Season 2015 Posts

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.

Remember feeling OKish?

Round 5, 2015
St Kilda 2.6, 6.7, 10.10, 11.14 (80)
Essendon 3.2, 6.6, 9.11, 11.16 (82)
Crowd: 29,869 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, May 3rd at 3.20pm

It was the corresponding round last year in which we beat the Bombers on a Saturday to go three wins from five. My overriding thought that night was that maybe – just maybe – we’d escaped an extended bottoming out and could at least be competitive as we rebuilt.

Of course, that didn’t eventuate. We threw away that 4-2 start that beckoned against the winless Lions in New Zealand the following week, and it would be three months until our next (very unexpected and bizarre) win.

So perhaps it’s strange that I walk away from this one feeling better than last year, as Rich aptly noted on our way out of the stadium. Not just that it was a loss, but that a) it was against Essendon, and b) it was a close loss against Essendon. It would be too easy to throw in “c) Schneider”, but I’ll get to that later.

For some reason Hulk Hogan was at Seaford this week, and I dare say being in Melbourne proper to begin with was a stretch for context for him. The Saints have a number of celebrity fans including the other type of Hulk, Erica Bana (who happened to be at Seaford himself last week), the guy next to him at the 2010 Grand Final Draw, AKA Michael Klim, Molly Meldrum, Peter Hitchener, Sandy Roberts, Shane Warne (if ex-players of sorts count), and a host of other (Tracey Grimshaw was sporting a Saints beanie on A Current Affair last night also). Hulk (Hogan), however, belongs more to the once-off line of celebrity supporters, infamously and awkwardly boasting Elle MacPherson.

The Hulk (the, uh, real not real one) was at least vaguely more animated than the life-size cardboard cut-outs of Delaney, Steven et al in the bemusingly recurring “feature” Battle Talk on the club site. Battle Talk ok, but they’re rarely going to say anything different about whoever they’re playing that week, and by that I mean they’re rarely going to read anything different off the autocue about whoever they’re playing that week.

Following the last fortnight a number of people would have thought Essendon would cruise through this one based on St Kilda’s form alone. The fact that the Bombers had beaten Hawthorn but hadn’t really shown much otherwise might have led a few (myself included) to think they were due to right the ship, and given the attacking footy they’re capable who better to that against, and via a very, very big margin?

A last minute call-up to the Medallion Club with very old family friend Andrew, his partner Emily and Rich was an appropriate way for myself to mark the 10-year anniversary of my first venture into the overrated section (specifically in the way it’s run, the ticketing and it’s thirst for actually being the MCC). That night, the second Fridaynight  of the split Round 13, suitably saw a lowly Essendon pull out an arsey win against us to leave us outside the top eight at 6-7. It was also the catalyst for the dramatic turnaround that at least should have seen us playing in the Grand Final; interestingly the following week we played the Bulldogs – as we do this week – and that match was the start of the career-best form of Kosi.

To further mark some arbitrary Essendon-St Kilda dates, 20 years ago saw the Bombers smack us by 116 points and then 76 points in our two meetings that season, and of course this is the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Grand Final, in which the Bombers came from 4th place to to beat us in the Grand Final after we finished on top of the ladder, something we’d repeat the next time we finished above the rest in 1997.

The Medallion Club also happened to be the site that Rich and I spent arguably the two darkest days of last year in. Losses to West Coast in Round 14 on the Sunday and then Richmond the following Saturday afternoon weren’t the biggest we had, but came after respective 86, 70 and 96-point losses. Billings may have christened himself Mr. 100% against the Eagles, but this pair of games were probably when we felt the heavy weight of the past had taken us as low as it could. This was the new normal, the cavernous Corporate Stadium playing host to not much in front of not many. The fact the roof is closed messes with my melatonin levels and it’s hard to not be extra depressed about everything once you enter the stadium at 2.30pm and your day is essentially over.

