AFL Round 2 – St.Kilda v Richmond: When holidays go wrong

By John Green

Sometimes your holidays don’t turn out like you think they will.

My worst experience was a camping trip to the Warrnambool foreshore some years ago. Somehow we could never quite afford to kit ourselves out in the manner of the more experienced campers with A-grade facilities. We shared the ordeal with two other families. Despite the fact that it was the middle of summer it rained all week and I swear that the wind roaring in from Bass Strait bore traces of snow blown all the way from the Tasmanian highlands. Most of my time was spent hammering in pegs to prevent the tents from flying away to the fields of unsuspecting graziers in the Western District. The blue tarpaulin meant to provide us with shelter flapped ceaselessly in the gales as I miserably washed the dishes in tubs of tepid water and tried to stop the kids from killing each other. How I longed to hail one of the V-line sprinters hurtling by along the nearby railway line and hightail it back to Melbourne.

The St. Kilda Football Club had a similar experience last weekend. Off they went to the Gold Coast for a spot of R and R in the sun before applying themselves to the rigours of the new footy season. Part of their time was spent in running around with the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium. That was meant to be a guaranteed win and the opportunity to blow out the cobwebs before taking on the competition heavyweights in the coming weeks.  There might even have beeen a chance to visit the wax museum at Surfer’s Paradise or buy some inexpensive gifts at the Carrara Market on the Sunday morning.

Instead, it all went wrong for the vacationing Sainters, caused in no small measure by the little bald bloke wearing the number nine jumper for the Suns. It was oppressively hot and sticky, even after the sun went down. The exhausted Saints staggered off the bus at Coolangatta Airport for the flight home with zero points and a severe case of wounded pride. Little voices were suggesting that maybe the critics were right in dismissing them as finals contenders.

Tonight they’re back on the factory floor to face Richmond, fresh from a pulsating five-point win over Carlton and two extra days to recharge the batteries for their meeting with the Saints. Sure, the Tigers suffered the indignity of losing to the Suns last year, but that was in Cairns, and at least they were paid handsomely for the privilege of selling the four points. They may even have received a secret financial bonus from the AFL for leaving Karmichael Hunt unattended in the last few seconds of the match.

Here is a chance for the Tigers to vanquish a weakened foe on their home turf, something they haven’t managed to accomplish at the MCG since 2000.

They start promisingly, taking the lead out to 21 points late in the first term. It seems as though  Riewoldt’s hip surgery from the previous year is finally bearing fruit as he reverts to his Jumping Jack persona of a couple of seasons ago with a series of sky scraping leaps and grabs. Luke McGuane follows suit with a couple of species of his own. Jones is shading Cotchin but Martin and Deledio are running rampant through the middle.

Frustratingly, the anticipated Richmond domination fails to materialise. In each of the first three quarters the Tigers push their lead to beyond 20 points, but the Saints peg them back before each break. St. Kilda trails by 24 points late in the third term before St. Kilda’s Riewoldt strikes back with a couple before three-quarter time. They just won’t go away.

When Saad splits the middle from a sharp angle after five minutes of the final stanza the difference is only four points. The Saints are threatening and we are entering the unwelcome realm of the close finish once again. Why can’t we be like the other top sides facing interlopers and just kill ‘em? My wife, paying a rare visit to the footy, wonders aloud how I can keep putting myself through this emotional turmoil on a weekly basis. I retort that I am perfectly calm and rational and furthermore, would she mind remaining silent so that I can concentrate on the business at hand. Jack receives a fortunate free kick when a pack collapses onto him and he calmly slots his seventh goal for the evening.

Then the goals dry up.

If Albert Einstein was still alive today and residing in Australia he would surely be hired by one of the cashed up clubs as a consultant. Einstein’s brief would be to devise a way of accelerating time when your team is holding on to a narrow lead and nobody looks like scoring a goal. In a state of mild panic by now, I contemplate the possibility of the Tigers losing the game if Nick Riewoldt hangs onto a mark in the square or Saad jumps onto a loose ball on the goal side of a pack.

But Cotchin begins to shake the Clinton Jones tag as the match wears on. Reece Conca takes the risk of leaving his opponent to spoil a Ben McEvoy marking attempt within range of goal. He bobs up again and wins a tight contest by the boundary line before spearing the ball to the unmarked Ivan Maricl. Big Ivan is playing his hundredth AFL game and celebrates in style by guiding it straight over the goal umpire’s cap for the sealer.

Sometimes taking vacations at the wrong time of the year can lead to problems. For too long now Richmond has holidayed in September while eight clubs are still working. With two wins in the first two rounds, the first time this has happened since 1997, should we book our annual leave for a few weeks later?

Comments

  1. The Wrap says:

    I had an Uncle who had the Caledonian down at Warrnabool John. he’d go into the bank and complain about the wind, The teller would say, “Did it have any rain in it?” When Alan would say no, he’d say, “That’s not wind”.
    When Alan was able to confirm that the wind indeed had some rain it it the teller asked, “Was the rain horizontal?” You guessed it. “That’s not wind”, the seasoned teller replied.
    When Alan was able to report that the wind of the day had plenty of rain it it, and that it was truly horizontal the cash counter asked if it had any fish in it? Now you only had a week of it.
    Compared to the Long Suffering as a Punt Road faithful that’s nothing.

  2. Neil Anderson says:

    Must have been a long time ago you had that wet and windy trip to Warrnambool.
    If you were here in the last couple of years (post 2011 floods) you would be complaining about the ‘heat’ and asking people does it ever rain around here?
    Even 25 years ago when I came to live in the district, the family bought the thickest coats we could before we left Melbourne, as we remembered chidhood summers with the weather the way you described it. It was the start of those long Indian summers and we never did get to wear those coats.
    You could probably cancel all leave in September if you can get past the Dogs next week (go Dogs!) and the Pies the week after that (go Tiges!)

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