AFL Round 6 – Footscray v St Kilda: A crime that paid in the end

by David Downer

Wanted – for crimes against football (apparently).  Middle-aged white Caucasian male, featuring a distinguished elegant stride. Frequently used terms include “pleasing” and “structure”.  Last seen being chased from Etihad Stadium by an angry mob of talkback callers.  Goes by the name of Ross.  Do not approach this man, he is armed with a highly defensive and successful game plan.  If you should sight this individual, please call SEN immediately.

As we know, several pockets of Amazonian rainforest and all manner of blogging bandwidth have been obliterated in the days since last Friday night’s Saints-Bulldogs match.   I don’t wish to bore the masses with further cyber-clogging, but as a “partially impartial” Saints fan, I’ll just say there is a certain “hot milo on a cold morning” buzz at the thought of opposition supporters having their Friday night at home “ruined” by a football game they didn’t find particularly entertaining.  Well, Collingwood supporters anyway.  Sorry, I know, always the Pies isn’t it.

I will however concede the reasonably poor “spectacle” couldn’t have been timed much worse.  That is, if you thought there was some flickering hope that Friday night footy would ever return to a “live” 7:30 start on the box. One stumbling block continues to stand defiant – Seven’s friday night “flagship” Better Homes and Gardens.  In the very week that by half time most neutral observers would have appreciated a “this program may upset some viewers” warning pre-match, less than two days later it was announced “the Logie for Most Popular Lifestyle Problem goes to…”.   Bugger.  And so the Channel 7 execs can chug on cigars with that smug sense of vindication that “Captain Griggsy” and her D-I-Y cohorts will not be tampered with – and we’ll have to suffer watching footy at home til 11:15pm, complete with half-time breaks longer than the real thing.  Incidentally, I’m sure the recycle bin at Channel 7 will be choc-full of TV-Weeks on bin night this week.  If only we cobbled together the football community to vote for Ready, Steady, Cook instead.

But I did get along to the “Collo-seum” so it wasn’t my problem this week.

Initially, and as corporate bookmakers would confirm, I wasn’t terribly confident.  The Saints belting was “due”.  If the Bullies couldn’t “get us” now, it’s hard to see when a better opportunity would present.  They were ready for a “big scalp”, surely.  A bit of Preliminary Final retribution.  From that night, subtract Riewoldt, add BBBBBB Hall – who frightened the bejesus out of me just standing in the outer, let alone Zac Dawson alongside him.

Standing room on ground level was the go this week – being an “away” game at “home” and all. It’s not fair-dinkum “tiered standing room” like the ‘G’, but when you’ve got a “lean” on the inside rail, it’s enough.  The low-dropping concrete stand above means the air conveyance disappears momentarily for kicks in the rain-maker vicinity – and you’re buggered if you can see a scoreboard from anywhere either.  It’s generally a fairly “transient” viewing base there also – the blokes you start the game next to don’t seem to be there by game’s end.  And “community diversity” would be another kind description of the melting pot that comes and goes throughout the 120 minutes.

A handful of pints pre-match plus the forced switch to mid-strengths during the contest did not bode well for bladder logistics.  For the first 3 quarters I was more concerned at holding my box-seated rail-hugging spot than “seeking comfort”.  I finally relented at three quarter time –  given how the game was faring, what was I going to lose?  Upon my return, barrier 1 still intact, the Betfair odds flashed up on the 34cm TV clamped above.  The Saints were paying $5.70 the win.  We still considered it to be “unders”.  Heavens knows what price could be grabbed at the 20 minute mark when still a goal-less last stanza.

The fourth (note I’ve ignored the first three quarters for yours, and my benefit), trickled along at the “same ol’ same ol'” ultra-defensive rate. Post-match Ross Lyon would defend the game’s general tactics with a Shaggy response “It wasn’t me”.  But it was shaping as a disappointing loss, even without the big Roo. Not many goals last week, stuff all this week.  And the Bulldogs were frittering their chances, just one more to put us away, they were due.

Yet the Saints began getting their hands on it.  It felt like something would give, either way ….and the tide was turning ever so slightly – our way.  The gettable chances began to present themselves -a ground-hugging wobbling snap from Montagna – jerks right instead of left, point.  Dal Santo – dummies, straightens up, looks the goods, just falls away, point.  Milne – poster.  For god’s sake.  We were beginning to square up on the “missed chances” count.