I’m not going to get carried away and say “and then on Sunday we were there for the turnaround”, but I really do hope we can look back on this as one of the first times this group really showed that it had a future together. But let’s go easy. Like it does within matches, more obviously we’ll swing from side to side between weeks, and there will certainly be repeats this year of the aforementioned drubbings.

The intent was really good from the start, and that loose sense of rejuvenation following a dog’s balls fortnight was heightened by Tom Hickey and debutant D-Mac getting involved early.

Hickey provided one of the biggest structural takeaways of the day (/night), playing essentially the Nick Riewoldt roaming role across half forward as the tall target. Given his size and that he was coming back from injury I assumed he’d spend a lot more time closer to goal, but instead he was pushing up to the wing within minutes to provide the kind of option we’d so painfully lacked in the absence of My Favourite Hair in the AFL. He was far more mobile than I thought he’d be, and perhaps more so than the three goals he kicked in Round 2 last year against GW$ his performance gave us the best example yet of why we were so keen to get him.

In fact he played so (relatively) athletically and nearly completely as a forward it swiftly put to rest for the time being whether we could carry two ruckmen in the same side. Whilst Billy Longer had a decent impact across the ground against the Blues the previous week as the sole really big guy – so much so the club put him on media duty for the first time ever – he only gathered six possessions in this one as his focus was more so to get to the stoppages and get the hit-out. Hickey, on the flipside, recorded only six hit-outs.

Our Very Own Stephen Merchant could have held on to a few more marks – he only took four for the day but seemed more capable in the air as the game progressed – but not only did he provide a contest coming out of defence, his 19 possessions reflected how hard and effectively he worked down low once the ball came off hands (often his own).

Richo didn’t have Hickey a certainty to play this week given Roo is coming back in (as is Joey), which would be astounding but when My Second Favourite Hair in the AFL Josh Bruce is also the Second Leading Goalkicker in the Competition and clearly has a better output when a tall target is playing higher up then perhaps it’s Membrey who comes out this week. He wasn’t given the most enthusiastic response by Richo but it’s folly for anyone to think that coaches aren’t going to send messages to their own players when speaking publicly about them, and further folly to think they exactly what that means. Given Hickey’s own game and the structure he allowed for Bruce to take advantage of, Membrey would seem to be most likely. Hickey is also ready for game time and getting some momentum into his career, whilst Membrey is still 20 and has played a grand total of six games – and five of those were in the last five weeks. He’s probably due for a spell with the Zebras just to get his head around a few things.

D-Mac looked very comfortable for a debutant, and probably started stronger than he finished. He registered a couple of smothers and was backing himself to go up in a few marking contests. He’s only 183cm but deceptively quick for his frame, which combined with his not-quite-on-trend hair and slightly slouch makes him look more like your St. Paul’s reserves forward lumbering around the 7-11 end of McKinnon Oval. With Joey returning you’d expect it’s him or perhaps Sinclair of the lighter brigade to come out, but given D-Mac showed more than enough intent and Sinclair might be experiencing a little wear (like Membrey), the latter might be due for a spell in the Peter Jackson.

The first quarter was defined by two things – Jack Lonie and inaccuracy, and unfortunately they’d be intertwined to Schneideresque proportions by game’s end. Whatever Schneider’s been doing in his mentoring role has worked almost too well, because he’s been able to convey just about everything of his game over to Lonie. I don’t know about you but I reckon Lonie plays his position just about more effectively than anyone else in our side at the moment. He set up Bruce with a great push and turn followed by a pinpoint left-foot pass to the top of the square, but then ended a chain of three gettable shots at goal from Roberton, Billings and himself with a wayward snap, leaving us at 1.5 to 1.0. That Essendon goal, by the way, echoed the worst of our leaky pressure from the previous two matches, and foreshadowed the two vital goals the Bombers would score in the final quarter.

