AFL Round 21: One victory lights up a dark season

St. Kilda versus North Melbourne
1.10pm, Sunday, August 23
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Andrew Starkie

Even the darkest season produces a glimmer of triumph.  Light that makes the heartache worthwhile.  Hope that keeps you coming back.  It can be a mere moment: an unforgettable mark, a sublime passage of play, the emergence of a young star.  Or, as in our case this weekend, a win over a highly fancied opponent.  A victory carried by pride, Rawlings’ 200th, and love for departing club servants Watt and Caretaker Crocks.

Here’s how the day unfolded…

I arrive at Docklands just before game time due to a crazed dash from the airport.  I spent the previous day and night in Canberra doing stuff.  I have to admit my main thoughts as I sped along Citylink were along the lines of, ‘Why bother, we’re going to get smashed?’  But, it’s footy and the Roos’ last Melbourne game this year.  I couldn’t miss it.

Nephew Lukey can’t fit a day at the footy into his busy schedule – he has an Auskick barbecue to attend – so I join my friend Jenny on the flank in the Medallion Club, courtesy of her work.  Jenny arrived in Melbourne from Adelaide in the ’90s, took one look at Wayne Carey and decided he was good enough reason to support North.  Our fondest memory together was sitting atop the old Olympic Stand watching the boys thump the Blues in the ’99 GF.

Jenny knows nothing of the pre-Duck North Melbourne.  Schimma and Greig don’t ring a bell.  When I point out Phil Krakouer sitting behind us she shrugs her shoulders.

A friendly group of Roos sits nearby and together we laugh at our chances against the Saints coming off their first loss for the season against the Bombers.  The sun is shining and a relieved, end-of-season atmosphere hangs in the air.

‘Are the trots on?’ A young Roo asks, flicking through the channels on his complimentary TV.  ‘Idol’s finished.’

The game starts and it’s obvious the North players aren’t sharing our lack of concern in the result.  Intensity and tackling are excellent.  We’re winning the clearances and banging it forward.  Swallow and Anthony are everywhere.  Edwards, given an opportunity to prove he’s worth keeping next year, kicks two and we’re away.  Petrie snags a couple and Goldstein another and suddenly we’re five goals up.  Jenny and I share a chuckle and agree it won’t last.

The Saints look ordinary.  They’re lacking run and making skill errors under North’s pressure.  Our defence is on top, with Grima, Thompson and Obst rotating on Riewoldt and Kozy.  They eventually shake free and kick goals from the Saints’ only centre clearances.  We lead by two goals at quarter-time.

The match tightens during the second quarter.  We’re controlling the tempo and forcing stoppages.  The Saints are off their game.  Kozy and Montagna spray shots they would normally convert.  Dal Santo is suffocating under Greenwood’s tag. We kick two goals to one and the lead is sixteen points.

Still it seems like a matter of time before the Saints get moving.

The Saints are dominating possession early in the third term, but our pressure is forcing them wide and their forward delivery is missing the mark.  Riewoldt and Kozy miss shots they shouldn’t.  The former eventually marks strongly and converts.  Swallow – having the game of his life – kicks our only goal for the quarter.  The margin is six points.

Jenny and I and our newfound friends are well into the contest by now.  We sense we’re a real chance.  We want this one to hang our season on.

The Saints continue to press at the start of the last quarter.  Goddard has found space.  They enter the fifty time and again, but can’t score.  Stoppages continue.  I count five in a few minutes inside their forward area.  McQualter breaks free and puts the Saints in front for the first time.  Kozy kicks his second and the game has a ‘here we go again’ feel.  Both goals have come from our turnovers.  This has been our problem season.

But this week is different.

We continue to tackle and our intensity never slackens.   Petrie takes over.  He does his best Carey, hitting a pack hard and bringing down a strong mark.  He converts and Jenny is impressed.  An attractive passage of play ends with another mark to Petrie and he has his fourth.  We lead by a goal and we’re roaring.

The Saints attack desperately.  Schneider is pinged for holding the ball, gives the umpire a serve and is penalised fifty.  He’s dragged and we’re out of our seats delivering a send-off.

Reiwoldt marks and has a shot from outside fifty.  Goldstein rises and punches through on the line.  Five points the difference.

Petrie makes a game-saving spoil and the siren sounds.  Delirium.  Hugs and high-fives all round and we’re celebrating as if we’ve won the GF.

The players mob Crocks in the centre of the ground and Watt and Rawlings receive a guard of honour.  This one meant a great deal to the club.  One victory can lighten a dark season.

I wish Lukey was here to see it.

ST KILDA 3.0 4.4 6.9 8.11 (59)
NTH MELBOURNE 5.2 7.2 8.3 10.4 (64)
GOALS
St Kilda: Koschitzke, Riewoldt 3; McQualter, Ray.
North Melbourne: Petrie 4; Edwards 2; Swallow, Adams, Campbell, Goldstein.
BEST
St Kilda: Riewoldt, Goddard, Jones, Koschitzke, Montagna.
North Melbourne: Swallow, Petrie, Greenwood, Anthony, Rawlings, Thompson.
CROWD: 35,522 at Etihad Stadium.

Votes:
3 – Swallow
2 – Petrie
1 – Greenwood

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    Andrew,
    Loved the last quarter (and your report).
    I was “petrie-fied” that North would lose it.
    Cheers,
    Flynny

  2. Jennifer Ibrahim says:

    Hello dear mr Starkie, im sure you remember me from the good old MSJ. Two words sire, GO SAINTS!

  3. Jennifer Ibrahim says:

    And Eden Stoicos, Kayla Furmanczyk, Sarah Doughty and Jaimee Jones say hello

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