3 clubs, 23 rounds, A slab of passion….

The point of rebuilding

Drown your Sainter sorrows with this little beauty

Drown your Sainter sorrows with this little beauty

Sainter Barry Breen kicked 5 points in 1966 Grand Final but its the last one which is now infamous. Watch the game today and tension is palpable from the old videotape – high pitched exaltations of expectation and the fear of disappointment. Two minutes from the end in front of the old members stand he launches a shot goalward from within a pack of closing Collingwood players. He’s kicking from behind a streamer curled up on the turf. It bounces through for a point breaking the deadlock between the teams and two minutes later the siren sounds and sounds and sounds – like a fully laden diesel train braking frantically to avoid a level crossing collision. St Kilda was finally VFL premiers.

Since them Grand Final tragedies have accumulated at a pace on a par with the Kennedy family:
1971 – Hawks kick 7 goals in the final term to overrun the lads in a bloodbath at the G
1997 – Crow Darren Jarman boots 6 goals, and the Crows 8 in the last quarter to put this one beyond Stan’s reach.
2009 – Cat Matthew Scarlett’s toe poke beyond Zac Dawson’s back yer self lunge at a bouncing footy goes to Ablett then to Chapman who goals to sink the Saints
2010 Saints pluck a draw at the death defied of the prize by a dirty bounce beyond the reach of goal breaking Steven Milne. The following week a rampant Collingwood snuff out the bid.

The iconic moment. Barry Breen unloads the winning point.

The iconic moment. Barry Breen unloads the winning point.

Lets take a look at the coaching roll call after cup savouring Allan Jeans:

Alex Jesaulenko – arrives after a blue with the Blues, becomes coach 2 rounds into the new season. Alex is  the last man to serve as captain-coach in a VFL side.
Ken Sheldon
– the sniff of Carlton sucess recruited in the hope it would rub off.
Stan Alves  – whose creed of player accountability a seeming reaction to the dictatorial nature of his coaches Smith and Barrassi. His player game focus through “quietening the mind” propelled the Sainters to a Grand Final won by Crow Darren Jarman.
Tim Watson – struggled with the role but gave Barry Hall the immortal lesson he would see finally 10 years later at the Bulldogs – “love the aggression at the footy Baz, but without the anger”.
Malcolm Blight – left field choice who went back once more time to the coaching trough before being sacked. Brought the players back out onto the ground for a post loss warm down. Catch phrase on signing on was “Get on board for the ride of your life“. Another false dawn.
Ross Lyon – dour game plan transform the Saints into a hungry defensive unit that knock at the door in both 2009 and 2010 only to rebuffed in another nightmare on Elm (Linton) Street. Retired 4 players in his last game with the Fremantle coaching contract just days away.

Tonight at Ethihad – to paraphrase Stan Alves – St Kilda is like the boy with the barrow, they’ve got the job ahead of them.  Facing the Pies with ageing campaigners Stephen Milne and Justin Kositchke just hanging on and champion Lenny Hayes ruled out in the warm up you get that same feeling you get watching the Zapruder footage of the JFK assassination. However,   Riewoldt is a revelation burning off both Reid and Brown to defend, lead, mark and goal tirelessly. Nearly wins the game off his own straight again boot. It’s a scrappy game and the Pies members are distracted by their own lack of political correctness. Justin Kositchke clips young Jamie “Billie” Elliot and cops 2 games. Could be the end. Milne is booed at every touch, cheered when beaten in a contest.

I have a few friends that barrack for St Kilda. Its a bit like having a family member who’s always got an aliment or too, terrible back luck with broken limbs, is short of a quid, cant quite dance, is cursed in relationships and is forever losing their car keys. There’s a sense of ongoing pity.

A touch of good Friday for the Saints of the late 90s

A touch of good Friday for the Saints of the late 90s

In the 90s a Sainter mate and I would regularly hit the Hawks V Saints games. I’d just signed up for pay TV enticed by a channel called C7 which showed AFL games live intermittently.  C7’s schedule was ad hoc and promoted on spec. One time I’d cleared the house of kids and partner in order to watch a big game only to be confronted at bounce time on C7 with the “World Rickshaw Championships – Live from Singapore”. Party pies lose their oomph when the conveyance becomes man rather than (departed) beast. Back in the days when St Kilda wore that hot cross bun guernsey – Round 12, 1999 to be precise – the Saints and Hawks were on C7 with my saints mate due at half time. By that stage the Saints were up by 51 points back from 63 early in the second quarter. He’d missed one of the greatest halves from the Saints of all time. The Hawks, in the parlance of C7 commentator Peter Landy, were in “more trouble than the early settlers”.  In the third quarter my mate pushed the saveloys away to pick up chain smoking as the Hawks came storming back to win in a then greatest comeback in footy history.

Another time he hassled me to go to this pub which had a “Home of the Saints” banner” across the front.  He’d driven past it a few times, wishin and hopin. The implication being that the joint was full of accordion playing Sainters waiting for a banjo player to put the icing on the cake of “Oh when the Saints go marching in”. A form of  trad jazz heaven where the after life was an endless rerun of Trevor Barkers 1975 mark of the year. I got there early to a crescendo of indifference. While making shadow puppets on the walls as the sounds of cicadas grew, he finally arrived – the first actual Sainter in the building with the game just underway. The heralded Saints “atmosphere” had become a complete sham. My mate, in his Saint guernsey, keen to meet, mix and “grow” with fellow Sainters,  had been sold a pup. Around half time a Horsham bound bus crew of indigenous travellers – many in Hawks guernseys – arrived for travellers aid to further underscore the charade that home had become. Saints lost that game too.

1966 Grand Final St Kilda 10.14 74 defeated Collingwood 10.13 73

Tonight: Collingwood 15 13 103 defeated St Kilda 11 11 77

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