More than a Football Club

The launch of the St.Kilda Football Club season went off with a big bang last Thursday night when Uncle Bob, Rina and I attended the formal gathering of the maddest of the Saints. Or the ones who could afford the night at the National Theatre in St.Kilda. It was only a few miles from where I was born. Just a few kicks of the ball from the school where Uncle Bob attended and where the Saints players of old gave him a junior membership 65 years ago, starting a life-long journey with limited joy.  From the same postcode that Rina lives in.  St.Kilda means heaps to each of us in our own ways. And to all the people who attended this event as well.  At 6.15 the few Saints players we saw were eating hamburgers and chips from the takeaway just across the road. I was glad I’d eaten my dinner earlier too.

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The windows of the National were plastered with photos and signage.

We waited outside with a few of the early birds for the doors to open 6.30, eager to see and hear what our Club had to say.  Bob and I caught up with each other’s lives a little, and Rina was meeting us separately. We walked inside and got drinks from the servers standing at the entrances with champagne, orange juice and beer. And thankfully, soda water, my drink of choice.  Rina joined us a few minutes later, and we chatted together until Clint Jones and Farren Ray wandered down to get some food that was being served down near us.  Clint happens to be Rina’s favourite, so I continued doing what I have been doing for the last six months traveling.  I just started chatting.  I said, excuse me Clint, can I introduce you to my Uncle Bob and friend Rina, and then we got chatting. About how much taller he was that I expected, how the training in minus 25C in Colorado went, how the boys all were rearing to go.  Farren joined in the conversation too, and here we were, chatting and enjoying the beginning of the evening.  I was a little bit excited.  And they were very sweet and chatty.  Really nice guys.

We moved up one flight of stairs when they moved off and I found Simon McPhee.  He is the development coach for St.Kilda and coach for the Sandringham team.  This part of the story calls for momentary diversion.  I bought back a DVD from the USA that I wanted to give the Saints boys, and I had wondered who I would give it to.  Then a few Wednesdays before, I’d parked on Church Street Brighton to go to the hairdresser. I never usually parked in that place, always on the back streets but this day there were no spots.  I was sitting in my car making a few notes for articles I wanted to write, and then I looked up.  Before me stood a vision.  Two Saints coaches and one coaching staff member. Aaron Hamill and Simon McPhee.  I felt on my adventure once again. 

It reminded me of the day I walked out of the elevator in the Radisson Plymouth MA and saw four fully dressed clowns in the foyer.  I went straight up to the clowns and thanked them, saying here I was traveling around America and having such funny experiences, and here, they came to me, in my hotel.  Each of the clowns handed me a card, with a picture of them and their details.  A full weekend of clowns followed, and bonds were formed, paintings of clowns were created from those cards, and others cards, and the paintings were donated for charity and $450 was raised from my manic late night scratchings. Anyhoo, back to Church Street.  I introduced myself to the coaches, handed them a new business card I had made in the States (from the same company many of the clowns used to get theirs, and on it I describe myself as a writer, artist and a St.Kilda Football tragic) and by fortuitous luck, I had found, what I wished for, the coach who was most appropriate and we chatted about my travels and the DVD and Simon gave me his email.  The DVD would arrive with my last package from USA, and I would make contact with Simon once I had it.  I had walked into Bayside Saints, the coaches and some players were out and about giving out free tickets to our match against GWS in the second round.  It was lovely chatting to the men, and seeing more players as I walked up to my hair salon, Voila.  I, of course, was on the phone to my sister and Rina, telling them of who I bumped into.  Completely psyched.

Back to the Season Launch.  After another quick chat with Simon and handing over the gift to the Club, I found myself talking to Tom Hickey.  He’s so tall, he had to bend down and I up, to be able to chat, but chat we did.  Again, about Colorado and the Broncos and American Football and again I introduced Rina and Bob who were a little away when I started talking to Tom.  Another sweet young man, and he told us his girl was an actress and playing Paul Cox’s daughter in a movie being made about him in Melbourne right now.  He was so excited for her and itching to start the season.

And then it was time to go inside.  This night had been organised by Rina and I while I was in the States, we’d seen the invite, thought my brother Andre might be coming back with me, and quickly Rina had booked three tickets.  Andre didn’t come back, he was starting his new job. Uncle Bob escorted us instead. But Rina must have been one of the first to book.  We were sitting behind our new coach Alan Richardson, Jason Blake, Stephen Milne and Justin Koschitzke.  I mean, the row behind.

And so the night proceeded.  A young Saint, Daniel Markworth started the speeches, talking about the injury he sustained in Colorado a year ago, his recovery, and he trip over this year.  One of the young soldiers talking about his journey. 

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Daniel Markworth, looking fit and healthy

Terry Dillon (Chief Operations Manager) and Peter Summers (President) spoke as well, outlining the primary purpose, “We exist for or members.  To instil pride and achieve success by playing winning football and making a positive contribution to our community.  Since 1873, successive generations of loyal, passionate and committed “Saints” have given to the club and made it their own. The St.Kilda Football Club exists because of that passion and our purpose is to return that commitment to the absolute best of our ability through our actions, both on and off the field.”

