AFL Round 6 – St Kilda v Brisbane: The difficult second album

Last year in Wellington 22,500 people and the Prime Minister watch a Historic Event. This year just over half that number saw two teams play ordinary footy with a greasy pill, and wondered how long Project #AFLinNZ might survive.
If it’s going to survive — and as a NZ footy fan we need it — then it’s going to have to do a lot better than this.
Because if last year was An Event, this year was The Difficult Second Album. Made more difficult by the band being delivered a ‘use by’ fixture list: two teams struggling for consistency and form who, in the very next round, would be deservedly hammered by a combined total of 224 points.
But in the games before Wellington, there was hope for a good show. St. Nick had been surprising everyone with a return to form; and Big Jonathan had enjoyed his own renaissance to mark his 200-game event just the week before. Since both Lions and Saints had enjoyed only mixed form so far in 2014 however, NZers in love with the game and needing a good show needed to know: which of the teams was actually going to show up for this second record.
The first had been great. Any great first album is almost like love at first sight, which is how #AFLinNZ had been received in Wellington in 2013. Would #AFLinNZ 2014 return new fans’ new love , we wondered? Would it be The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan or With the Beatles, after which career-long love affairs were cemented? Would it be Bruce’s Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, telling you he was up for the journey? Or a breakout album like Nevermind that left everyone involved gasping for air? Or would it (we hoped not) be the Stone Roses’s Second Coming, the much-pre-hyped announcement to the world they’d blown their wad entirely on the first one, and from now on would just be a minor entry in the history books?
The portents come Thursday before the Friday game were mostly ill. St Kilda had flown in on Tuesday to make a media splash in their ‘home’ town, which they did, bless them, having stories, pictures and profiles on TV, in the papers, and on buses and billboards around the city. But Wellingtonians were heading out of town in large numbers for an extended long weekend, and only one-third the number were flying in from Australia for this one. Most remaining were more interested in the Hurricanes playing the Reds the next day, or whoever the Warriors planned to lose to that weekend. And the legions of former footy players and followers around the country who had descended on the capital for The Historic Event last year were, this year, mostly, safely ensconced back home around either a television or the contents of a pint glass.
Ticket sales were disappointing. Even the Auckland Geelong Supporters Club — the three of us — was down to a two-thirds attendance, so desperate that a stray Hawks fan from Christchurch was granted permission to join us.
But let’s not get downhearted. We travelled from Auckland to see a live game, and a live game was what we got. And the crowd of mostly locals were wearing all the merchandise they’d bought last year, and were even learning when to cheer.
The game definitely gave them moments to practice.
Brisbane started like a train. Only a slow train, true, but St Kilda’s was even slower (perhaps, we wondered, they’d given too much time to publicity and too little to training?) By late-second quarter, the Lions were 32 points ahead and Riewoldt had been well held, with only four touches to his name, none of them effective.
Joey Montagna however was everywhere, giving the mostly-Saints-supporting crowd some hope, and in the second half his team decided to join him. The midfield lifted. The forwards started kicking goals. Riewoldt broke free of the double-team Leppitsch had shackled him with to kick a captain’s goal in the last quarter when his team desperately needed it .The Lions fought back too: the Jonathan Brown show coming to town for several crucial minutes (and for what turned out to be a game-winning shepherd reviewed by the goal umpire), and Trent West lifted his team with some great work around the ground (great to see our former premiership ruckman finding himself at his new home, we Auckland Geelong supporters decided).
So come the last few minutes and it had suddenly become all St Kilda’s to win. From 5 goals down they’d arm-wrestled themselves back into the contest and had drawn level with just twelve minutes to go. Even the crowd got excited!
And then they sent in the clowns. No Sainter’s highlight reel will contain any of that last twelve minutes: Jack Billings, Shane Savage and Farren Ray making the very least of their team’s midfield pressure by butchering what should have been game-winning virtually open goals. Even their mums would have been embarrassed — even moreso Mrs Savage, whose son Jack gifted Brisbane a 50m penalty from which they effectively sealed the game.
So as second albums, this was mostly one to forget, although apart from that a real dog of a last song, its second side had a good solid start. And the very next day the suits came out announcing a further deal to play games in the capital to at least 2018!
What’s more, we discovered to our very great pleasure that the AFL’s fixture committee had the great foresight to put the game on the same long weekend that the new harvest of hops had arrived in NZ’s Craft Beer Capital, allowing us to celebrate the 19 beers in 16 bars produced to celebrate this great occasion the organisers were calling #Hopstock.
Which we decided, over a glass or several of the likes of Tuatara Conehead and Fresh Hopwired IPA, made that difficult second album a hell of a lot easier to swallow.

About Peter Cresswell

Saw the game for the first time in 1984, and laughed so hard I had to play it myself. Played in NZ and the UK. Never in Australia. Never stopped laughing.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Peter. Clever take on the NZ fixture.

    Hmm, is it the second or the third album that is the “difficult” one (Billy Bragg thought that it was the latter) ?

    Of course, you only get to a third album if the other two sell enough, unless it is the of the contractual obligation/compilation/live variety.

    Perhaps #AFLinNZ needs to change direction (jazz/fusion or a Stonehenge themed concept match ?), or relaunch with a new theme (Smell The Ball?)

    Spiral Torp anyone?

  2. Peter_B says

    Good yarn Peter. Are you an indigenous Kiwi or an expat?
    I was in Tauranga on holidays for this game. Our Kiwi hosts indulged me with letting me watch part of this and the Collingwood-Essendon game. Then they turned to the Chiefs and Brumbies and enjoyed the game 100x more even though their team lost.
    From that experience and the desultory crowd in Wellington I got the clear feeling that playing/promoting AFL in NZ is like selling the Koran in Tennessee, or the New Testament in Mecca.

  3. mickey randall says

    Thanks Peter. I enjoyed your recount. As is often the case, beer seemed to be the highlight. As a second album the event seemed to be on par with The Vines’ sophomore record “Winning Days” which wasn’t.

  4. