AFLM Round 20 – St Kilda v West Coast Eagles: On the edge of our seats while stories keep coming

 

Sunday August 6, 1.10pm

Etihad

Yvette Wroby

 

I needed a win on this Sunday and I thought we had a chance. Our champion Nick Riewoldt has made it official, and is retiring at the end of the season.  The Saints now have something bigger than ever to play for. Our champion man has lit a fire under our team.

 

Meeting up with my family at the stadium and finally sitting down after an intense few weeks, I was approached by Scott, an Almanac reader who had purchased my book online. As chance would have it, Scott comes down 5 times a year and has a reserved seat four rows in front of where I sit with my mob. We are now neighbours into the future. Scott said coming from Sydney he’d go through the 90s as a kid and teen, and the opponent always seemed to be St Kilda. He remembers that the only AFL book in his school library as a kid was an “I Support St Kilda” one.

 

“When I then started to properly get into AFL in the first part of the millennium, the Saints were starting to come together with that strong core, so I gravitated towards them. Combine that with the energy of St Kilda (the place) being an alternative, progressive suburb, and which happens to be where all my favourite bands are from… Plus, St Kilda beach is my favourite place in the world. Combine all that and we have my St Kilda obsession.”

 

Now a father, he manages when he can to come to the game.  He has been a full season ticket holder for 10 years, with grand final privileges (keeping the faith, he says). This is the first year he has sat in Aisle 36, and now he’s a resident for good. It was lovely to meet up with someone who enjoyed my book and sought me out. I love the Almanac community.

 

On top of all that, Milli, a Moorabbin Winger make contact a few weeks back and we decided to meet up at this game. The only problem was neither of us twigged that she was searching Aisle 36 Level 3 while I was searching Aisle 36 Level 1 pre-game. Milli being a Moorabbin Winger should have tipped me off. There’s a lot going on in my fried brain. We finally realised and decided to meet post game when Gary and I would have a go at kick to kick.

 

Milli is a poet and passionate Sainter and Moorabbin Winger, had read my book (heard of via Almanac and works at Tim’s Bookshop in Kew) and wanted to reach out.  She’s also been published and was commissioned by Alien She zine to write a small book of poetry for their program at Abbotsford convent. It is a long poem about Milli’s relationship with footy called ‘Perennial Loser’.

 

Milli emailed me: “I wanted to reach out to thank you for your wonderful book. I am so glad your memories and your unique perspective has been recorded for everyone to enjoy. I think football plays a deeply spiritual and emotional role in people’s lives, and it’s so refreshing to see sports writing that reflects this.”

 

Thus, enveloped in Saintly love, and sitting next to Aunty Betty, Uncle Bob and Gary, the game began.

 

West Coast Eagles win both the toss and the first goal via Jeremy McGovern. There is frenetic tackling everywhere, and Jack Billings saves a certain goal through his efforts in defense. With great team passing, Tim Membrey answers. Billings leaps and marks and gets it to Josh Bruce and after a great mark, Saints have their second. We are in this. Tackling frenzy and aggression. No mucking about. Saints have all the play.

 

Mark LeCras gets a pass from centre clearance and kicks from outside 50 and the ball tumbles through for the 6 points.  I comment to Uncle Bob that if it were the Saints, it would have bounced out again! Josh Kennedy misses from more handy Eagles play, and we sigh in relief. Bruce flies but the mark doesn’t stick. Billings misses and gets a minor. West Coast miss one too.

 

Malcolm Karpany puts the ball on his boot accurately just as he is thrown to the ground. We give away a 50 and Jack Darling misses. I am thinking this could be so much worse.

 

When the Saints move the ball quickly, Steele and Billings go for marks and luckily it isn’t spoiled and Jack Steele gets us just three points behind the Eagles at quarter time.

 

This is enjoyable.  We are in the game, as hoped. Both teams are playing their hearts out.

 

West Coast start the second with a miss. Billings is everywhere, having a terrific game and he gets the ball well to Membrey who goals. We’re in front! Steele is burning up this game, his best yet for the Saints.

 

Luke Partington snaps and misses.  Bruce misses. Jack Newnes hits the post. At least it’s equal opportunity point scoring.

 

Jacks be nimble, Jack be quick… Jacks be everywhere, Jacks be blessed, me thinks!

