicking at least one goal in each game. He wasted his own chances, whether they were dropped marks and his shot with time and space in the last quarter. There was also his mark a second after the three-quarter time siren within range, and also his give-off to the running Webster who didn’t even kick for goal.

So what the hell to say for a dirty day all round? This season deserved a better send-off for the members and fans, and a number of those let themselves down on the day. On the field this was more along the lines of 2014, and it’s easy to feel for a moment like we’re back amongst the bottom few wondering where the hell we’re going. Next Saturday looms as another forgettable match in an era which is purely for bridging purposes; to get us to the other side. That’s all well and good when you think of watching a team develop over a season and seeing the improvement of players week to week, but sometimes we just need to get to the end of a season and have a rest. One week to go.

Jeeeeeeeeeeeez

Round 17, 2015
Port Adelaide 4.5, 8.5, 12.7, 17.10 (112)
St Kilda 1.4, 3.10, 4.12, 6.13 (49)
Crowd: 36,850 at Adelaide Oval, Sunday, August 2nd at 1.10pm (12.40pm CST)

There’s dog shit and there’s dog shit.

There’s the kind that we had to put up with during week in regards to Adam Goodes. People from Andrew Bolt, Rita Panahi and Shane Warne to Alan Jones and Grant Thomas and most people on Twitter and BigFooty not understanding the position of privilege they’re in, and the position they’re in of collectively totally not coming up with actual arguments that make genuine sense in regards to anything to do with the issue. Angry, helpless, mobilised, determined, confused, dismayed. There is no way to reason with these people and I can only assume Adam Goodes feels vaguely similar upon realising that attempts at education and reconciliation – and specifically his own, having dealt with racism his entire life – only infuriate and annoy these types of people. They apparently don’t want to deal with it in any way, lest something that so far remains undefined happens.

So we got to actual footy and there were some touching acts of solidarity, with Richmond and the Bulldogs wearing their indigenous jumpers and Melbourne wearing armbands in the colour of the indigenous flag. Zero points are awarded to the Collingwood clowns for booing Jeff Garlett’s celebration on Saturday afternoon.

That Sunday’s paper revealed St Kilda is planning on hosting the first Pride match next year should tell people some really, really good things are happening. The club has said it has received correspondence from people angry or dismayed at the idea. To those who had registered those complaints with the club: feel free to defend your free speech all you want, but free speech is designed to challenge ourselves and each other and weed out poison attitudes like that.

Then there’s what we witnessed on Sunday afternoon. This kind of dog shit is far more expected, tempered. The kind that isn’t as divisive as the very idea that some people live differently and look kinda different (which shouldn’t be divisive, but here we are). This is one that St Kilda supporters have taken ownership of over 142 years. It’s not race or culture politics in the widest sense, but still in a special way it forms a massive part of who we are.

On paper this was a match between two teams of inconsistency in 2015. Port has worn the tag in a higher class though, being the competition’s great disappointment. However, they still have a much higher ceiling than a number of opponents (especially us). This looks suspiciously like a Geelong 2006. Application aside, Polec probably robbed them of more movement that we gave him credit for and Paddy Ryder looks more like an asset that needs proper adjusting to rather than an instant booster. The way the game panned out, in isolation, would tell you what last year’s meeting said about both teams. One a youthful and exciting challenger, the other youthful and barely finding their feet.

The St Kilda social media team ripped up this marginally terrifying pop culture reference following last week’s Billy Longer star turn, although should Billy have a successful career in a – dare I say it – successful team that photo could by proxy become an iconic one for St Kilda supporters. Like most weeks, I’d have to say that after today I’m no closer to feeling confident one or way or the other.

Geary was the captain in Riewoldt’s absence, and this year hasn’t solved any questions about where he really sits in the side. Nathan Wright was listed on the extended bench, D-Mac came in and there’s still Acres, Saunders and Murdoch hanging around in be VFL. Now, obviously they’re not all the same type of player but you’d like to think anyone vaguely playing Geary’s role, or elements of them, would be a little more dynamic than he is. I know he’s incredibly respected by the everyone inside the club but it became quickly apparent that when it comes to who is naturally drawn to potential captains the contribution you make on the field can’t be ignored.

Whilst he got some “good” i.e. “relatively high” numbers (23 disposals was second behind only Joey for us) he offered the game some ripper clangers for someone supposedly meant to uphold the higher standards and set an example. His kick along the ground (unforced) at the back of the centre square as we were working to rebound turned into a cheap Port goal and highlighted just what kind of a clown he can be with the ball in hand.

Port’s good movement and our lack thereof mad us look incredibly confused at times. Whilst it’s the done thing obviously to rotate your direct opponent this was hamster wheel stuff and was obviously working in Port’s favour. Never should Jarryn Geary be having to take a one on one Schulz – Goddard was trailing by a metre to make the extra man completely useless – let alone Westhoff shortly following. Moments after those contests Schulz had found another undersized opponent in Sav and then Westhoff was magically with Roberton.

