In the Sheds: Saints and Cats jumpers fail to offer a guide to AFL fortunes

WITH all the focus on St Kilda and Geelong this week, In the Sheds combed through last weekend’s results to see if any portents could be gleaned from the clubs that wore Saints and Cats jumpers in local footy grand finals. Of the clubs that wore Saints jumpers, Koroit (Hampden league) and St Kilda City (Southern league) had strong wins, but Nagambie (Kyabram District league) suffered its first loss for the season. At least Nagambie is not known as the Saints. While the club does wear red, black and white panels, its nickname is the Lakers because of its position next to Lake Nagambie. Yarrawonga was the only club to wear Cats jumpers, but its loss to Albury in the Ovens and Murray grand final offers no portent for this AFL grand final or any grand final in the near future. Albury wears Richmond jumpers.

KOROIT has a strong St Kilda connection: the club’s playing-coach, Joe McLaren, played 57 games with the Saints in the late 1990s. McLaren last week had plenty of occasion to think about the plight of a former St Kilda teammate, Max Hudghton, when it fell to him to tell his brother and one of Koroit’s favourite sons that they had not made the grand final team. Joe and Liam McLaren milk cows together on their parents’ farm near Woolsthorpe, north of Koroit. Liam had lost his spot in the ruck to teammate Nathan Meade after the qualifying final victory over Warrnambool. Last Tuesday, after milking had finished, Joe broke the news to Liam over breakfast that the club was going with Meade in the grand final. He understood when Liam had nothing to say to him for the rest of the day. “No one wants to miss out on a grand final,” Joe said. Later that day, before training, McLaren dropped into the Koroit home of Damian Dobson, a 35-year-old who’s played 355 senior games for Koroit. Dobson, the club and league games record-holder, played in his customary midfield position in the second semi-final victory over Terang-Mortlake only to get dropped for the grand final. Besides missing out on the chance to play in his third premiership team, Dobson had to accept that he was making way for Dean Gavin, an 18-year-old who was to play with the Saints in only his fifth game for the season. Gavin is a midfielder with North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup. As a strong draft prospect, he might never play with Koroit again. “These decisions weren’t taken lightly,” McLaren said.

JUST  as well the moves paid off. Meade and Gavin were both among the best players as Koroit broke open the game in the second quarter before scoring a 39-point victory in the match at Warrnambool’s Reid Oval. Another good player was Ben Dobson, Damian’s 18-year-old nephew who plays at centre half-forward. Joe McLaren’s other brother, Chris, won the senior best-and-fairest vote count the day after the grand final — despite spending the season at full-back. On Monday afternoon the Koroit players visited the Kirsktall and Woolsthorpe hotels before returning to Koroit’s two watering holes, Bourke’s and the Commercial. McLaren admitted selection controversies had featured in conversation but mostly the talk was about the club’s third premiership this decade. When asked whether he would barrack for St Kilda on Saturday, McLaren shrugged. “I don’t care, really,” he said. He’s planning to watch the game with his Koroit teammates in the clubrooms at Koroit.

ST KILDA City’s president Trinity Ballis, one of the rare female leaders in local footy, was a nervous wreck when Chelsea Heights led during the third quarter of their grand final at Springvale on Saturday. “I’m the most nervous person; I panic,” the 25-year-old said. “People don’t want to watch the footy with me.” Ballis’s fears were slightly relieved when St Kilda City kicked five goals in the last 10 minutes of the third quarter to lead by 10 points at the last break. Throughout the last quarter she kept asking her sister Monique how long was left before finally the Saints emerged victorious by 42 points. The premiership marked a watershed for 37-year-old centre half-forward John McNamara, who’s one of the best-known footballers never to have played an AFL game. Besides playing reserves at three AFL clubs, North Melbourne, Geelong and Essendon, McNamara has played in the VFL and at several country and suburban clubs. Saturday’s flag was his first in 20 years of senior footy. On Monday at the Swan Hotel in Prahran the former wild boy, who is now a purveyor of men’s hair products, was last heard asking premiership teammates not to throw beer on his new vest.

AT THREE-quarter time in Saturday’s Kyabram and District grand final at Mooroopna, Undera coach Terry Mahoney brought out the club’s 1972 premiership cup and asked all Lions players to touch it. The tactic seemed to work. Undera full-forward Sam La Porta kicked a goal within 30 seconds of the start of the final quarter and the Lions went on to record a 17-point victory, with La Porta kicking eight goals. Nagambie suffered from playing only the second semi-final over the four-week lead-in to the grand final.

BESIDES wearing Geelong jumpers, Yarrawonga has two current Geelong connections: decorated midfielder Tim Hargreaves is a former Geelong player and fellow midfielder Mark Lonergan is the brother of the Cats’ Tom. Yet Yarrawonga president Glenn Brear said the club had no more supporters of Geelong than any other club. “Perhaps it’s because they’re the Cats and we’re the Pigeons,” he said. Yarrawonga also has a recent St Kilda connection; Joel Smith join the Saints from the Murray River club, while in the 1950s Brian McCarthy and Peter Clancy both left Yarrawonga for St Kilda. On Sunday Yarrawonga was outplayed in the Ovens and Murray grand final at Lavington. Albury’s former Richmond midfielder Chris Hyde was awarded the medal for best and ground after his team had completed an undefeated season with a 77-point win. “They were just too good,” Brear said.

Comments

  1. Rocket Rod Gillett says:

    Hi Daff,

    It was inevitable that in scouring the suburbs and the countryside that you were going to miss one…
    Heathcote won this year’s Heathcote and District GF – they wear red, white and black panels and are known as the Saints. They beat one of my old clubs, Colbinabbin, in the grand final by 3 points.
    Does that tip the balance in terms of omens in favour of St Kilda?

  2. Rocket,

    I only looked at the previous weekend’s results before writing the story. The Heathcote league grand final was played earlier in September. I’ve always thought Heathcote is an under-achieving club. They’ve got a town to draw from, whereas the mighty Mount Pleasant has nothing, not even a town, just the Toolleen Hotel. Still, well done to Heathcote.

    In other grand finals, Bambill Saints won the Millewa league decider and Carngham-Linton Saints lost the Lexton Plains league decider. The ledger is slightly ahead for Saints guernseys.

    Not many country clubs seem to wear Geelong jumpers. Not sure why.

    And I can think of only one Melbourne suburban club that wears Geelong jumpers: Albion in the Western Region league. They finished fourth.

  3. Richard E. Jones says:

    HAPPY holidays, Daff and Rocket: do u 2 know that with less and less people mired in the Christian tradition the terminology “Happy Christmas” is being phased out.
    I thought I saw the Google log-in site with a Happy Holidays logo earlier this month.
    Two clubs in my region wear Cats’ colours: Lockington Bamawm United don the famous hoops each weekend and are known by the moniker — the Cats.
    Brand new Bendigo FNL club Strathfieldsaye also wear blue and white horizontal bands. But they have a stylised lightning bolt on the chest of the guernsey, so are known as the Strathfieldsaye Storm.

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