AFLM Round 16 – St Kilda v Richmond: Happy Days are here again

 

Saturday 8th July 7.25pm

Etihad Stadium

Yvette Wroby

 

 

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics)

 

Many a good thing:

When I plugged ‘Siren’s Call’ to an art friend, she bought it for her mad Saints son.  He was overseas at time of purchase, and as Sue read the book, she sat bolt upright, called her friend Harold Fraser, then called me.  I wrote that Harold Fraser was a reserves Saints player back in the forties, and it was his niece rather than grand-daughter Gayle who I had met on my travels in Queensland. Sue promptly told me Harold was a long-time friend and business associate of Sue and her late husband Raoul. Sue organised an afternoon tea when Gary returned, and this Wednesday saw the four of us talk footy, eat too much, and enjoy each other’s company. Harold is a real old-fashioned card of a man, and said that he and his friends had three F’s in common – furniture, Freemasons and football. We looked at Sue’s amazing collection of photo plates her father had collected, magnificent images she is now cataloguing for her family in the future. All in their 80’s, this generation are full of life and surprises. We looked at photos of the couple holidays in the past in Tahiti. Harold attended the 1966 Grand Final after his parents and he bought tickets on the black market. That’s new in my story gathering. We talked of improving St Kilda games, of Harold living right by Etihad and always coming down pre-game and chatting with his family. I would see him come game day.

 

Pregame:

Talking on ‘Life Matters’ on ABC on Wednesday, led to a phone call from the Coodabeens, which led to me talking on the show Saturday morning. It’s so weird, I feel like I could talk all day in the interviews I have done, and the Coodabeens, bless their souls, were a treat.

 

It was Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision day for the St Kilda and Richmond supporters, and I was very early into town to get a few purple Saints scarves.

 

Meeting with Jonathan, a Queensland Saints, and delivering his ordered book, as well as selling another couple, saw a great continuation of an awesome day. We caught up, talked about where we saw the team, and even though I last saw him in 2015 and he’s part of my book, if felt like I was catching up with an old friend.  That’s what happens with Saints people.  You become connected in interesting ways.

 

While he went for a rest and to start reading Siren’s Call, I headed very early to the ground, met with Harold’s niece, bought my scarf and had a whisky. I soaked it up with some chips. I love a shot of whisky and it seemed a good way to both keep warm and kill some time.

 

Once the ground opened, it was off to the Social Club where I caught up with Dave Power and his mate Tom. A fitter and turner, an Egyptian man from Greek and Italian parents, Tom migrated to Australia and was taken to Moorabbin and the Saint played in Egyptian colours. He found himself a regular at the footy, and would sit in the infamous Animal Enclosure at Moorabbin – the section between the race of the umpires and the race of the Saints. In here, he would get to the game after first quarter, when work had finished, and make his way to the front of the area. He was so short that the other kindred spirits wanted to make sure he could see, and a path was cleared as those around him would say, “make way for the midget.” He told me the kids used to sit on the mesh above the two runways, my mate Mark C being one of those kids.

 

Tom tells me he was chatting to someone near him one of those days at Princes Park, having a relaxed chat, when this guy turned around and completely went nuts at the entering umpires. When Tom questioned him, he said, “We have to let them know we are here.”

 

Dave P remembers a game so poor that Nathan Burke coming to the Lockett end, taking his helmet off, picking up a microphone and apologised to the supporters. He said to one of his daughters, “we have to put our money where our mouths are love, they need us more than ever”, and he made up his mind that he was going to be a member. Dave started as a Saint supporter via a very dear friend.  When he started work, this chap was a mentor, and took Dave under his wing. “He was very small”, said Dave, “in stature, you could blow him over. They used to call him Nipper. When I went to his funeral, there was Stewart Loewe, Burky, Robert Harvey, I didn’t know who they were, I didn’t know anything about football, but I thought to myself, bloody hell, if the Club sends people out to a barrackers funeral like that, I’m going to have to stick to this club. If I gave the Saints away… it would be easier to change the colour of my eyes…”

 