Lonie, like he had in previous weeks, had a very strong reaction to missing the kind of shot at goal made for players like him but didn’t drop his head. In fact he probably held it too high if anything because he pushed right up the ground soon after and on the spread took on Fletcher and was completely monstered by him. Another behind soon after undid Jack Steven’s hard running and Dare Iced Coffee higher up. It was tempered by another left footer, Jimmy Webster, showing off his silky field kicking skills and hitting Dunstan in space close to goal after Dunstan was at risk of being ignored completely despite having the proverbial around him just 30 out from goal.

So some frustrations, but overall the effort, intent, whatever was all there. Of course, in the last two matches we’d kicked 6.3 in the first and led by 26 points during the second respectively, and gone on to lose by a combined 114 points. This week seemed a lot more cohesive though, and it proved to be such.

When I’d hit the top of the Bourke Street stairs (ok I took the escalator) just under an hour out from the game there was an actual crowd on the footbridge and I was genuinely taken aback. We’ve become accustomed to some woeful crowd numbers over the last couple of years, and whilst a lot of those there were Essendon fans (likewise most of the anticipation belonged to them), it was still strange for there to be some interest in a game involving ourselves. That said, the final crowd didn’t even hit 30,000 so the fact it felt that “full” probably shows just our far we’ve fallen. But don’t worry, now we’ve also got that MAKE SOME NOISE thing which is essentially a weird, ill-toned noise and big-screen graphic that comes on slightly too long after a goal and breaks up the organic anticipation of the resulting centre bounce (particularly when there’s some momentum our way). But for fuck’s sake why would we be at the footy then. A goal apparently doesn’t get us excited enough anymore. My suggestion is don’t feed it but perhaps people are getting more stupid and important people will tell us that they’ll have to find a way to make SOME MORE NOISE and en masse we won’t notice.

Very rarely do I have to deal with the Medallion Club amenities and shithead staff (that neutrally dark suit jacket will never be the MCC red, white and blue stripe standard, I’m sorry) but any danger of having more than one bar? Having queues out into the walkway as the next quarter is beginning is a mess. Fortunately, not that many more people would turn up in the section even to a sold out (“sold out”) game at that Concrete Dome so I guess it only gets so bad there.

It became apparent in the second quarter that Billings had stepped up after humming along through the first few games. He presented as a lead up forward and finished some good work from Schneider again, but I really do think his highlight was when Sean Marchetti interviewed him for the ground’s own coverage (which I’d never seen before and I don’t like the idea on networks to begin with). Billings seemed kind of frazzled by the situation himself but still interviews like a kid anyway (he still is one really), and Marchetti took the mic away from Jack’s mouth before he’d finished the answer. The finisher was the “what do we need to do in the second half” segue into everyone’s half-time, and Jack mentioned nothing more specific than maintaining effort “and we’ll see how that goes”. Uh, yeah. Terrible hair too, still. But he’s starting to show his class with the ball and off the ball he uses his body more smartly. What he could be after couple more pre-seasons is looking more and more befitting such a high pick.

The second quarter also saw a disparity between two guys at either end of the ground and at either end of their careers. For the first time, Sam Fisher is beginning to look slow. He still finished with 20 touches, a few marks and a few tackles, but there were some contests where in an attempt to apply physical pressure to a contest he looked like Josh Bruce pre-huge grab against GWS. Just vaguely there because a human body was required by laws of the game to be roughly in the vicinity. Not sure what I’m meant to be expecting from someone at that age and I’d certainly have him in the side, and ultimately there was a tinge of sadness to know that whilst he’ll still be making a decent contribution his floor might be getting a little lower a we might be seeing it more often.