The pressure was thereabouts but needed to be wiser. Sav and Roberton left but both of their men on the wing when it looked like Port were about to be trapped, but they easily opened it up for them and Moore ended up with a shot on goal.

Josh Bruce comically kept his goal-in-every-game record for 2015 in tact after a lovely set shot after the siren. It was probably the most nervously he’d looked all season, particularly given his performance itself could be described as comical.

His work in contests was more Billy Longer than Josh Bruce this year, and whilst the ball use was absolute slop he often found himself nowhere near the drop of the ball, otherwise the ball would be hurtling through his hands when he did. A great contested mark in the third quarter was rewarded with a behind from what has been a forte of his this year – the left-foot banana set shot from the pocket. Suffice to say he didn’t really have any fortes coming into this season, let alone having that good a year that we’re getting that specific.

His worst game for the year peaked clearly with the mark and goal, but it was summed up best by Paddy’s first cracking of the shits. We were privileged enough to witness Hugh’s the other week, but his was more of “the first of many, awwww”. Paddy’s said as much about his own leadership and application (even at this early stage) as it did how badly Josh was playing. Paddy had set himself for the fall of another woeful forward-50 entry and Josh just casually walked into his path, which is something I still expect Josh Bruce to more likely of doing rather than playing quality Australian Rules football. Like, he just literally walked into his way.

Paddy registered some low numbers but he took a couple of really good, strong marks and was unlucky to not return better than 2.0. For a guy who looks like he’s had minus-one pre-seasons he moves very well, whether it’s to work off his man and get to the fall of the ball or work up the ground. Not sure still where Membrey fits into this forward line at this early stage in all their careers – let the record show that going into this game we Paddy (four games), Bruce, Membrey and Hickey as our tall forwards to go with Sinclair and Eli as the smalls – but with Riewoldt coming back in I just can’t take Paddy out. Membrey would be hard done by after coming in for a quarter of the worst team game for three months, and Hickey unfortunately might need to rely on Billy to have been hit hard enough that he takes a rest next week. He might be firming a little as trade bait but I hope not. More Quick 60 please.

Whilst you couldn’t fault the small forwards for the entry, they were absolutely nowhere near it when the ball hit the deck. Eli’s game, like his hair, is now devoid of flash and DARE® Iced Coffee. No speed, no presence; I’m not actually sure what he does. Surely Lonie comes straight back in. Sinclair had good moments and Mav was really good again (despite missing the sitter after the solo effort), but going on this performance the forward line is infinitely more lively with Lonie and Billings in their (the latter obviously won’t be until next year).

Joey chipped in with a couple of goals and what should have been a third from a relatively easy set shot. This year he seems to have a lot more nous in his positioning in the forward line, and in the process might extend his career by a year or two if he maintains it. The thing is, we’re going to need him in the middle a lot more over the next couple of years if we don’t recruit or draft a decent mid, which we’re going to have to do anyway whether it’s the road to 2018 or 2050.

Because it wasn’t necessarily that we got smashed out of the middle. The two teams split the inside-50’s 52-apiece, it was that the quality of the ball use was far better than the current ladder placing going in the match suggested, and we demonstrated an irresistible combination of being out-pressured and driven to hurried disposal by Port when we had the ball and shanking our kicks when we were on our own anyway.

It was looking dangerous from the start. Big names Ryder, Wingard and Westhoff all had shots early, and Sinclair and Dunstan were using their time and space in our forward 50 to miss.

The midfield “battle” looked like it might have been evened up a little when Wines went off with his shoulder out but the Power had us covered for intent and talent anyway. Apart from Paddy’s workrate there was little to get excited about in the first quarter asides from so good work by Hickey low and Billy working really hard to get his hand to a Schulz kick on the goal line.

In another year of not a massive amount of individual highlights (granted, there’s been far more this year than the last two combined) Mav staked his claim for point of the year both commendably and infuriatingly. I’m referring to the aforementioned effort in which his endeavour, as we’ve come to expect, couldn’t be questioned but he managed to kick from the 15 metres out across the entirety of the open goalmouth.

It was the start of an incredibly frustrating quarter which netted 2.6 whilst the Power kicked 4.0 from half as many scoring shots. Highlights included Armo’s weird attempt at drawing the opposition at the back of the centre square to handball of the top and Neade ran off with it for a goal, and then Roberton’s to ridiculous short kicks to the respective pockets out of the goalsquare with an already-trademark Hugh Goddard one-two as an interlude. The second kick simply went out of bounds to finish off the big contested intercept mark Hugh took at full-back in the first place.