Tom continues.  One a holiday in York, UK, he was wearing his St Kilda jumper, and a couple of blokes from the other side of the road, raced towards him and started hugging him.  Tom said, “You used to be in the Animal Enclosure” and they said, “That’s right”.  These blokes had seen the jumper and when they got closer, recognised him.  When Tom’s wife asked for a photo, they asked, “Do you barrack for St Kilda?” No, she said.  “Get away”, they answered. Tom laughs. “That shows you the kind of people.  Comedians.” The same people were always in the Animal Enclosure, they stood all day. When he started going in 1967, the same year as I started, there were some fine years of great Saints play.  Baldock, Ditterich, Smith, Cowboy Neale, a pretty good Saints team. After 1973, Tom continues, there weren’t many Saints goals, so he didn’t miss much coming late to games. Life changed and Tom’s barracking habits changed. The conversation ends when Michael E comes by and comments on the hot pepper that Tom gave him from his garden.  This Saints world is so connected.

 

A quick hello to Harold Fraser and I was off to my seat. So much was happening and the game hadn’t even begun.

 

Everything is purple for Maddie:

Not only were we wearing purple, but the stadium was transformed into a loving venue.  Both Richmond and St Kilda supporters donned the Maddie Riewoldt Vision colour purple.  The ground lighting was purple and the Saints usual red strip on their jumpers was purple too. Pre-game entertainment included ‘You’ll never walk alone’ (Maddie was a Liverpool supporter and loved soccer) while supporters all around the ground used their torch lights on their phones to sway gently together in the night. Moments of thinking about loved ones lost, or loved ones still with us, and how footy can bring us together in deep and meaningful ways. We felt tearful and proud to be part of these pregame moments of harmony.  Of hope. Of love. We had a few songs from a band I can’t remember before the lights slowly raised as the players prepared to come onto the ground.

 

On Fire:

I went to this game with Uncle Bob, Aunty Betty and Gary thinking we’d either be close, lose, or be thrashed. My options were wide open.  In none of my fantasies or dreams did any of us see this game coming.

Richmond’s banner read:

It’s Saturday night

We again take the stage

None will stand in the way

Of a Richmond rampage.

It was a perfect start with Nick Riewoldt taking a tricky mark and getting a 50 for Alex Rance’s push on Jack Lonie. Within minutes, we were harrying, harassing, tackling, bullying, interrupting, annoying, irritating and confusing Richmond. We out muscled, outplayed and out-maneuvered them. We went over them, under them, behind them and in front.  We didn’t let them have the ball and it was wonderful.

 

Josh Bruce drove the next one through.

 

Richmond tried to start sequences of play but were sloppy, hesitant and stressing. Trent Cotchin punched Lonie on the chest and Seb Ross gets a 50 for it. Cochin is reported. Ross goals. Saints fans are noisy and excited.

 

Good start. Three quick goals. The new Saints ins for this week are playing well, Shane Savage is solid in defence, as is Ben Long. Captain Jarryn Geary is terrific in defence all night.  Rance is overworked as the ball is almost entirely in the Saints forward line. Bruce misses one which was a sitter – was it the old perceived pressure? Finally, Richmond score through Cotchin in a moment of fast, accurate movement. We are expecting a comeback. Dion Prestia misses. Shane Edwards misses.

 

The crowd is huge, the noise big. Jack Newnes soccers the ball off the ground and it lands perfectly on the chest of Nick Riewoldt, who manages to turn it over. Brandon Ellis misses. Geary takes a screamer of a mark in defence. Billy Longer is winning the tap outs. It is up the Saints forward line again and Lonie does a strange sharp pass across the goal which Jack Billings marks at pace. And goals. Bang.

 

After good Richmond play, Ross runs down Jason Castagna, passes the ball forward, Membrey gets it to Jade Gresham who is straight in front and slots the goal. The St Kilda supporters are noisy now.  We are laughing and looking at each other in shock and awe.  Maddie would be rapt with this effort – people attending, raising money, Saints winning, her brother getting the first goal. You could not have planned this event any better.

 

St Kilda’s defensive work is terrific. Richmond remains inaccurate.  At quarter-time we have kept a top four side to one goal. We are all grinning and in shock.

