AFL Round 7 – St Kilda v Carlton: The streak is over

by David Downer

In the many contests (er, agon?) of both sport and life, the victor of particular match-ups can be assured well before the event.

Harlem Globetrotters v Washington Generals.  Federer v Hewitt.  Marciano v everyone.  Roadrunner v Wile E Coyote.   Angelina v Jennifer. 

Scissors v Paper.  Paper v Rock.  Rock v Scissors. 

And St.Kilda v Carlton (well, for a while).

Indeed, Blues fans of teen and “tween” vintage could be forgiven for thinking that St.Kilda is a consummate “big bad wolf” of the AFL.

Coming up short for nine years I assume would have that impact.  However, any Sainter old enough to remember the comedy stylings of Robert Guillaume in Benson* would long remember the shoe being very much on the other foot. Truth be told, I don’t need to “assume” anything on this front, having lived through eras of “perpetual hammerings”, “SOS campaigns” and club self-implosions you could set your clock to.  Much of that misery being Carlton inflicted.

So whilst the Saints may have entered Monday night with a 12 game winning streak on the “Baggers” (and gee there were some enjoyably cathartic days amongst that lot), the all time head-to-head must also be a record – the other way. A staggering 47-156 in Carlton’s favour. 35-156 before the streak.  And lest we engage in yet another mind-expanding debate that begins thus: “and how many premierships have you won mate?”.  Should Carlton fans then be surprised by the delight St.Kilda has taken in punishing them for the last decade? Even allowing for the usual Collingwood-biased fixture that affects us all, St.Kilda would still have to beat Carlton for the next 72 years to square the head-to-head ledger – I’m not sure if Riewoldt’s hamstring will see that out. But hopefully Rhys Stanley would have had a crack at it by then.

The Blues had been inching closer in recent meetings.  Last year’s Rd.12 Friday night clash was particularly momentous.  It was the night before my wedding. 

As such the expected pre-wedding jitters arrived a day early, and would actually supersede anything I experienced the next.  The Saints went in 11-0, surely they wouldn’t, couldn’t, drop their bundle just hours before my impending nuptials.  As a regretfully superstitious “touch wood’ type of individual, that wouldn’t bode well for the “next chapter in life”. 

I have an unusually large proportion of Carlton mates, and despite watching that circa 2009 game at a residence more “Whitnall than Winmar”, even they hoped, outwardly at least, that the Saints could hang on.  Thankfully Chris Judd spent just enough time attired in Egyptian mausoleum garb for the Saints to scrape home – Zac Dawson of all people kicking the sealer.  Hours later – with the overwhelming majority of wedding attendees being either Saint or Blue, I took it upon myself to offer our priest, an old Irish Sainter himself, some casual advice re opening proceedings. I suggested mention of victory the night prior might prove a popular ice-breaker. He obliged.  And the post-service display of groom, best man and groomsman “unveiling” red, white and black hoop socks underneath the suit-leg, like hoisting a flag up the pole at the medal ceremony – seemed a little more appropriate.

The Monday night experimental fixture, god willing, will remain just that.  As if Sunday twilight isn’t bad enough.  And this is coming from a guy who literally works over the road from the Collo-seum on Spencer St.  The commute was a sum total of 5 minutes from desk to aisle 38 reserved seat, even over that footbridge.  Yet not arriving home until 11pm on a school night is little compensation for the “quick trip in”.  

The initial subdued atmosphere was awoken with some overdue recognition, via motorcade, for Max Hudghton – an absolute “favourite son” at Moorabbin.  Geez we love this bloke.  Despite plying his trade as a miserly full back, Max spearheaded most of the Carlton demolitions in the noughties – shutting down Fev who barely laid his mitts on it against the Saints.  But with both Max and Fev out of the picture, this could only increase Carlton’s chances of breaking the streak.  And at the other end, Fev’s good mate Fraser usually took great delight in slithering his beguiling carpet snake charm around the witches hats against the Blues.  So no Max, Fev, Frase …or Roo – this would change the dynamics significantly.

Sure enough the Blues jumped out of the blocks. Waite was having the ultimate “happy birthday”.  As a key part of the Aspendale Aggets Supercoach line-up, I was happy enough to see “son of Vin” back in the big time.  But when he began tearing the Frenchman to complete shreds, lining up for his 3rd before the quarter time bell, footy fantasy points didn’t seem so important.  Steady on there young Jarrad, you’ve had a good start, but let’s not go nuts mate.

But “nuts” the Blues did keep going.  Whilst “Dreamtime at the G” might be a fortnight away, Betts, Garlett and Yarran were ensuring this was quickly becoming “Nightmare at the Dome” for the Saints. St.Kilda were very much “gumboots in quicksand” against the pace and pressure of a pumped-up Carlton outfit – and this indigenous fleet-of-foot trifecta in particular.  The lethargic turnovers and dropped marks kept piling up for the Saints, and “Setanta’s little helpers” (whoever coined that – outstanding) ran around with the gay abandon of an Auskick clinic.

