Camels on the beach, at sunset, in Broome.

Tis’ an iconic Australian visual image that has me proclaiming every off-season: “yep, Subi trip this year, via the Cape, make a week of it”.  It never eventuates.  And yes I’m pretty sure Broome is not located on or ever referred to as “the Cape”, but still, it sounds an attractive description for such an “off the beaten track edge-of-civilisation” locality.

So the Subiaco trip remains an unconquered last frontier on my footy venue “bucket list”.  I do feel a little ashamed of this.  Another opportunity presents itself in 3 weeks for the Purple Haze return bout, safe to predict the CV wont be updated then either.  The day of that match falls on my first wedding anniversary – naturally I don’t sense a last minute “leave pass” readily coming my way for a quick dash over the Nullabor.

Over the years of these continued non-attendances, Weagles @ Weagles visits have been a mixed bag for St.Kilda.  There’s been some hideous maulings, but also some absolute gems for the highlight reel.

For the Coasters one individual effort stands out.  In 1992 Daniel Metropolis ensured he would only ever be remembered for this one game – his debut, snaffling 6 goals, including, if you don’t mind, 5 with his first 5 kicks in league footy.  I can still remember the distinct resonant tones rolling off Dennis Commetti’s tongue “Metraw-palis dyoes it again”, “Oh, Metraw-palis”, “It’s that myan agyain, Metraw-palis”.  I used to think Den was so biased back in the day, yet this was based more on natural assumption than discernible fact – and I had never listened to 6PR for a real dose of WACA patriotism.

In 2001 a promising duo in their first season travelled together to Subi for the first time. N.Riewoldt and J.Koschitzke. At that stage the latter was more advanced. Both still lightly framed colts, they were comprehensively “taken out” by two searching long-range hits from Troy “Mr” Wilson – remember him?  A consummate “outhouse” in build, thighs the size of Peter Wilson, Glen Jakovich and the Q-stick Lynch combined.  Admittedly he looked a bloke more at home in the burbs kicking a lazy 10-15 goals every week, with car horns tooting every major, polishing off a quick slab in the rooms afterwards, and then hitting the Cottesloe Pub til about Wednesday.

But the Saints have “mined” some Subi gold for themselves over the journey also.  More recently, in ’07 most Saints fans were aghast that Sir Robert Harvey would be lacing up his 350th at Subiaco, for a likely belting not befitting “the great man”, and in front of the unappreciative hordes of WCW (acronym clue – those bumper stickers).  Yet it became all the more memorable for an amazing Saints win, the man of the hour playing a starring role himself.

A particularly rare feat was achieved in St.Kilda’s momentous 2 point win in a high scoring classic in ‘98.  As per the aforementioned Weagle Daniel 6 years earlier, St.Kilda’s Daniel Healy played the only game he’ll ever be remembered for, booting half a dozen also.  Spida Everitt also kicked 6.  They both had the ultimate “happy birthday” games, figuratively …and literally.  The day of that game, May 3rd, Healy and Everitt both celebrated their 24th birthday.  I’ll defer to Professor Gigs to check the archives, but its safe to assume that two blokes sharing the same birthdate, kicking 6 goals each, on their birthday, for the same team, is a feat that probably wont ever ever ever be achieved again in the history of football, sport or mankind in general.

This weekend’s clash provided for a third straight round of “graveyard shift” footy for the Saints.  The flexi trifecta involved Monday night into Sunday twilight into Sunday twilight (on the East coast at least).  For a team that went 22-3 last year, it hardly seemed “justified” scheduling – yet given the aesthetic value of “Saints Footy” version 2010 thus far, perhaps the fixture prognosticators were more “hip to the groove” than we thought.

