Almanac Time Capsule – AFL Round 14 2009: Observing the Saints fan


Sunday afternoon. Etihad Stadium is packed. The stream of people around the concourse is magnificent.


We Y-fronts wearing Cats fans all friendly and decent, sending get well cards to the infirmed and downtrodden, and weeding the pansies. Baking because we’ve got visitors coming; carefully putting only the recycling stuff in the recycling bin. And in love with Cilla Black.


And Saints fans all wonderfully cavalier. As if Animal from the Muppets has been their role model and all they’ve ever wanted to do is play in a band like Dr Teeth and Electric Mayhem. And some do. (I see that Queenslander Tex Perkins wander by.)


I love Saints fans. I love how they wear pointy shoes made from the skin of an endangered species of West Papuan reptile (because they don’t give a toss like they do in Fitzroy) and have jobs where you don’t have to shave (unless you want to leave that little bit under your lip, or a lightning bolt along your jaw-line).


I love how Saints blokes wear Y-fronts ironically. And that Nick Riewoldt is the biggest Y-fronts wearer since Peter Hudson (apart from the Malakelis brothers). But deep down they know that Nick Riewoldt doesn’t understand irony (even though they want him to).


And how Saints women are still girly, like they’ll be forever 19 and dancing by themselves at some groovy bar.


Saints fans are all so free, even if they have been tortured by their footy side.


I love how they look permanently sleep-deprived and smell of good Irish whiskey and cigarettes with no writing on them (because they believe in herbal medicine). I love how they aren’t in the army because one of the questions the recruiters ask is “Do you barrack for St Kilda?” How they know the words to Alice’s Restaurant and drive Holdens (but only Specials).


I love how they have piercings, but not in a Collingwood way. I love how they love boys and girls – because it doubles your chances.


I stand with them. They are doing Mrs Slocombe schtick. Gags about Pussies, mocking all those Mr Grainger Geelong fans around. Like me. But I am laughing.


And then complete focus on the match from the time the umpy holds the footy in the air.


The Saints start magnificently, pressuring the Cats into chains of retreating handballs. “That’s it Catters,” yells a bloke called Big Al. “Keep going backwards.”


At four goals to nothing the Saints fans are high on life. “I like this start,” says Big Al in a surprisingly reserved fashion. And just as he’s got those words out he yells, “Get away from the fence Ling. You’re scaring the kids.”


“Leave him alone. He’s beautiful,” says a Geelong tuckshop mum, whose brow has been furrowed by the performance of her team’s forward line.


Big Al has all the lines. When Gary Ablett trots past on the wing he yells, “You’re just like you’re old man Gary. You’re both too f**ken tight to buy a hair piece.”


No team can maintain the intensity of St Kilda’s opening minutes. The Cats settle. Jimmy Bartel is magnificent. He is a Brownlow Medalist but he doesn’t have a star’s nature. He plays like the kid from up the road who’s asked if he can join in. Like he’s Gary Cooper in Sergeant York: no sense of how brilliant he is.


The Cats are coming. A rough and tumble Geelong bloke points at the Saints around him, “Four quarters St Kilda.”


I am thinking the same thing, but the Cats lack structure until big Cam finally decides to lead and contest and mark and actually shoot for goal.


I have been four-deep in an eight-deep crowd all day. On tip-toe. Bobbing and weaving. Craning. Seeing bits and pieces. I’m playing the game and the bloke in front of me who (who is the size of an O’Toole) is as well. I’ve done a calf.


Saints fans think they’re home. But Dasher nails one. And then Stokesy (or “Stokesyyyyyyyyyyyy” from the bloke up the way a bit) levels the score.


This is good. The woodchopper has gone into a blank stare. He looks like I used to before Joel Selwood. But he is playing really tightly now and I miss the no-advantage advantage and I don’t see much until Michael Gardiner is in the air and Harry Taylor has been felled. All over.





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About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Danielle says

    I love how they have piercings, but not in a Collingwood way?
    Would you believe that I’ve only got one piercing in each of my ears?

    Saints fans, I have no love for them!!
    But they don’t like me ether probably because I yelled:

  2. Peter Schumacher says

    John, another well crafted piece. I must say that your style of writing reminds me quite a lot of the American author and host of “A Prairie Home Companion”, Garrison Keillor. Whilst musing about this how I wish that the Sunday breakfast show on ABC Regional Radio was fronted by someone with his nous and skills rather than bloody Macca. As for the game itself, just fantastic.

  3. Pamela Sherpa says

    From all reports it sounded like a fantastic game – alas NSW viewers did not get coverage of the game on normal TV.

  4. roger lowrey says

    Yep. Jill and I were there with two Saints’ fans actually. Old former teaching colleagues. In addition to everything else you have so fully captured JTH my enduring memory is the massive noise under that roof. It was very loud for most of that rollicking game and quite deafening in key parts. Surely they wouldn’t have been able to hear one another. Thankfully, we reversed the ledger later in the big 2009 one with Scarlo’s little toe poke to Gazza deep to Travis quickly off loaded to Chappy who swings on to left foot and goal!!!!!!

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