And incidentally, that other player is Josh Bruce. I can’t tell you how  excited I am that someone with that hair plays for St Kilda AND is kicking a whole bunch of goals even though they look like they should be filling in for whoever’s playing against Rich and I at FutsalOz in Brunswick on a Monday night. In that sense, as a I mentioned a few weeks ago, there’s a lot of Fraser Gehrig about him. Nonchalant, very inward celebrations and a somewhat lackadaisical left-foot action and overall physical presence. With Hickey in the side Bruce was good enough to find space and then take some tough marks when required, and G-Train comparison for me was complete when he far-too-calmly wheeled around onto the left in the last quarter and off a step or two put us in front from 40 metres out on an angle.

But for the second week in a row we’d let a lead of at least 20 points slip away. Let’s cut the crap and go to Schneider. You could say this was his Daniel Wulf moment from Round 5, 2002 in the sense that he hit the post late in the game and messed up a chance to put us in front late in a match, in an era in which we’re following a bunch of kids that you simply can’t rely on to definitely do what’s required in a tight finish. Not necessarily because they’re rubbish, but because they’re kids. The pressure got to Lonie as well who appropriately sprayed a shot late as well, but he’s an 18 year-old playing his fifth game, and even then already looks to have a big future.

The problem with this one – aside from running into goal and hitting the post when you could have either kicked past the man with space to your right or just handballed to your left to Tim Membrey who’s by himself and even closer to goal – is that Schneider is specifically in the team for those moments. To guide things home cooly and calmly. Indeed, the set shot just a couple of minutes earlier with no angle could be argued to be an easier shot. You could say Lonie’s handball to him for the second kick was too heavy and he had to spend too much time getting control of the footy, but he’s an AFL footballer and that’s where it ends. A 10-point lead with a few minutes left? Nah, the ball goes straight up the other end, Travis Colyer burns everyone off from the halfway up the ground and still has the composure and class to finish from 50 metres out. A 5-point lead with two minutes left? Etc.

Sadly, like Daniel Wulf, Schneider may well be remembered for both of these moments above anything else. Added to his 2009 Grand Final performance, all of a sudden he’s a got the air of a serial offender. As much as he’s done for this team, and by all accounts continues to do off the field with the younger guys, I can certainly say the 2009 Grand Final is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of him. But this isn’t his generation, and it clearly wasn’t his day in a lot of respects. GT’s orders on that fateful Saturday night were to win at all costs following a 122-point loss at the Cattery, but obviously the über flood we served up against the Swans had nothing to do with the barnstorming style led by the G-Train, Roo, Milne, Hamill and co of 24 months later. On Sunday this team’s performance was owned by Bruce, Billings, Lonie, Steven, Armitage, Hickey et al. All these guys showed genuine promise playing their natural game and ideally will be there for the next tilt.

A narrow loss to the Bombers is one of my more intense fears as a St Kilda supporter, but I left the ground experiencing the now-foreign feeling of positivity. This is a young side and we’re going to have to some pretty off days between now and whenever it may be that we’re a threat again. But for the first time in a very long time, I can’t wait to go to the footy this week and watch the Saints.

How we are

Round 1, 2015
St Kilda 3.0, 5.2, 7.5, 11.12 (78)
GWS Giants 3.5, 7.9, 9.12, 12.15 (87)
Crowd: 18,794 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, April 5th at 1.10pm

Ok so we can now officially confidently say we have another season of slop ahead of us.

If we all turn around for the next few years does any of this really happen? The better periods of yesterday aside, we’re essentially left with the club’s time-honoured formula of “1. Opening bounce 2. ????? 3. St Kilda win” for the foreseeable future.

Now, firstly, I’m feeling very coy about this review as although I watched the game in its entirety, did my usual notes, post-match, etc. I actually didn’t go to the game. Having only missed a handful of games since the beginning of 2007 (my first year out of school) I still feel like I’ve broken a window when I don’t go to a game. This was the first Round 1 game in Melbourne we’d played that I’d missed since we ran over Carlton to open 2002. The icky feeling this week was tempered only by the fact that Matt and I had recently renewed our Social Club memberships.