Bruce by this point had been suspiciously quiet and when he finally pushed up into the middle and found space he took the mark, turned around and his kick – which we can only assume was meant for Paddy – ended up near zero humans and out of bounds. Paddy eventually got onto the end of one on the opposite side and took a great mark with his opponent right on him, but he missed.

It was apparent that for yet another week our strategy going into attack seemed to be to just drop the ball from on high onto a bunch of people vaguely near goal. One contest featured all of Bruce, McCartin and Hickey, which would tell there aren’t many big guys leading into any space – or any space any of them to lead into to begin with, take your pick – and of all people Hickey took the grab (he missed the goal). Later in the term Armo had the footy going forward and established that an Eli one-on-one short and 45 metres out was the best option. Whichever way you look at it there’s something wrong with that scenario, and so it was for the entire day.

The half – and probably the day – was summed up around this point when Roberton left his man one-on-one 20 metres out to knock forward the footy to Dunstan who was closing in on the contest. Roberton got to the ball OK but didn’t bother with the shepherd, and Dunstan only needed to be a little untidy before he was swamped by the Power and White snapped a goal. Fair to say it wasn’t Roberton’s best quarter, and we can only hope we can say it’s his worst from here because he’s done some good things year. But fark he looks casual doing anything.

This was quickly followed Weller literally handballing it straight to a Port player after getting the ball from Newnes, and Newnes should have kicked it forward as it was.

It’s probably fair to say the only guys that played a consistently good game was Sean Dempster. Easy to malign him over the last couple of years when our defence was constantly being deserted by the mids and he was forced to play one-on-one on key forwards who had decent delivery on tap, but he’s done so much right this year. Yesterday he had to do it all and held up his end; whether close to Port’s goal or pressing up to help out he effected spoils, took some strong marks and his made some invaluable contested efforts on the whole.

We know far too well that it’s inevitable we’re going to get days like this. The more remarkable days in these times are almost always punctuated by a kid or few playing a game that gives us optimism when going to footy is an exercise in nothing much beyond pessimism.

But some days those kids just aren’t going to fire a shot, and we’re left with a game that after time we will barely remember. You can’t pre-empt those but in hindsight you wonder if they were worth it at all. Even drilling down to mundane you try and think of something – a good hit-out against an exciting team, a chance for Paddy, Hugh et al to experience travel, and so on – that makes it feel like it was worth it. We won’t really know that either for a long time.

The reigning premiers played against the reigning wooden spooners. What happened next was pedestrian and expected.

Round 10, 2015
St Kilda 2.3, 3.5, 7.8, 10.9 (69)
Hawthorn 4.5, 8.10, 14.11, 20.12 (132)
Crowd: 33,886 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, June 7th at 4.40pm

alanrichardson_2015r10

I’m not sure what kind of state Sports Delivered is in right now. I’ve whinged about them before, still scarred by the fact they inexplicably didn’t make a 2005 Season Highlights DVD for the preliminary finalists as a once off, and then in 2009 conveniently decided to end them altogether outside of the premiers, leaving only Saints members with shorter than usual DVDs for the years in which saw sadly perhaps the defining seasons for some Saints fans and formative seasons for a whole new generation.

Sports Delivered have mostly traded on the Name-A-Game offering, a necessity of a bygone era in which individual games were purchased on VHS and then DVD at bemusingly inflated prices (and with a considerable lack of pre- and post- match coverage). All games should certainly be kept on record – that’s no secret – but I’m not sure about flogging some of the more pedestrian encounters. I always favoured the Seasons Highlights DVDs though; every season is a story and these documented from beginning to end the best and worst of a journey which meant a whole lot to supporters, whatever the outcome may have been. Sports Delivered decided that offering every single individual game was somehow more worthy. 

Sunday barely came close to passing the Name-A-Game test, and sub-editors in charge of shamelessly clickbaiting headlines on anything from Buzzfeed to The Age would face a near impossible task teasing you with this one. The Name-A-Game test is applicable here in the sense that they are supposedly there for posterity; when reflecting what we possibly might have learnt or the magnitude of what we witnessed. What is the historical value of this game? What did we see in terms of development? Certainly no real stellar moments, Acres’ mark and decision to run off his man late in the game aside. You can watch some passages or performances that place them on a few guys’ development curves (Billings, Ross, Webster), otherwise it’s a lot of them playing in far too much awe of the Hawks and being worried out of moving it forward too quickly. Or if we did manage to get it forward, a bunch of Sherrins bombed on top of or not near enough My 1st and 2nd Favourite Hair in the AFL respectively. And as far as the first 90% of the first half went, that was just the Saints.