Most Saints fans were keenly anticipating the debut of Rhys Stanley – his athleticism and “Riewoldt temp fix” potential were beginning to reach mythical proportions with each “emergency” posting. Named at CHF this week ensured he was “absolutely in” – not that League Teams on Fox were terribly enthused, not one mention of him.  At times the boys on the panel seem a little preoccupied with their “blokey bloke bloke” and “one upmanship” humour to be bothered providing such trivial “details”.  Rhys provided some sneak-peak spoilers of ability in the NAB Cup, but as a regular Sandringham watcher, he’d only shown spasmodic glimpses of brilliance thus far at the lower level.  And of course, he is a “Grand Final sprint winner” – I’ll take everyone’s word for it, I was at the Grand Final (let us never speak of it again), and didn’t see a thing – I was lurking at the back of the top level concourse, squeezing in as many half time amenities breaks as humanly possible. Nerves + ales + seating in row MM (there is no row NN) requires some rather canny bladder strategising.

Underway at Subi and it was par for the course for most St.Kilda games circa 2010.  I was reminded of a long-ago Simpsons episode that parodied Soccer coming to Springfield – the TV announcer pumped up the game as: “It’s all here – fast-kicking, low scoring …and ties? You bet!”.  BT, Gerard, and Jako (yes even Jako) were doing their best in the Comm box, but in reality it was another painful arm struggle.  And when the game is, to coin a phrase, “turning to shit” – as a viewer at home, the production values and any commentary slips come in for their own vitriolic armchair assessments.

It’d be fair to say the Foxtel “broadcast package” can be a touch “lacking” at times. Replays of incidents that, generally, you don’t give a stuff about, drag on a bit too long – when back live you just know something is happening and you’ll never see it. Ever.  It’s as though particular passages of play fall into a “telecast abyss” and may or may not have ever happened.  Clanger kicks from full-back tend to catch them out in this regard.  The response from the living room is then usually: “What happened then, who the f%$# did that?”.  The commentators barely refer to it themselves, maybe they’re watching the monitor too.  In addition to this I was desperately looking for some Glen Jakovich Eagles bias to provide some anger – yet he held it together for most of the game (BT did rib him late as an “angry half-eagle man”).

But Jako’s “Sayn-Kilda’s” and BT’s “San-Kilda’s” did begin to grind, albeit there is an exotic “we’re not in Kansas anymore” flair to it. That said I’ve heard worse “elocution erratum” in Sport. If we turn our mind to leather and willow, whilst 99.9% of the population are happy to pronounce our greatest fast bowler as Glenn “Ma-grar” (like a nice “foie-gras”), Jeff Thompson’s continued Glenn” Ma-GRATH” and then “Ma-GRARTH” on the Ashes 2001 tour is still the clubhouse leader for persistence in name butchering stupidity.

With the first half closing down – a sporting hour worthy of “clanger central” certification, St.Kilda were actually playing the better footy. Even Gerard opined that the Saints “should be further in front” – they were actually 9 points down at the time.  The beloved Lenny (always “beloved”) again lead the way, but again the path to goal lacked purpose, system, ease and any semblance of regularity.

I texted a mate at half time with the simple yet over-dramatic words “this game is deeply annoying”.

The third quarter wasn’t faring better.  The Weagles jumped to a 17pt lead and the Saints began losing the contests in general play. It was almost “throw baby out with the bathwater” time, and the sky was indeed falling.  We are conditioned to a knee-jerk reaction world and I must admit I was all over it like a cheap suit.  I began re-reflecting on last year’s Grand Final (I thought we agreed never to mention it again?) and wondered if that was our chance, our one and only – have we really stuffed this all up?  Lenny’s getting old, we can’t win one without him.  The Gold Coast will pinch some blokes. Geelong are still too good.  We can’t kick goals. The other teams are coming.

“Someone else has gotta stand up here as well”

“For God’s sake, anybodyyyyyyyyy”

Moments later some inspiration came from an unlikely source.  Mark Le Cras was comprehensively dumped on his ass.  By Raph Clarke.  Raph. I almost choked on a home-made sausage roll, and bellowed out a surprising “Ho hohhh, Raph, whellll!”.

The Saints began to rack up the pill (ooh, controversial analogy for WCE games …“allegedly”).

Lenny kept dominating as the quintessential “leader of the pack”. You could see that look of “FFS you blokes we’re better than this” pride in every dashing duck and weave.  And in a week where a particularly polarising dyed-blonde-dark-goateed footballer produced perhaps the most confusing opinion piece in Herald Sun history (and aint that sayin’ somethin’), his subject matter did have me re-visiting my own desires for “bromance” with one L.Hayes.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  His tidy 167 Supercoach points return as the new “midfield general” for the Aggets being well appreciated too.