 

Right on cue, Jack Darling kicks and puts the Eagles in front again. They get it forward from the centre and we have three Eagles on their own heading for goal and LeCras gets it through. Suddenly, just like that, Eagles are 10 points ahead. Now they have all the energy and pace. Sam Mitchell is everywhere and the ball gets cleanly to Josh Kennedy who goals.  It’s his 500th and his teammates surround him. They keep coming and Don Sheed goals and they are 22 ahead very quickly and the game has turned.

 

Thank goodness for our Jacks and other first namers. Jack Sinclair steals the ball in our forward and goals. Jake Carlisle is having a ripper game in defense. His marking keeps us in this game. In his third game, Brandon White is defending and is well involved in play. Sinclair beautifully passes to Nick Riewoldt who is on his own and he kicks a perfect goal. (Later we find out that it’s his 183rd game and 450th goal at Etihad). Josh Bruce misses the next but Jack Sinclair defends again and Blake Acres marks in the square and goals.  Again, there’s only 3 points in it at half time.

 

We are in this. Stretches and toilet breaks, chats and food. We all are replenished at the start of the third. Ex Sainter Jamie Cripps gets the next goal but is answered by Newnes.  Billings has been part of our best plays. Bruce goals and puts the Saints back in front. Sinclair misses one for the Saints, and West Coast speed back with it.  Kennedy gets another. Steele misses and there is 1 point in it. Kennedy goals again. Another Saints goal from a forward thrust that involves Acres, Mav Weller, Billings with a perfect pass, Koby Stevens, back to Billings and to Seb Ross. Great team work. LeCras misses.  Again, come third quarter, there is only three points in the game and West Coast lead by the same small margin for the third time.

 

We are SO in this.

 

We are on the edge of our seats come the last. Kennedy from a tight angle, goals. Luke Dunstan mirrors and around the goal – it’s through. Darling responds. Jade Gresham, misses. LeCras doesn’t. Shane Savage, good all day, pulls one back from the Saints and Billings gets another from a lovely Sinclair pass. Billings misses another and Steele gets us ahead by 5 points. Nick Riewoldt attacks the ball keeping it from flowing up the other end, and is concussed with a cut top lip. We lose our champion but he has set the tone his whole career and with that brave act. Savage misses. Brandon White shows great first and second efforts, and gives us a few good saves. Partingon misses before Kennedy with his fifth, gets West Coast close.

 

But Saints are pushing hard. Bruce marks with 2.5 minutes on the board and he misses, scoring a behind. We are all on edge as Gresham finds Billings and we hold our collective breathes as he grows into the moment and kicks truly, bringing the game to its wonderful end as the Saints win by 8.

 

The Saints fans are on their feet and the noise is deafening. This is a win we needed, with effort and the spirit, and I have tears in my eyes and am all choked up. I needed this. We needed this. We did this.

 

It is hugs all round before Gary and I wait for our kick to kick. My buggered shoulder gives way when I mark, and I am relieved when Milli and her husband Luke rescue me. Milli and I chat while the boys continue. I learn later that Milli inherited her Saints passion from her father who grew up in Cheltenham and Mordiallic in the 70s. Milli and her dad share a passion for Trevor Barker, and she has been a dedicated follower from aged 12 in 2007. She has even featured in an Age article in 2009 when watching the Grand Final on the St Kilda foreshore. Milli’s dad coached the Sorrento Football Club back in the day, and there were ex Saints players there too.

 

I am approached by another Saints family who have recognised me from the Social Club when I was plugging my book, Siren’s Call. They buy one and promise to tell me what they think and tell me their footy story.

 

Still on a high, Gary and I decide to prolong the evening and chat to others at the Social Club full of happy Saints supporters. Jack Steven and Captain Jarryn Geary are interviewed by Bruce Eva, we celebrate the win with all the other Saints before we head home for dinner.

 

The replay is my happy place with Rina the next night, now that I could relax and enjoy the close game, a win and a whisky. Fully relaxed in my seat, until next week.

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.

Comments

  1. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great stuff Yvette, love reading about the connections you make through the Almanac and through your book.
    I really enjoy meeting up with fellow Almanackers at games.
    450 goals for Riewoldt at Etihad, would that be a record for the venue? Thinking Matthew Lloyd would be his main rival?

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