Easter Sunday family duties called – we’re not religious but it’s a very close family, so we’re obliged yada yada – and I was still content watching the game with Matt and dear cousins Evan and Ben on the couch with several beverages. Mum and Dad are still in the UK for the time being so correspondence and reviews shared with them may only begin once I know for sure Dad’s seen the game given the time difference, so whatever happened I would be going over the match again with him in depth. There’s a lot riding on them.

Both dedicated RWB readers would have noticed that I didn’t bother with a review for the Hawthorn NAB Challenge match. Mostly because I CBF but also because it was a final chance to take a deep breath before having to experience, read and write about the next six months of us being where everyone likes us being.

Either the AFL have a sense of humour or they were being kind, but this just might have been our best chance for a win for the season. I can’t tell you who else we’re going to beat, outside of extreme role reversals of 2013 and 2014 Freo matches proportions.

The late morning tram and train trip across town included discovering David King had said on SEN, “I find myself falling in love with Jack Newnes”. Which makes sense (alright face, in pretty good shape, good footballer, I like his name; his hair could be a little better) but is bemusing because why would anyone pay attention to a player like that at a club that’s in our position? I know there’s the drive to be professional and educated, but this was suss. And the weight of Kingy’s affection obviously got to Jack because he ended up with 14 touches on a relatively quiet day.

His prospective 2018-2028 Premiership Co-Captain Luke Dunstan didn’t fare any better. A return of 13 touches essentially made up his numbers and, first up, these guys were a quick lesson to all of us that even a player of their promise will be inconsistent for some time. For all the optimism of a new season for what the young guys may bring us, once you actually land here it’s much more of a slog.

The flipside to that was Jack Lonie, who only found the ball nine times but made good on the promise shown in the pre-season that he was indeed ready for this level. His one-on-one with Curtly Hampton and then set-up of Schneider was one of the classiest things that happened by a player in a St Kilda jumper. He pushed up the ground hard and pinpointed a couple of teammates when decent disposal was at a premium. Saints fans (myself included) like to think of him as mostly part-Schneider and little part-Milne and they’re probably right; capable of cheeky things but good footskills around the ground, smarts and able to cover more of the field.

Worth pointing out that the GW$ dominant colour of orange is also the colour of a few bays of sponsored seats on Level 2, so for all the running out later than usual for the game, dressing up the ground and post-match kick-to-kick, it ended up looking like the Giants’ ground more than St Kilda’s.

At first it looked like Tim Membrey would be the stand-out new face. We probably forgot (before we even learnt at all) that he’d only played one game and is 20 years old. Maybe it’s the tatts, or maybe it’s the PR offensive the club thrust on us when we secured him in the off-season but his strong grab and goal to open the account in the first few minutes today started things optimistically.

As Richo said in the post-match, he got to a lot of contests. He probably didn’t get the purchase on the footy he would have liked though, but as we’re going to have to remind ourselves countless times, “It’s [player’s name]’s [really low number]st/nd/rd/th game”. In this case, it’s his second. And I liked that his second goal came with a more opportunistic streak and keeping his cool reading a chaos ball of sorts.

At the risk of this reading simply like a player review piece, Membrey’s game up forward naturally leads us to Josh Bruce. I think we’re all genuinely up and about for him, and it’s not just the sensational topknot and facial hair which currently has him at second in the Club’s Best Hair rankings.

It’s because he played by far the best game of his short career, threatening to drag the Saints over the line. Is this the making of him, or is this Daniel Wulf’s four goals that threatened to propel the Saints over the line against the Cats in Round 19 of 2002?

Because to be honest I’d written him off at some point during the rapid sinking of the SS Season 2014. It’s hard to remember when – probably somewhere between him not looking like a backman and not looking like a forward, or an elite Australian Rules footballer at all, really. But I didn’t pay attention to my own bleating about how these guys are either incredibly young, incredibly inexperienced or both, and for tonight we may have to think about the loss but for the six days – until we get towelled by the $uns – we can think about what he could become from here.

