By Shaun Curnow
It’s the best way to describe the life of a Saints fan. But why is it that we continually come back week after week, year after year?
Talking to Saints fans from all ages and backgrounds, whilst their experiences are varied, there is one similarity! The continuous love and passion for the St Kilda Football Club.
Many say we are suckers for punishment, however in reality, footy is like a drug. You ride the wave of emotions, from the highs and the lows, which can make you feel so good, whilst knowing it’s doing your heart and head in. Yet, at the end of the day, we simply keep coming back for more.
People who say, “It’s only a game” simply don’t get it! It’s about emotion. It’s about hugging total strangers when you win and yelling at your friends when you lose. It’s about a natural high that could never be imitated by chemicals or a horse winning a race.
It’s about watching the Saints lose week after week and still going without fail the next week. It’s about bragging on Friday’s that the Saints are gonna “flog em” when you know they don’t stand a chance!
St Kilda may not be the most successful club in AFL history, but supporting the Saints has taught us to never give up on your dream. With only 1 premiership and 26 wooden spoons in 140 years, the fans have shown loyalty like no other. It will make winning the premiership (which will happen) that much sweeter.
So, what is it that makes us bleed Red, White and Black?
“It’s a little like the great American Football coach famously said, Football is not a matter of life or death, it’s much more important than that.” Len West explains.
“I do appreciate that AFL is merely a game, but the thrill of the match, the sense of belonging, the values of the club, have carried through with me from childhood. The values in team sport and AFL in particular, are such a great thing to learn and then to have throughout your life.”
People go to extraordinary lengths to support and follow St Kilda.
“I lived in the Northern Territory for 15 years, with three of those years at Nguiu on Bathurst Island (one of the two Tiwi Islands). At this time the only way you could watch AFL, was through the commercial TV channel in Darwin. Unfortunately its reception did not reach Nguiu”. explained Len.
“As I had to get my weekly fix of AFL and the occasional broadcast game of the Saints, myself and a number of eager ex-Victorian friends, bolted and welded a gigantic TV aerial together. We then used five, Toyota four wheel drives to hoist it aloft, until it was secured by cables, to anchor points on the ground, beside my house”.
“Unfortunately still no signal, so down it came, more electronics added to the top of the mast, to boost the signal, tower dragged aloft again and then YES we had a TV signal. This was the dedicated venue, then for all AFL matches, in my time there. Pity at that time, it was Hawthorn and Essendon dominating and not the Saints though”.
People often ask us why we love St Kilda like the way we do and how can we be so obsessed? Surely there are more important things in life to worry about, they say.
“It’s the air of expectation, will we win, who will kick the goals, who will stop the opposition’s best player. It’s the anxious times, biting your nails as you are a point in front with 30 seconds to go. It’s the thrill of a win no matter how big or small. It’s the pride when that final siren goes and your team of warriors have done all they can. It’s the joy of watching a skinny young kid turn into a champion. It’s the excitement of watching that specie being taken or that goal being kicked”. Shae Williams explained.
“It’s the frustration when the umpires make a bad decision. It’s the anger when the opposition do something you don’t like. It’s the sadness when you lose that important game. It’s the rollercoaster of emotions that you experience watching footy and supporting a team. You vest so much of yourself into it, it can be both emotionally and physically draining”.
For those growing up in the “dark years”, it was tough, but it definitely had a significant influence on the individual they are today.
“The Saints to me and many others are more than just a team. They molded me into the person I am today. Throughout Primary School we were fairly woeful and this taught me more than anything else to be patient and appreciate small mercies.” said another Saints fan.
“This also led me to celebrating any small victory and probably getting caught up on things, but the Saints to me are more than 20 something blokes running around – It’s the ethos and ideas of the club that keep me coming back. I have always hoped that after we lift the cup again we stay the same as a club, players and as individual people.”
The 1980’s is simply another chapter in the Saints history that, while not littered with success, was a new frontier for many. The team was terrible, copping huge thrashings week in week out. St Kilda won only 48 games and drew 2 from 220 games during this time.
“No one said being a Saints supporter was easy and nothing could be truer than growing up in the 80’s. St Kilda was terrible, cellar dwellers and the winner of more wooden spoons than we care to remember.” Shae Williams explains.
“On one cold winter’s day at a suburban primary school, hundreds of children made their way onto the oval to see their VFL heroes. Amongst a sea of brown and gold stood two blonde kids in Red, White and Black with number 1’s proudly on their backs and badges pinned to their chest like medals of honour”.
“My friend and I were the only kids at school who supported St Kilda. Enduring years of taunts, we stuck together like our life depended on it”.
“We weren’t embarrassed or ashamed of our support though, we were proud and passionate. Each Monday we would come to school after another thrashing, we had already grown a thick skin to let the cruel jibes roll off us and now we were becoming comedians with some great witty comebacks”.
“The teasing only made us stronger and more determined to support the Club. To this day, the two blonde kids are still friends and even though thousands of miles separate them, the talk is always about the Saints”.
Although, whilst it might seem like it, it’s not always been doom and gloom for Saints fans. Believe it or not, there have been some remarkable successful periods. In the past ten years, St Kilda has registered a positive win/loss ratio every season and whilst the club has never won the ultimate prize, the fans have stuck fat and always believe that their time will come.
The 2000’s was a rollercoaster decade. Early on there were more losses than wins, a familiar feeling for most, but it brought new hope with a new hero and big blonde up forward.
2009 was like a dream and for many fans, which was labelled the best season they have experienced. Why? Because we were finally playing well. In fact, we were playing beyond well under coach Ross Lyon. Win after win; we knew we were witnessing something very special.
To other club supporters, it seemed strange but winning was a new feeling to us and it became like a drug. We just had to win and you couldn’t miss a minute of it. It was an electric feeling.
The lid was certainly off after the win in Round 14 in the top of the table clash against the undefeated Cats. On the way home every fan couldn’t help but think, is this our year? Would all the years of hurt and heartbreak finally come to an end?
And just like that, before our very own eyes, the heart break came back and it hit just as hard.
The emptiness in the pit of your stomach is something we wish never to feel again, however ultimately we know we will.
That’s the life of a St Kilda fan, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.