Shane Crawford apparently writes an opinion piece in the Herald Sun, which I genuinely didn’t know until his article yesterday bobbed up on my Twitter feed, with “Why Saints can win flag in 3 years” as headline and a 2010 shot of Riewoldt in the white collar and cuffs far more reasonably holding that year’s yet-to-be awarded premiership cup. It wouldn’t quite have the same effect if he was holding this year’s, or even 2018’s because it hasn’t been made yet. In fact, there’s only one ever made in which it would really make total sense for any St Kilda person to be holding. For now we have to run with photos that are a half-decade old and simply sad to look at. 

Though it was a home game yesterday Matt and I found yet another way this year of sitting somewhere other than our members seats. We ended up on the top deck with Rich, dear cousin Evan, another good friend of mine/Hawthorn supporter (also Tom), Matt’s friend Angie and very special guest James, Evan’s younger brother. I’m making note of this because St Kilda-Hawthorn games happen to mark particular occasions in our wider family – Dad took me to my first game in round 1, 1994, and it was a Friday night game in round 21 two years ago that was the last we went to together before he and mum left for the UK. Evan’s first game was Round 9, 2003 (a rare home game at the MCG and Allan Murray kicked four in his first game for us). All were St Kilda-Hawthorn games. I took James to his first game before he’d turned eight in Round 3, 2009 in which we belted the Eagles, and he’d been to Round 16 of 2010 against Collingwood and that year’s Preliminary Final against the Bulldogs. Nothing in the five years since though despite our best efforts, but sitting next to him before the game started he said, “I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve been here. It’s so good to be here.” He was already talking up next Sunday immediately after the game despite the handsome belting, so it looks like a St Kilda-Hawthorn game has again provided the landmark occasion for another poor young soul being roped into a lifetime of disappointment and heartbreak.

Hawthorn had managed to go W-L this entire season, and who better to give you the opportunity to right your season than ours truly? A rare appearance from 2011 1st Preliminary Final anti-hero Luke Schoenmakers made things all the more ominous following his four goals on return last year against us (and just further demonstrate how comprehensive that loss was, take those away and we still lose by 121 points). After playing Round 23, 2013 anti-hero Ryan Lester into his best form last week, Schoey was the prime candidate for this week’s armchair treatment for a middling player from the St Kilda Football Club.

Obviously they’re coming from a different outcome over the past few/54 years, but it really feels like the Hawks are doing their version of what we experienced in 2010 – just keep teams at arm’s length throughout the season, because it’s all about getting to the last Saturday. Given the close losses to the Bombers and GWS in there, you’d think Clarko might have watched Bomber’s Open Mike interview and paid particular attention to what he said about the 2008 season, namely that they were that good they didn’t know what to do when Hawthorn challenged them on Grand Final Day, and should have engineered some closer results to test themselves against throughout the year. Watching their opening half – or at least until they broke the game open with three quick goals late – you would have thought that was the case. How many times as Roughy miskicked so wildly? Their kicking for goal had them at 5.10 at one stage, before they decided we weren’t coming along for their ride and represented the same opportunity for a percentage boost rather than competitive hit-out that Melbourne did a few weeks ago.

The early piece of play that saw some precise kicks hit up Bruce for a strong mark and the opening goal was probably the cleanest we’d look all day. Soon after Schneider backed up his kick into the man on the mark out of defence with a handball along the ground to Riewoldt on the rebound, there was Armo’s clown miss from 15 metres out from goal on his own, and Hickey fluffed a couple on the lead. For all of the always-reliable Roughy, Mitchell, Burgoyne and Smith all getting themselves in on the faux-Hawthorn faffin’, the charade was punctuated by moments of real class that really demonstrated the gulf that still clearly exists between the two sides, Crawf talking up a St Kilda premiership in the coming years or not. These were four quality goals by four different players; Jack Gunston showing his versatility and running onto a loose ball for the Hawk’s first first, Billy Hartung – who for what it’s worth many had going to us with either of the picks we used on Dunstan and Acres – wheeling around from nearly 40 out on an angle, Cyril in the second quarter taking the ball and running across goal before the snap as the Hawks looked to create a gap and then Taylor Duryea well and truly made it real from outside 50 late in the term.

Things reached the bottom of the crater made by the AFL’s meteor of novelty when Ahmed Saad got falconed mid-big screen interview at half-time by one of the inflatable beach balls that the crowd was smacking around, at the same time All-American superstar Jason Holmes was handing out Susan Day cakes. The new sponsor probably couldn’t believe their luck that someone in the PR department decided that Rita (Happy 100th Birthday Rita!) was keener on attending the match than training on the day of Richo and Jack Steven’s presser, and their “100th” cake found its way in front of the media with Josh Bruce and Dylan Roberton shyly presenting it.

Having to explain the nondescript versions of the Saints song by Ben Salter (played accidentally before the game after already being used several weeks ago?) and Dan Sultan (shown at half-time because they showed Ben Salter before the match?) was in itself exhausting. Almost as much as the ground presenter interviewing Richo before the game talked up some guy called “Josh Smith”. Marchetti was there with his beanie on and he seems to pretty popular at the moment. He’s done the post-match interviews on occasion (Holmesby, Luke was back behind the mic on Sunday), although after a loss it’s hard to take him seriously because of how affable and energetic he is, and he’s still wearing the beanie.

