AFL Round 2 – St Kilda v GWS: Circle of Saints

St Kilda vs Greater Western Sydney
1:40pm, Saturday March 29
Etihad Stadium

David Downer




Change has recently been all-encompassing at St Kilda.

Players. Coaches. Administration.

Attitudes. Aspirations. Realities, the acceptance of.

A delightful symmetry of such rebirth also plays out in bay 38 of the Saints members wing.

My niece, Evie, five months old today, is attending her first game.

She is the fourth generation of our flock to be indoctrinated (subjected) to that special Saintly mixture of torment, occasional joy, torment, and belonging.

The Saints modus operandi had promptly been instilled. On her second day of existence she would be moving on to her second St Kilda coach.

Decked out in oversized Saints jumper – timed for a snug fit come Jack Billings’ first Brownlow medal, Evie is looking a treat at Etihad. The same venue where her parents Chris and Lauren met at a Saints game in 2005. At the Cougar Bar. If you don’t mind.

It is a shorts day. Under balmy Autumnal sun and perpendicular Docklands shadow, the first quarter lulls away quietly against the sparsely supported Giants. Half their cheer-squad had piled on my train at Cheltenham. Outside of Melbourne Cup day, rare is the opportunity to view a multitude of educated grown men in shiny orange suits and matching carrot ties.

Evie is doing well. Chris has her clasped safely in his right mitt, while a beer rests in the left. It’s multi-tasking at its male level best.

David Armitage promptly spoils that party. Rising high over a pack, he is bemused as the rest of us with a chest-mark in the stratosphere. He crash-lands with an impressive bomb in the deep end of the pool. The crowd is awoken.

Alas, so is Evie.

With her Dad unable to temper his own excitable reaction to Armo’s theatrics, Evie is displeased. Bay 38 heads turn. Little lungs are relentless. Father-of-the-year acclaim is extinguished long before Armitage converts the goal, and Lauren eventually takes charge of proceedings.

A hasty exit is made.

Departing a Saints game in tears. Further proof Evie has the Saints gig down pat. It is a triumph of science for footy geneticists.

My own concentration towards on-field matters is also distracted. Some poor choices were made from Laksa King Flemington’s lunch specials menu the day prior. A heavy technicolour price was paid. Hot-flushed delirium remained at close quarters today.

I am still lucid enough to deduce that Tom Hickey is playing the game of his life. The faithful approve as he prances about D.Cox-like plucking hangers and slotting majors.

I am however positively stuffed if I can recognise any of the Giants players. I actually have little wont to do so. There is plenty of time to learn names watching them play finals for a decade. I have recalled “that Giles bloke”, and surmise that he is doing most of their good work.

An anonymous whippet sporting number ten is also causing problems in orange. It’s possibly Johan Cruyff (apologies to you after the fact, Devon Smith).

The Saints backline are undersized and fumbly. It’s hard to distinguish my own food poisoning bedlam from their antics, but there is some undeniable drunken sailor stupor.

Maister and Stanley keep presenting also, but today there is more a touch of the Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels about their work in tandem.

There is however time to enjoy some patented “Hayes to Riewoldt”. It’s in the rarified air of “Harvey to Lockett”. We treasure each and every one. And the skipper is kicking truly.

St Kilda’s endeavour and tackling intent is also hard to fault. Saunders, Wright, Templeton, Dunstan. Youngsters with hard heads and a new energy.

Yet for all the hard work, it’s the Giants holding sway by four goals by time-on in the third.

Andy D is by now stroking a marmalade tabby cat from his AFL offices below.

But I am pleasantly roused from any lingering lethargy of Malay gastronomic regret.

Dempster nails one from fifty off one step. Okay, maybe it was two.

Aspendale’s very own* Eli Templeton scoots off for a running goal from the same mark. The crowd rides it in “gee how good would this be” hope. It’s hard to deny a new kid in dreads with dash and panache.

The skipper gets involved. A curling snap from the square is true.

Lenny wants in too. Hard up on the boundary. It’s “Hayes to Riewoldt”. From fifty. Another.

Four goals in three minutes. The joint is alight. Saints in front.

Riewoldt’s snap goal early in the last quarter earns himself a third in even time. Eli then sets up Dunstan. The new wave, our two-game hard-running teenagers, are complementing the old.

The Giants still keep peppering away. The bearded Giles and the deft Cruyff close it back to a point.

Clinton Jones, not famed for his right foot (or left foot) exploits, shanks a wobbly pitching wedge. It ends up with Eli. He is by now “the pride of Aspendale”**. Biblical references are made from the terraces. A set-shot from 50 metres awaits.

I turn around and the family have returned from Parents’ Room sanctity to the back of Bay 38. They weren’t quite exposed to Qantas Club facilities for the afternoon, but I’m assured “it goes ok”.

Chris, himself of musical disposition is now waxing lyrical with noted Saints rocker Tex Perkins. Evie ends up in Tex’s arms for a cuddle. It’s turning into a memorable debut.

Eli nails the goal from fifty. Not bad for an eighteen year-old rookie-lister. It’s the sealer.

The siren sounds. Saints are happy. Veterans, legends, champions, once having gone within inches of winning premierships, are ecstatic. We, and they, know where we’re at.

The rebirth is taking shape.

Chris holds Evie up high like the Lion King. There is a beaming smile on her little face. Circle of Life makes way for Oh When The Saints. Elton wouldn’t mind, he was a Sainter too (at least pre-rug).

The Social club is abuzz. I am healthy once more. The Saints twitterati are there. Signed jumpers are raffled and won. Longshot horses have been backed for a stack.

Eli is proclaimed the next Trevor Barker.

It’s one from one for Evie.

There is a long season still to come. While the only constant is change, it would be nice to bottle today for a little while longer yet.

* via Burnie
** via Burnie

ST KILDA 5.0 8.1 12.4 15.5 (95)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 4.2 9.3 11.5 13.10 (88)

St Kilda: Riewoldt 5, Hickey 3, Templeton 2, Armitage, Montagna, Dempster, Ray, Dunstan
Greater Western Sydney: Smith 5, Giles 4, Townsend, Whitfield, Mumford, Cameron

St Kilda: Riewoldt, Hickey, Templeton, Hayes, Armitage, Ray
Greater Western Sydney: Giles, Giles, Giles, Cruyff, Giles

Umpires: Wenn, Findlay, Armstrong

Official crowd: 19,640 at Etihad Stadium

Our votes: 3 Riewoldt (StK), 2 Hickey (StK), 1 Templeton (StK)


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Well done DD, new baby boys on the field and a new baby sainter in the arms. Great report, great day.


  2. Very nice work, indeed.
    I was reading along thinking to myself (having not met him), “Geez your brother looks a lot like Tex Perkins.”
    Let’s hope for the Saints that the honeymoon is not over!
    Could Eli be “The Delivery Man”?

  3. Nice job. On TV, appeared to be a glorious roof-open day, and your account put me right into Etihad. More importantly, Evie got started on the right track.

  4. Evie has the bemused expression of the talent, Tex looks like the crazed fan. Great photo of a good brisbane lad.

    Good to have you back DD.

  5. Patrick O'Brien says

    Geez your brother looks a lot like Tex Perkins.

    Oh, wait …

    One from one! Go Evie!

  6. Justin Gleeson says

    Beautiful work DD !! As we know some things in life we’re just born and bred into and we love it !!

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