Meanwhile the clientele in the standing room area kept revolving.  A bloke in a non-matching tracksuit – and lack of discernible supporter wear, sidled up behind and let loose a rapid-fire litany of F-bombs and “see you next Tuesdays” (if you get my drift).  It was a little hard to pick who he was supporting – but with the cry “Get up you weak Dog &^%$”, it was confirmed “oh great, this pickle’s one of ours”.  He had a scungy Jimmy Loughnan from Chopper look about him – he may have been celebrating day release for a certain gold-plated funeral earlier, but there was no visible ankle-tracker-bracelet bulge at the bottom of his trakkies.  With this guy behind us though it felt like we were now supporting the “bad guys”. Thanks mate.   Women, children, please, he does not speak for us.

With the wave of momentum building both on and off-field, we began giving it to Barry.  It’s fair to say BBBB was getting a little frustrated with proceedings. An explosion was imminent you’d think.  “Tick. Tick. Tick”.  It’s amazing what a change of jumper (or two in Barry’s case) can make.  Someone then cried: “Go on Barry. Do it. Do it. Hit someone. Hit anyone. Wait. Hit Raph. Hit Raph”.  I chuckled, but I assure you I’m no stereotypical Saints “Raph-disapprover” – there’s enough in that camp without requiring me to jump on the poor kid’s case as well.

Though the tide was turning, a few of the elder Sainters began to leave.  If we had only scored 4 goals to this point, how in god’s name would we scrape through another 3 to actually win this thing. Still, good omen I thought – they’ve mozzed our mozz, that’s a “double negative”.  At least with a quick getaway they’d be home in time for the replay – if anything came of all this.

A Bulldogs turnover finally gets the shears clicking in earnest.  It ends up with Milne who plays on and scrubs through a kick you think “wouldn’t it be better if he just kicked it in the air – like normal folks”.  The seeds of doubt perhaps began creeping into Bulldog minds.  30 seconds later – Kosi marks about 60 metres out – he endured a “Bronx” just minutes earlier, and now he goes for broke, long and direct – maybe what the Dogs should have been doing …the ball spills out the back, Armitage throws a foot out, GOAL.  Shit!

The damn is bursting – but we’re knocking it down, not the Dogs.  It’s not supposed to be going like this.

Another minute of frantic tension plays itself out.  Ball-up near the Saints 50, Schneider gathers the pill, Fisher unmarked, you’re kidding? …a snap on the right foot …it looks ok off the boot …it disappears out of view …damn this standing room …but what suspense! …ball in mid-air …it seemed to be curling …was it curling? …the ball re-enters the atmosphere  …it’s through!

I’m now jumping in delirium, high-fiving my good mate Jimmy Loughnan – my poise in the air very much the ilk of  John Fahey’s “…and the Olympics go to Siddey”.

Saints in front.

4 goals in 110 minutes, then 3 in 3 minutes.  To borrow a Brian Taylor-ism “Wow-eeeeee”.

The Dogs fans could sense that “oh no” dread. Saints fans had a sense of “joy-shock”.  Is this really happening?

The screams were then predictable and frequent. “Siren”. “Ring it”. “Sirennnnnnnnn”.  After a couple of minutes of further “lockdown footy” (what else?) and “hold the ball in the air” milking time type stuff, Mini McQualter takes a contested grab to ice it.  Relief.  Pass to Lenny – and who more appropriate to be holding it.

Siren blows.  Unbelievable.  Somehow the Saints have got the prize.  I’m not sure they themselves can believe it. I know I can’t. But belief is something else they can now take out of it.  Plus damaging the perhaps fragile psyche of another genuine premiership aspirant.

I stood there a little bewildered for a few minutes, clapped the boys off, then sauntered up over the bridge in Twilight-Zone type silence to the waiting “Saints-stronghold” Franga line train.  On the tin rattler I was keen to chat footy with anyone willing to listen, just to confirm what actually transpired in those last 6 minutes.  But instead I was stuck next to a bloke who wasn’t at the game, couldn’t speak English, and was clumsily transporting home an oscillating pedestal fan that had seen better days.

‘Twas A bizarre end to a bizarre night.

Now for the Bluebaggers.


  1. John Butler says

    Fabulous David.

    Monday night should be interesting (I hope).

    I was always disappointed Jimmy’s film career never kicked on.

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