Peter outlined the Vision: to be an elite professional sporting organisation with a commitment to its members, exceptional football and commercial performance and make valuable contributions to the community (all the way along Nepean Highway and including New Zealand).  We will contribute to our community and be admired for our contribution.  The Club will be where people want to work, where workers are energised and thrive.  Leadership will be practiced on all levels, and a culture developed that gives priority to personal development.  They want to attract the best people who will live by the principles.  Our players will be relentless in pursuit of excellence.  They will be proud to represent St.Kilda Club and its membership, and the community.  By 2018 we will be admired as a competition leader in recruiting, player development and coaching.

I could go on.  If you are interested, go to the website, it covers the mission, strategic framework, and key projects.

I was impressed.  Here was virtually a new administration, new CEO in Matt Finnis, new President, new coach in Alan Richardson, and many new players, and some grand old staff like Georgie Day who looks after the museum. Nick Riewoldt was forever the Captain, saying the players understand the goals and that the Saints were “More than a Football Club”, and that he cherished his role, along with other older players, to do for the young men what had been done for him…teaching and leading and giving their all so the next generation had a good beginning.  And he also said that the players wanted to win.  They had fire in the bellies and though everyone talked about St.Kilda rebuilding, the players there just want to win and win.

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Our leader, Nick Riewoldt

Milne, Kosi and Blakey handed out jumpers to the players, and each at the end handed over their cherished numbers to the new boys on the block.  It was very moving.

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Kosi, Blakey and Milne, getting ready to pass on the numbers.

A lot of the talk was also about reaching out to the Community and increasing fans, from all along the bay, from St.Kilda to Frankston but also Wellington and New Zealand.  So many goals and dreams and a Board who look like they will expect the same excellence they ask of the players of themselves to lead the Club forward.

I talked to both Peter and Terry after formalities were over, and introduced them to Bob, saying that here was an example of what they were talking about, going out into the communities and meeting young people who may become fans.  Here Bob was, 65 years after the team went to his school and gave him a junior membership.  He’s missed very few games over the years, and bought more fans along with him.

And fans aren’t just fans anymore, we are part of the St.Kilda Football Club community and are being asked for be part of the Club and its drive forward.  Fine by me.

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While looking at the footyalmanac.com.au site today, I saw a clever piece put to Paul Kelly’s music, about many of the teams.  The author hadn’t made a song about St.Kilda, but someone else did, and it unsettled me, momentarily.  I am over having every disappointment or mistake by St.Kilda players continuing on ad nauseum as the first reaction to our Club. It made me make a promise myself.

I would join in with St.Kildas development and continue my theme of writing about the positives of being a Saints supporter, and writing about the positives in life.  We already have TV, Newspapers and Radio that will rerun every mistake ever made by any team or any player.  How about we concentrate of some of the great achievements, and more importantly, the unbelievably brilliant people that have stayed loyal to the club, through their playing, working, volunteering or supporting.  I think the current administration is on the right track, have a great set of primary purposes, visions and missions, and let’s march on forward together.  I think that the term they have coined, “More than a Club”, is exactly right.

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 St.Kilda is “More than a Club” to me, and I look forward to a hardworking future, 2018 and beyond.

Yvette Wroby

19th March 2014

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. You make the world a better place – my world at least. Loved this.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Well done Yvette the passion you have for the saints is quite amazing

  3. Allan Grant says:

    Well done, I once wrote articles re Saints history for the Saints. I thought that for a few years that true passion for the Saints based on years of character building moments was beginning to fade with past generations moving on but your observations give me new hope. Go Saints

  4. Yvette,
    All of this stuff is fine, but I see St Kilda as a club in early recovery. They have talked the talk for a long time, and then failed to walk the walk. All of the plans, hoopla and rara are good and essential.
    But I will judge the Saints on one thing – PATIENCE – seeing the course.
    Everything said above could have been said about Scott Watters, but the club had no idea if it was rebuilding or serious finals material. They pissed in every one’s pocket for 2 years since Lyon left, and burned a good man in Watters with unrealistic expectations.
    I believe the new CEO and coach are good men. Stick with them. You will be a basket case on the field for 2-3 years, but that is what ‘scorched earth’ coaches like Lyon and Malthouse leave you with. They burn the fields as the army moves on.
    All the Riewoldt ‘we want to win’ stuff is understandable, but mindless. I want to be rich, but there is a process to go through to get there.
    The Saints have been buying ‘off the plan’ deals from confidence men for decades.
    You can be a serious club – on and off the field – in 3 to 5 years. If you stay the course, and don’t listen to all the media crap and derision that will come your way while you are in the chrysalis.
    Caterpillars don’t become butterflies overnight.

  5. E.regnans says:

    Great stuff, Yvette.
    Gotta love good people helping other people.
    It seems in footy that Motives and behaviours only get warped when “winning” becomes the only thing. Win at all costs, and all that.
    But the picture of humanity you paint there is a more unifying force than any other. Well played (again).

  6. Luke Reynolds says:

    Fantastic Yvette. Love the passion. Have forwarded this to my mother in law, a mad Sainter.

  7. Gillian Coote says:

    Terrific article!! Loved it love your passion and love the saints!!

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