More symbolic shenanigans included Geary being interviewed by Marchetti as the players walked off at half-time and then Armo after the game by Cam Mooney for Fox Footy. What I liked about AFL was that, as opposed to Super 15s and the A-League, et al the losers weren’t interviewed after the game (or during it). I thought it was an element that represented something stoic that we believed about this game; that they cared enough about what they were doing and the club that they played for that they wouldn’t want to do a shitty media interview afterwards. They’re not just guys that go from city to city playing for a new club and perhaps in a new league every couple of years. Maybe not.

The result had been well and truly taken care of by the time Roo took on three guys in the square, almost completed the mark and then reacted quickest to get to the ball of the contest and snap a goal over his own shoulder from his left boot. Joey’s goal was both quality and laughable, but the AFL’s Facebook account was interestingly a lot more pointed in telling everyone their thoughts on it as opposed to, say, the rule enforcement merits involved in either of (this part’s important) Collingwood’s Jamie Elliott’s mark or goal earlier in the year.

One of the more frustrating elements on Sunday was seeing Josh Bruce work hard for nearly fark all return from teammates further up the ground that were apparently kicking it to him. That he finished with 15 touches, eight marks and 2.2 said far more about how hard he works than good movement of the footy. Yes, we were much slower than we have been for most of this year but there were a number of times when Bruce was one-out or in some space as we went forward and kick simply didn’t favour him, usually ending up coming straight down onto his opponent or what needlessly was a body-on-body one-on-one contest. And when the latter happened guys like Lonie and Schneider just weren’t around enough. Sinclair again showed how well he’s settled into the AFL standard, kicking two goals but having more of a presence away from goal also.

Lonie showed glimpses with slick disposal here and there, but I thought his kick which ended up as Joey’s “goal” summed up his and the team’s night. Had a crack sort of, didn’t come off definitely. From being 5.10 in the second term, Hawthorn kicked a ridiculously efficient 15.2 and that 5.10 could easily have been 10.5 given the ease of scoring shots by their standards. For all of the relatively positive air around us even after this one, it probably should have been a lot, lot worse.

One interesting little tidbit to come out of the game was Savage being played as a forward once he came on as the sub. He finished his previous game in a similar spot and in the limited time finished with two goals and 11 touched, although most of those were handballs and his kicking is the key aspect of his game. I don’t think it’s something that should be stuck to, because he can kick those longer goals when he’s in decent form anyway. On a day when Newnes is again a little quieter than you’d expect him to be, it would helped to have his drive off half-back.

Speaking of which, there seems to be a bit of a selection showdown looming around there. Sav as the sub won’t happen next week, and with Weller and Dunstan sure to come straight back in do you keep all of Ray, Shenton, Acres and Ross? Ray would be very unlucky to go out after 24 touches but is he quick enough and creative enough? A lot of people (myself included) had used him as the best St Kilda reference point for D-Mac’s type of game after last year’s draft, and with guys like him and Acres proving they can show something at AFL so early in their careers – not to mention Gilbert coming back at some point – then another selection bottleneck with senior guys pitted against youth featuring is looming. Shenton out is obvious one and Schneider’s clangers only dented the fans’ goodwill for him that will be called upon when he is taken back to the rookie list over the next week or so.

Acres again just hummed away doing his thing on Sunday, and he continues to remind me of a Goddard (B.) type, and not just in playing style. BJ was our whipping boy in 04/05, the number one draft pick who, unlike Roo, Ball, Dal etc. just didn’t seem to have the same immediate impact and with a premiership within touching distance the expectation was high. But Blacres has a good size, good kick and some speed about him and he’s already showing that he knows how to use them all together.

Speaking of humming away, Billings collected another 21 touches and Webster perhaps the lowest fanfare 27 touches I’ve ever seen a young player get. The clincher of this is that both are in our best handful of kicks – Webster’s howler of a kick-out notwithstanding – and both play in different parts of the field, which is a key element you want to build an entire team around.

As for Seb Ross, you probably didn’t notice him (again). I certainly didn’t. I still don’t know what a good game from him really would look like, but he’s quickly making a name for himself as the guy who’ll get the nuts and bolts of the inside stuff done and given it was his first game back I thought he did quite well. Armo was actually down on his output this year, but I never thought I’d say that after he’d picked up 24 touches. Ross would have been in there anyway, but having him in the middle after such a long lay off as well as Lonie and Sinclair certainly gave things a fresh edge. Longer wasn’t exactly the ruck beast he’s apparently become, but with Hickey being subbed out and against Hale and Ceglar he was up against it whichever way you look at it. I still think he’s a better player than Longer, but a statement like that is mostly null and void whilst he’d playing almost exclusively as a forward.