Dal Santo didn’t get near it.  I wasn’t sure if Fisher was actually playing.  Kosi kept falling to ground.  The backs were being exposed horribly one on one.  And given the game’s TV ratings didn’t set the world on fire, being ousted by Two and a Half Men was appropriate enough – given the relative contributions of individual Saints on the night.  Hayes was Charlie Sheen, Goddard was the other bloke …and the other 20 combined were the half (the fat kid).

When Betts’ snap put them 10 goals up early in the final stanza, I excused myself from the torture.  I not-so-elegantly tried to “sneak” out, choosing a well considered “er, I have to get up at 5 tomorrow” (yeah right) excuse for the evil-glaring “bitter bitter end” die-hards that I shuffled past.  Yet we couldn’t even escape successfully – it was peak-hour mass exodus from the St.Kilda members, a foot-traffic jam of Burnley tunnel “one lane only” proportions.  Whilst stuck in the aisle, just hanging in the breeze, I still dared not turn around to watch any more of the contest  – that sort of temptation didn’t work for Lot’s wife and her subsequent days as a pillar of salt.

The excitable obituaries of “Saints Footy” however have surely been premature.  Well shit I hope so.  Since becoming a “fair dinkum threat” early last year, the smack-down obvious strategy to beat St.Kilda, then, and still is – “move the ball quickly”.  Masterstroke.  And Brett Ratten is now the acknowledged “coaching genius” for actually implementing it – many Bluebaggers (“baggers” being the operative word) may have changed their tune on Ratts after consigning him to a Ronald Ryan type future post the Essendon game.

Could we also consider for a moment that Carlton just “played better” than St.Kilda?  And were perhaps aided by some classic “rub of the green” for good measure?  Remember a day when the media blowtorch wasn’t such a concentrated “possession by possession” proposition. When blokes were allowed to have “off days”.  One side just put in more effort than the other?  Does there really need to be a Spanish Inquisition into all this? I recall our beloved Pies touching up Geelong by nearly 90 pts early 2008 – it doesn’t seem to have had any long-term adverse affects on the Cats – although, I wish it had, we may have won a flag by now.  Even 3 weeks ago the Blues “got hold” of Geelong – yet a fortnight later the Cats are again the “undisputed benchmark”.  Whoa, slow down, I can’t keep up.

I will concede the obvious, the Saints don’t really look like scoring at the moment. “Scoring” – a key facet of the game even the most dour Serie A coach would admit to.  As the High School Lacrosse coach directed to his troops in teen flick American Pie : “You don’t score …until you score”.  Profound.

Yet the Riewoldt effect is hard to overcome.  We’ve been spoilt by this bloke.  The hardest running CHF in history (surely), who streams up the wing, gets it “9 times out of 10”, gives it off, then sprints back to goal, and gets it again.  We haven’t required a Plan B because this guy is so damn good, and generally, is never injured, or if he is, he plays anyway.  It’s unhealthy to rely on one man so much – but that’s the reality we face.  When you go to him, he gets it.  So you keep doing it.  The headless chook routine currently up forward will hopefully sort itself out in the coming weeks.

My final “let’s just everyone chill out for a minute” point is that six of St.Kilda’s seven games have come against teams in the top 8.  Time for a few “gimme’s” – hmmm, famous last words.

As I pondered all these mutterings on a deathly silent train home – and when you get thumped it really puts the “stopping” into “stopping all stations”, I finally sauntered in the door at 10:50pm.  The big man Cuba greeted me at the door and we consoled ourselves with the replay – no, not a re-run of the massacre I just witnessed, but the IQ recorded Footy Flashbacks from Sunday morning – 1989 Rd.2 St.Kilda v Carlton at Moorabbin.  All Saints will remember that.  Even Cuba.

“Daniels …gives a great handpass to Winmar …St.Kilda a chance …Winmar looks for Lockett …Yessss!!!”

St.Kilda’s next test is against another of its tormenters in the annals of history, Essendon, with a two day less break to counter …and a 63-135 all-time record that needs some serious attending to.

Them boys better be on the angry pills this week.

DD

* This left-field ill-fitting Benson reference is a shout-out to a Blues mate, the “Crandle”, who after enduring 12 Carlton losses alongside me, is now currently living in LA, and watched the game streaming live in an ungodly Pacific timezone of 3am-5am.  A devotee of 80’s sitcoms “nostalgia”, the previous day he sent me a photo of Robert Guillaume’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Ta-Da!

Comments

  1. Great stuff, DD. Any report that incorporates a reference to Benson has got to be a winner.

    There’s got to be a PhD thesis in researching the link between a Saints fan’s love of 80’s sitcoms and the level of non-success that St Kilda endured during that time.

    Given the ongoing inequity in the win-loss department between the Saints and the Blues, I was disappointed you didn’t include another nod to your LA mate – something along the lines of squaring the “Heath” Ledger…

    (Sorry, but I refuse to pass up any opportunity of making a bad pun.)

  2. John Butler says:

    DD

    Remember the good old days when everyone saved their energies up for hating Collingwood? (ok, I know some of you reserved some bile for the Blues)

    Times were simpler then.

    I’ve been impressed at how much antipathy “Saints Footy” has been able to arouse.

    It will be interesting to see if ol’ Rosco is prepared to mix it up a little.

    And while we’re on Benson, what about Soap?

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