Away from the closet, footy fluidity returned and continued to build for the Saints,  It eventually spread “pay it forward” style into some “collective team ownership” of the situation.  Soon Raph would then head full-pelt back into a pack.  A red-carpet opening night event in itself – and hopefully not a “one show only” deal.  Not that I would question the courage of any AFL player – I jump at shadows playing kick-to-kick …with myself …in an empty paddock.

The goals were being teased frequently but the floodgates hadn’t completely opened.  Then the waves began crashing.  Milne from 40, McEvoy providing a target and goaling, Goddard long bomb from 50 – Saints in front.  Dal Santo and Montagna everywhere.  Schenider rediscovering some form snaps one on the left.  A few more chances go begging – c’mon just one more to seal the deal. Then Lenny. Ahh Lenny.  More deserving than any other, the great man slides through a cheeky bouncing, bouncing, bouncing ball just before the bell.

Life is good again.

I’m content entering the last quarter.  They must must must win this game now.  I was convinced the Saints had just reminded themselves in the last 20 minutes how to play footy again. They kept inching further in front as time wore on, the younger Eagles began falling away. Raph (or “Raffle” as pronounced by BT – generally an apt description of R.Clarke you could argue), kept taking marks down back and fed it off with assurance. Young Rhys was presenting and “did enough”.  Big Gardi kicked a long long goal with a menacing “stick it up ya’s” fist-pump to the crowd, and a minute later Dal Santo finished them off with one of those training drill “out of the middle” goals that makes footy look such an easy game.  It always elicits the same response: “now just do that every time”.

Siren. Great win. The boys know it.

Amazingly you could hear the few staunch Sainters in the crowd belting out the song.  I assume the Weagles fans had already dispersed to Hungry Jacks (as long-held sponsorships would dictate).

To the outsider a win over a now-struggling Eagles outfit mightn’t look much on paper, but in terms of confidence building and all important “vibe”, the Saints may very well be back …or at the very least, declaring: “we aint dead yet”.

….and then of course I saw Wednesday’s news headlines …ohhhh for the love of….

Comments

  1. McGrath/foie gras – nice work.

    I was waiting for the Mark Le Cras reprise…

  2. Another gem. I’m not sure what I liked more – the gratuitous reference to the fixture “prognosticators” or the requirement for canny bladder strategising. Surely the latter is worthy of a PHD dissertation.

    However, I think what I liked the most was the discussion regarding the butchering of names, e.g. Sayn-Kilda. This is obviously an issue that riles the author. So much so that he referred to something that has stuck with him for nearly a decade – “Jeff Thompson” with Ma-GRATH and then Ma-GRARTH. Our intrepid Saint obviously thought, “well here’s one back atcha Thommo” …… I’ll butcher your name, and see how you like it. Just for effect, he could have loaded up and gone both barrels and called him Geoff Thompson.

    That is all
    Arma
    (not Armagh)

  3. David Downer says:

    Thank you Anth,

    Lovely pick up, an opportunity missed there…

    “Ooh ah Mark Le Cras” ….”Ooh ah nice foie-gras?”

    Another wag suggested “the Saints began to rack up the pill” line could also come in for some further entrende’ treatment given news of the past two days …but let’s move on shall we…

  4. David Downer says:

    Omagh,

    Yes name butcherings can provide much banterable fodder in itself. Unfortunately for those who appreciate the odd gaffe, the acknowledged masters in this regard – Tim Wabster (sic) and Steve Leebman (sic again, boom boom) are off doing other things these days. I’ll assume Karl Stefanovic has picked up some of Steve’s slack.

    There’s a guy on Fox Sports News who looks a cross between Chesty Bonds Man and Clark Kent who often misfires AFL names. Geelong Ruckman Brad “Oatens” was some of his best work.

  5. Not a Saints fan and wouldn’t normally read an article about them, but great piece of writing.

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