I’d written him off to the the point I thought his naming at full forward was a scathing indictment on the state of Tom Lee’s career more than anything else. During the first quarter he just looked like he was vaguely there, almost literally so there was a large chunk of human flesh floating around in the forward half.

In fact it wasn’t really until the third quarter that his game really took off. He got into a good position off his opponent near the 50 metre arc, which came as a surprise I guess to most of us. Looking at my notes I took during the game, I simply have “Josh Bruce nice mark and then long goal wtf”. I should say that by this time his physicality hadn’t quite reached Hamill-esque proportions, but had at least begun to show. My Favourite Hair in the AFL, playing under immense duress, was finally being given a genuine chop-out up forward.

Despite the energetic start to the match, things plummeted over the remainder of the half, punctuated by Shenton’s wayward short kick to Armo out of the back pocket. Armo might have been slightly caught out but his effort to take the footy was barely there and the Giants mopped up. Shenton might be lucky that Roberton is looking more likely to come out of the side for next week after being subbed.

So of all people it was Josh Bruce that appeared to spearhead any fight the Saints might have had. His mark and goal, and then genuine Mark of the Year contender – which, much like Brett Burton’s mark in 2011 Fox Footy didn’t capture properly as all several cameras were zoomed in too far on Bruce, so is much better captured here by Quinn Rooney – and subsequent miss were enough to drag the margin below five goals and throw some momentum back in our favour going into the last term. His crunching tackle just inside 50 and resulting goal at the beginning of the final stanza set the tone.

They didn’t come before some sadly telling passages, however. Armo kicked a great goal from a tight angle which was a carbon copy of his goal against Melbourne in the third quarter of the opening round last year at the other end of the ground, but that was heavily shat on but Membrey messing up a great opportunity on the rebound for Lonie who was out on his opponent around the 50 metre arc with terrible kick. Bruce then forgot what

The Several Kinds of Dog Shit Platter was led by four Saints going up for a mark on a back flank, with Savage floating directly across the front of Riewoldt, and the ball spilled for the Giants to kick it straight to full forward where Jeremy Cameron took the mark as one of three Giants swamping one Saint in the goal square. As afters, Membrey, Saad and Lonie couldn’t sort out effectively a three on zero near goal, Newnes missed a shot from the pocket and the resulting set shot from My Favourite Hair in the AFL’s big mark only landed in the goal square.

In fact, aside from Josh Bruce, Shane Savage was next in line to not just keep us in it but add some real spark on a day in which basic disposal seemed a tough ask (the same applied to himself). His two long goals – namely the second from out wide, in the final quarter – were exactly what he was recruited for.

But cue Tom Bugg, who cannoned into the back of Roo the My Favourite Hair wasn’t coming back onto the field. Bugg might have been running to the contest but you don’t just miss Nick Riewoldt right in front of you and he had no qualms about cannoning straight into his back. Perversely, no free kick was paid (regardless of it being an accident or not – the umpire was right next to it as well) and the MRP took no action on the hit, but rather things ultimately emerged with Bugg taking a free kick.

Enter Josh Bruce again, who took it on himself to floor Bugg as he took the kick. It ended up as a downfield free, but what does Josh Bruce’s hit on Bugg do for everyone? It gives Bugg and the opposition a sign that what he did wasn’t ok, and importantly it shows his teammates that he’ll fly the flag for them.

You could say what Josh did was undisciplined, particularly at a crucial time in the game, but we’re caught in the middle here. Because what’s the difference if you win or lose right now? What wins from the 2000/2001/2002 era do you remember? It’s not quite about those, it’s about the attitude and culture you build. You’ll get the odd win here and there (11, and two draws in that above era) which helps, but actions like that lay the groundwork for what approach you take into every game when things are meant to count.