For all of that though, it was ultimately another forgettable game. We’re not going to remember Webster’s numbers or Acres’ dash or Josh Bruce’s leading. No-one will be ordering this on DVD and sitting down to watch it from the opening bounce to the final siren. Both teams had this in mind as a simple step in their separate missions. For the Hawks it was just about getting the job done to make sure they’re there when it counts. It was for us too, really, but from a much earlier time.

Safe, successful returns from the vortex

Round 9, 2015
Brisbane Lions 7.1, 8.2, 11.6, 13.8 (86)
St Kilda 2.3, 9.6, 12.9, 16.12 (108)
Crowd: 16,898 at the Gabba, Sunday, May 31st at 1.10pm

As Brisbane has faded into obscurity over the past decade, tragically taking the Fitzroy Lion with it, the Gabba itself has become somewhat of a footy vortex.

Somehow, despite the pandering that began in the 90s, they’ve become forgotten by the AFL. Their Queensland cousins the Gold Coast obviously took top billing when it came to the draft concessions race, with GWS likewise and the Swans the perennial Schwerer Gustav of AFL HQ’s turf war against Ray Warren and co.

By proxy, games at the Gabba have now sunk down to the small-font billing of Aurora Stadium status. Not much really happens there now – they’re usually just the games buried in the nothing time slots. Remember when they came back from 52 points down against the Cats? You do, but you only remember finding out later that night, because the game was played in a rarely explored land and a time well after the relevant weekend of footy had ended.

It’s a sense that has been compounded for Saints fans purely by virtue of the St Kilda Football Club being the St Kilda Football Club, with the national expansion of the VFL allowing us to take our historically freakish ineptness across the country. The Gabba was famously a holiday destination for St Kilda players and their talents for a number of years, going without a win there from 1991 until the last round of the weird 2006 season, made weirder by Barry Brooks kicking three goals and being hailed as trade bait. It was a place where we either got smacked or something remarkable happened as we lost. The Grand Final year of 1997 saw us smacked by the appropriate margin of 97 points as we stunk it up early on, and then the following season saw our incredible late-season capitulation highlighted by a one-point loss at the Gabba to the Lions in the final round. The Lions had only won three games to that point (one against us), and had we won relatively comfortably as we should have, we would have finished fourth. This was the game that finished with Stewart Loewe kicking a goal from a metre or two out a second or two after the final siren sounded . Having been first after Round 14 and equal first until Round 17 we instead dropped to sixth. It effectively ended the Alves era, and the  resulting Watson era began with an 89-point loss against the same opposition at the same ground.

Fast forward to the next tilt, to the penultimate round of 2004, and we were blown away after quarter time by the first team to replace us on top of the ladder as The Streak petered out. This match was set to determine who would host the qualifying final a fortnight later, and needless to say the Lions belted the proverbial out of us in the return bout, with the margin blowing out to 100 points in the final quarter. Season 2005 was arguably the most turbulent in the club’s history, and it began with the night at the Gabba in which the brutish physicality of the Lions era roared its last, with Nick on the receiving end.

Easy wins to the Lions in 2007 (52 points) and 2008 (46 points; 69 at three-quarter time) were almost pedestrian affairs, before we registered unconvincing wins in the second Grand Final year of 2010 and 2011, an actually decent win with 2012 heroes Siposs and Saad starring, and then back to the usual tripe in 2013.

Right now, Brisbane’s lack of success in recent years has consigned them to the lowest profile team in the league. The kind of team Hawthorn plays against in Tassie because who would know and who would care? The AFL certainly could never be farked honouring their promises to Roys fans signed off on as part of the merger then so why bother now? I dare say the mailboxes initially and now inboxes at AFL HQ have become progressively lighter nearly two decades on, and those at reception are consciously relieved about it.

So what do the Lions do about this weird crisis? They brought the old Fitzroy Lion back to the jumper, which is a great start but it shouldn’t have gone anywhere in the first place. Certainly the old Fitzroy jumper is just about the best ever worn by any club, but Brisbane is still stuck with dogshit re-recording of what was probably the best song in the league as well.

They wanted to have an actual Lion hanging out on the field pre-match, but instead they decided to ditch the statesmanlike tradition of running through the banner in favour of running out an inflatable Lion’s head.

The Saints Twitter has upped its pre-match banter of late, but you still feel like it could only reflect the club’s on-field fortunes – it could never be as intimidating or brutal or arseholey as an Essendon, for an instance. The account tried to take on Brion this week by drawing attention to our own giant, weird, far more freako mouth. In the end I wasn’t sure what the point was. Who has the biggest, giantest weird mouth thing?