 

Nothing we have seen for the last few years has prepared us for what happened in the second quarter. Longer is being held and gets a free and even he gets into goal kicking tonight. Riewoldt flies in front of a pack and gets the impossible mark, and goals. We have a six-goal lead. Everything is happening at speed. Josh Bruce kicks along the ground – a point. Koby Stevens drops a seemingly easy mark but recovers quickly, picks up the ball, side steps opposition – twice, and goals as he is being tackled to the ground.

 

Saints are moving like the wind. Leigh Montagna defies everything and comes sprinting out the middle of the ground and goals from 50. WE ARE ON FIRE. St Kilda lead by 49 points at the 7-minute mark of the second quarter. Chant follows chant. Jack Riewoldt finally gets a good touch, the ball in his half and he sprays it for a point.

 

OMG – the passing tonight is immaculate and speedy as Tim Membrey takes a perfect mark and goals. Fifty-four points ahead. Each St Kilda goal gets another $250 for Maddie Riewoldts Vision.  The St Kilda boys are taking this very seriously. Jack Steven comes streaming out of the middle and we are disappointed it hits the post. Daniel McKenzie makes a few early errors but he goes straight back into each competition. We laugh as Steven marks, hand passes to Jack Billings who gets it to Bruce who misses from a twist around to goal. Even the misses are tolerated with humour this week. Because we are constantly attacking we know there’ll be another effort.

 

We are looking at each in puzzlement. Not believing what we are seeing. Richmond fans are silent.  Their banner is the opposite of what is happening. Koby Stevens kicks another and we are 10 goals ahead.

 

Sam Gilbert, the tackle machine, has two great efforts to win the ball and passes it to Gresham who goals. We can’t stop laughing and smiling at each other. It is the best game that we can remember since 2009. Gresham misses the next one but they are still coming. McKenzie marks to keep the ball up our end. Saints lead by 69 before Montagna turns back time and gets his second from outside the 50 arcs. St Kilda by 75. The few mistakes we are making are forgiven by the joyful crowd.  For the first and only time in the game, we go backwards in defence but it is clean and it works and Saints are attacking again.  Bruce misses another.

 

We burst out laughing as the gent behind yells out, ‘It’s OK Bruce, you’ve still kicked more than the whole team of Richmond’ (at 1.4). McKenzie flies up. There is a crash as Dylan Grimes and Membrey clash and Membrey may be reported. (He gets 2 weeks).

 

There is a huge, purple happy crowd of St Kilda people. Jack Steven fends off and speeds off and kicks a beauty putting the Saints 82 points up. The commentators from the ABC (in my ears) cannot believe what they are seeing either. The siren goes for half time and the scores are the unlikely but true St Kilda 14.8.92 to Richomnd 1.4.10.

 

We are in a happy daze. We are grinning ear to ear. And I bump into Mark C as I head to the loo and we hug and laugh too. The St Kilda fans are on their feet clapping their team off the ground. There is happy disbelief.

 

Second Half:

Richmond drank some of their energy drinks at half time and came out more determined. Jack Riewoldt and Josh Caddy both miss in front of goals. Membrey doesn’t, before some better Tigers play sees Dan Butler goal. (Remember, this is the Tigers second goal in the game.) Finally, the Tigers fans have something to cheer about. Richmond are attacking but missing, and Membrey is on fire with another. Tiges are playing better footy but it’s from a 50-metre penalty that Jason Castagna goals. Now both teams are being sloppy before Membrey again goals. Our Riewoldt scores another from terrific passing and Shaun Grigg finishes the term.

 

St Kilda have taken the foot off the pedal, and Richmond have stepped up. We are disappointed when Dustin Martin, Dan Butcher and Sam Lloyd all goal at the beginning of the last. Membrey gets one more, and Daniel McKenzie finishes off for the Saints. Brandon Ellis, Jason Gastagna, and finally Jack Riewoldt finishes a fine Saints evening. The cousins bookend the night. Nick started, Jack finished. The final score line didn’t help boost our percentage but with 11 goals up we weren’t complaining. We were singing instead.

 

The next day, the “happy days” song popped into my head. Let’s keep it up Saints. And to top it off, my St Kilda Sharks teams won the games on Sunday. A great weekend for the red, white and black.

 

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About Yvette Wroby

Yvette Wroby writes, cartoons, paints through life and gets most pleasure when it’s about football, and more specifically the Saints. Believes in following dreams and having a go.

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