Of course, you could rightfully point out that the Saints were the victims of poor umpiring throughout the game and in its vital late stages which may have impacted on the result. And of course we’d feel aggrieved. The first two 50 metre penalties to money grabbers were questionable, the Roo non-free the obvious glaring miss, and the Lonie hold in front of goal overlooked before McCarthy received a gift in front of goal at the other end. But for all of those there is Geary’s out on the full set shot from not that far out in the third quarter, a Armo missing two running shots on goal in the final quarter, and Joey’s weird torp-thing which was a complete waste of a forward 50 entry. The final quarter saw us with 21 forward 50 entries to seven, for a total of 4.7 to 3.3. Add to all of that Sinclair’s shot too, sure, but those other examples are given because they’re senior players who are meant to prove the sure heads and get the job done in this situation. It’s why you have guys like Roo, Joey, Dempster, Fisher, etc. around when the list is in this state. That’s their end of the bargain. Not to win games themselves necessarily, but, like Bruce’s hit on Bugg, instil some necessary qualities in the younger guys. That was their role in those moments in that context.

So next we venture off to the Gold Coast next Saturday to take on Franchise #1 at the home ground. You expect a few changes every week when young guys are prone to such inconsistency and Sunday was no different. Billings is surely a lock for next week after looking a class above by all reports in the VFL practice match on Saturday. His skills are, as we all know, something that we don’t have much of right now, and with Eli and Saad very quiet across half forward there’s certainly a couple that could come out for him. Shiel’s delivery forward from the centre square in the final term which led to a goal, as well as his own clever snap highlighted the gulf between the quality and development of the younger players at the clubs. Ironically, he might be a sneaky chance to land at Seaford/Moorabbin/Junction Oval come year’s end.

Eli I think might be more susceptible given he was given a task of playing higher up the ground, but with Lonie very pleasing and Sinclair impressing in his short time on the field (Dribble File effort at a critical time aside), you’d think at least one of Eli and Saad will be out. Adam Kingsley certainly hinted as much on the post-game Facebook chat (which I’m sure he was thrilled to be doing) that the coaches were pleased with Sinclair and that Billings would be playing next week. Saunders and McKenzie were apparently very productive also, and might be get a look in (the former more so).

Blake Acres had 20 touches and two goals, and perhaps with Roberton subbed out for being only OK there might be a chance for him to come in (if we’re running with a very vague like-for-like), but he’d be further back than a Billings right now.

Paddy sounded like he struggled (I wouldn’t throw him into the greasy Metricon conditions first-up anyway) whilst Spencer sounded half-decent and Tom Lee didn’t even play up forward. Tom Hickey kicked three goals as well, and if both Billy and Tom play either one will need to up forward just about all of the time. With Josh Bruce incredibly playing an actually good game, Riewoldt fortunately OK for next week, Membrey’s couple of goals and good movement enough to earn his spot and Hickey into calculations for the ruck and resting up forward the only I doubt Spencer will break in just yet.

Finally, a mention to Roo. I’ve obviously named him and his actions several times through this but you have to acknowledge the purpose he played with so soon after his sister passed away. He doesn’t need someone like me to say to him “good on him” or “what a great bloke” or anything like that.

You the sense that Kevin Sheedy told the younger GWS guys they were a bit too special in their early days. It was nice to see Roo give Toby Greene a huge shove, and the Bruce hit of course. But you know what? When you’re the St Kilda Football Club, someone else will have the last laugh. Ten years after he was felled in questionable circumstances in the opening round, Roo’s found himself as the post-match headline in a tough loss for the same reasons. We would lose our captain and best player for the most important few minutes of the match with, incredibly, no consequences.

Ten years ago was a very, very different time. Now, we’re being pushed around and felled without consequence by the competition’s newest money-grabbing franchise.

This year’s slogan may be “How I Want To Be”, but that’s a long way off. For now, we’ll have to endure How We’ve Been for most of the past 142 years.