The 1.10pm Sunday timeslot is an odd one. If the game’s in Victoria then some people might remember it exists, but if it’s a match-up actually worthy of wider attention it would be in the 3.20 Channel 7 News airstrip slot. Remember the 2002-2006 TV rights deal, and the blanket Channel 7 coverage before that? The 1.10pm game (for as long as it’s been around) has been broadcast live, mostly as an interstate game, but if it’s an interstate game now it’s on Fox Footy  and the silence can be nearly as deathly as the 4.40 slot later in the day (or even the 4.40 slot on the Saturday). Most people are either watching Footy Flashbacks or the neither-here-not-there TAC Cup Future Stars, and sometimes the players themselves – specifically Tom Hickey – will appear as a guest on the latter being asked about his Schneiderman appearance rather his own team playing in the timeslot.

It’s certainly an odd timeslot when you’re walking through North Road in Ormond at 12 noon and it’s heavily overcast and ridiculously quiet. Hardly the place for a decent build-up – not that the game warranted one – and I’d trekked from Brunswick West for it, but my brother had moved back on the Saturday to the Motherland six weeks ahead of my parents’ return from their UK tenure, and as first duty Fox Footy had been connected.

Carlton Draughts (or were they Mids?) were going down thick and fast in the first quarter as it was evident traditional Gabba form had been flown up and the Lions kicked the first five goals. I got sucked in to the Rohan Connolly theory following their late 2014 season form and had them as a smokey for the eight this year, whilst they’d remembered how to play footy in previous weeks they still showed themselves up as a young work in progress. They do have one of the best younger midfields in the competition, but in trying to gather what was going on through the broadcast, struggling namely Dwayne Russell’s words and resident Lions fan Jonathon Brown, I was led to think we were just really, really not switched on enough.

Matthew Leuenberger was once the future “Best Ruckman of All Time” but on Sunday he was one of those players closer to washed up then next-best-thing who decided to use the Saints as a canvas for some of their arsiest work. He was involved up forward a few times and early and for all the talk of Brisbane barely fielding a forward line, particularly with McStay out, Leuenberger’s involvement and five goals to none said otherwise.

Concerningly, the manner in which those goals and forward thrusts in general were being cultivated was reminiscent of the more negative footy we’d played this year. Hickey led hard up the ground and took a good mark in the middle before wheeling around and having it chopped and the Lions went up forward and kicked a goal, and Bruce and Hickey went up for the same mark in the 50 and with no one down and soft pressure on the Lions running out defence they went all the way up again, with Zorko completely on his own on one flank and finding Daniel Rich on his own for his second goal. Rich had made Panther and Geary look silly close to goal earlier en route to his first, so that percentage shaved off the intensity was all across the ground. That intensity was arguably reflective of the jumper design, and even though I’ll be covering this in more detail in the scarcely-anticipated next edition of St Kilda Jumper Talk, I’m not going to ditch an opportunity to talk about footy jumper minutiae. So let’s do it.

Ah, Indigenous Round. The weekend where every club wears a questionable jumper with genuine concepts behind them that have been filtered down by the whim of jumper manufacturers and whether you’re wearing your home or clash jumper to begin – as we were, and we ended up wearing something that looked like a spider’s web with braces, if you could actually make out anything on top of the entirely white canvas, with the 2009/2010 clash jumper faux-panels on the side.

But this year’s jumper if anything was more so shades of the infamous 2007/08 clash jumper, or should I say FADES of the infamous 2007/08 jumper? I’ve never felt a woman’s touch.

The Lions’ fifth goal came after Paparone outdid Riewoldt in a one-on-one, Hickey laid a huge tackle straight after and then Dunstan missed the resulting shot. The Lions went straight up the other end that fifth came as the clock ticked over just 10 minutes of play.

It would be easy to say “and then the intensity lifted, and the rest if history”, but that’s essentially what happened. And I don’t mean to say that as in we’re that good that we can just turn it on and off. That’s what we did in 2010, when fans bemusingly went ape droppings about “boring” football, not recognising the fact that the coach and the team, for the first time in the club’s then-138 year history, were that good we could choose when and how to win games. This is a completely different stage of development (obviously), so we’re rightfully getting off on these guys not settling for a competitive loss even on the road and in what’s essentially been a St Kilda Football Club black hole.

“Gallant” or “honourable” showings in previous weeks were enough to have the Josh Bruce Hype-O-Meter given the Warrior treatment. Hutchy’s understudy suggested Bruce could kick eight or nine against the Lions. He did essentially the opposite – strangely, in our two-highest scoring games this year we’ve kicked 16.12 (Sunday) and 16.11 (against the Gold Coast) and he’s kicked his equal-lowest (1.3) and highest (6.1) totals respectively. Not sure what the odds are on a gradual fade-out this season given how inexperienced he is and how hard he works, but it’s the latter that’s made him what he is so far this year and he’ll get somewhere at least on that alone.

