4.35pm, Saturday 25 March
(with apologies and thanks to the wonderful Alison Lester’s children’s board book titled Happy and Sad)
Saints are happy
First home game. Excited to be together. Everything around the stadium is in our colours, and even though the Saints come to the ground late-ish, it’s a quick first quarter and we are together: Marianne, Bob, Gary and me.
Jack Billings goals, Dees get two through Jeff Garlett and Billy Stretch before, happiness through Nick (perfect mark and goal) Riewoldt, David Armitage (over the shoulder), Nick again, Tim Membrey and Jade Gresham (after three great efforts to get to that ball). Wham, bam and the fans are through the roof. Memories. Winning games. Goaling like there is nothing stopping us. Such excitement. Joy.
Saints are sad
Jack Watts spoils the party, super Nick is our best forward, then Melbourne go on a goal spree and we are dead in the water. It all started with the hated kicking backwards in defense. Ka-pow. Mitch Hannon (first game, first goal), Sam Weideman, Jeff Garlett, Jesse Hogan, Neville Jetta and that masterful Hogan. Whaaaaattttt? Waaaaaahhhhh! Between all that, Weller misses twice, Armitage and Gresham both miss. We are in shock. Stunned. Where did the Saints go as Melbourne kicked seven?
Demons are good and Saints are bad
Half time helped Melbourne but where were we? Melbourne came back and smacked us some more. Making sure that their Etihad/St Kilda curse is well and truly broken, as past rivalries and wins are rubbed out of our memories.
Jack Watts misses but Mitch Hanson gets one. It is all Demons. Bernie Vince, Garlett (crumbing from behind a pack), Angus Brayshaw from yet another center clearance. Finally, finally, we get some good play, some luck and Nick is there to soccer it through on the goal line. Christian Petracca shows that Melbourne can do no wrong. Jack Lonie plays on from a free to Josh Bruce. It is 33 degrees and we are hot and bothered, both on and off the field. And the Demons are happy in their hotness, Nathan Jones and Hogan slam two more through while Membrey, with the story of our night, misses an easy one. New captain Jarryn Geary is having a shocker of a night. Demons lead by 34 points.
Saints fans are brave and Saints fans are scared
Come last quarter, our passing to each other really sucks. Melbourne’s defence is better than ours. Melbourne’s everything is better than ours. Jessie Hogan and Max Gawn will be our nightmare from here on in. Luke Dunstan finally gets one back before Weller misses his third for the afternoon. Jade Gresham gives a snappy little goal before Lonie misses. Another new player Alex Neal-Bullen smacks one through after they get a point. There is fighting on the field. As Petracca lines up to goal, all our attention goes to Nick Riewoldt who has hurt his knee and hasn’t gotten up. There are tears. Is this the last we’ll see Nick play? The radio commentators are talking about Bob Murphy’s injury last year. Noooooo. This is Nick’s 17th season. Surely it’s not the end? Not like this. He is clapped off the ground and given a standing ovation from EVERYONE there.
Once he’s gone, Petracca slots it through and at least Josh Bruce finally gets a goal for all his hard work up and down the ground, in the forward and in defense.
Demons have broken a curse and won their first game here since 2002. And done so convincingly.
Sainters are grumpy
It’s a hot and sticky night. We head to Southern Cross and the usual mess of trains (Marianne has gone home with a friend). There is waiting and confusion. We get one to Flinders and must get off and wait again. We are in disbelief, not that Melbourne won, but that we played so badly. So much for the expectation and the hype. Uncle Bob says it will stuff up the push for membership. When we lose badly, people don’t get on the HOPE train. We are hungry. We are tired. We’ve been defeated. Rooey is hurt. And we are in a packed train finally at Caulfield.
We head to the racecourse to eat, and slowly, slowly, our spirits lift. We order, we eat, I treat my uncle and cousin to the meal (which lifted my spirits because I could get something great from the afternoon). We start to laugh. We read St Kilda tweets that say Riewoldt’s injury isn’t as bad as first thought and he’s walking around the rooms. Uncle Bob gives me a lift home and I unpack from a day out.
Saints are in bed
Ahhhhhh. First game done.
St Kilda 6.2 7.8 9.9 13.12 (90)
Melbourne 2.3 9.4 15.7 18.12 (120)
GOALS Melbourne: Garlett 3, Hogan 3, Petracca 2, Hanna 2, Brayshow, Neal Bullen, Stretch, Vince, Watts, Jetta, Jones, Weideman
St Kilda: Riewoldt 4, Gresham 3, Armitage, Billings, bruce, Lonie, Dunstan, Membrey.
BEST Melbourne: Oliver, Lewis, Gawn, N Jones, Vince, Hogan, Jetta, Garlett.
St Kilda: Riewoldt, Gresham, Billings, Steven, Steele
UMPIRES Chamberlain, Fleer, Ryan CROWD 36,249
OUR VOTES Oliver(Melb) 3, Gawn (Melb) 2, Riewoldt (St K) 1.