Bruce was next to unsighted in the first half, caught under the ball often (as Roo and Hickey were) and it was hard to tell if a lead was rarely offered (by him or anyone) or the guys further up were too hasty in bombing it forward. He comically found himself on his own and on the lead in the last few seconds of the first half but dropped an absolute sitter 30 metres out. But he worked his way into the game in the second half and despite the inaccurate return was the one who kept the forward line stable in the final quarter when the Lions needed to be shut out.

Maybe everyone was just trying to remember what it was like to have Roo up forward for so much of the game but it seemed like he, Bruce and Hickey all got caught under the ball a lot and in the same contests in the first half – even the second quarter onslaught was mostly driven by Armo, Dunstan, Lonie etc. Was it just me or was Bruce playing more of the 2015 Roo role than Roo was? I’m not complaining in so far as Roo kicked four goals, but it felt like all of a sudden Bruce and Hickey were relegated a little and couldn’t have the impact they’ve been able to in the last few games. I don’t know if it was simply poor kicking, poor planning or poor movement on their part – probably a combination of both – but fortunately a lot of the smaller guys took some responsibility and we finished with our highest score for the year. It’s probably worth point out too that the better teams would have up to any of several bigger guys that can deliver on any given day up forward – look at our new neighbours the Hawks, who in recent years have had all of Gunston, Roughead, Buddy and Hale as talls alone – and this day it was Roo that finished with the goals.

So yes, the comeback was vaguely built around Roo but it didn’t feel like there was consistent structural anchor throughout the game that he, Bruce or Hickey have provided through the season. Two things about the Hickey and Longer “experiment”: firstly, it’s only as good as the weaker player, and secondly they’re both still very inexperienced so I’ve got billions of years’ worth of time for them. It’s just a part of a young team developing. Either way, it was the smalls and mids in the front half that took control of the game on Sunday.

Dunstan was probably the one that took the biggest step up this week, kicking two really good crumbing goals and laying six tackles in a role mostly confined to the front half. His dip in output over the past couple of months had seen him pushed to the brink of what you’d deem a “rest” (from the outside anyway) for a player of his experience and promise, so this simplified role allowed to him to show off his physicality and his decent mid’s goal sense. Lonie and Sinclair when he came on both brought their spark which feels like a natural component of this side already, only nine matches into their time with the club, Billings continued to rack up his 15+ quality possessions per week and Schneider played probably his best game of the year. Whatever you think of him, make the most of the contribution he makes out on the field because he’ll be gone very, very soon, back to the rookie list and that might well be it.

Armo continued his eponymous Fest 2015 with another 31 touches and an impact all around the ground, inside and out, and all the other things that people say about mids that play good games like that. He’s currently at point that Roo/Joey/Dal/BJ/Lenny consistently operated at over the past few years, in which I totally CBF writing about them in these reviews because everyone knows what they did and that they did it well. This time around, the talking point was that he kicked two really quality goals in the second quarter to wrestle the momentum from the Lions and send us on our way.

Like Armo, Mav finished with two goals at a crucial time in the game as a midfielder, volleying Billings’ great kick from just beyond the 50 metre arc and then reading the contest in the goal square best from the resulting centre bounce. Unfortunately he smacked Bewick in the head and was lucky to not get more than the one week offered to him by this week’s MRP Lotto Supervisors. Like Dunstan, I thought his output had tapered off a little over the last few weeks but a lot of players really took turns to stand up when someone needed to. Coming back from 29 points is one thing, and whilst the Best columns would feature senior guys in Roo, Joey, Schneider and Dempster just about every player – right down to D-Mac, one of the lesser lights on the day, taking a huge hit from behind whilst holding a tough overhead mark on the wing in the last quarter.

Martin replicated what Bennell did at a similar point further south in the state in Round 2 and really we were safe. Richie felt differently but Matt and I were talking about relatively confident we were through the second half. “Relatively” is the operative word – I wasn’t thinking we were going to shit it in or necessarily win but I felt much better about the prospects of giving it a shake through to the end, and a decent shake at that, as opposed to the last couple of years.

So two out of three wins this year in Queensland. Whilst the Gold Coast win was great at the time, particularly with the Bruce factor turned up to 11, using the arsey tool of hindsight it was probably the result that should have happened. This one had a lot more fight, and with the Lions flicking the switch in the last few weeks the poor start at our least favourite ground actually made some sense. But we’re hitting the point of the season now in which we can see clear hallmarks that each side is displaying in the 2015 season. Pleasantly, this side has been instilled with a real fighting aspect and a pride in both performance and application. To go with that we’ve been lucky that young guys in Billings, Sinclair, Lonie, Bruce, and so on have all improved their contributions, but it all starts with watching a young team working hard and really giving a shit about what they’re doing.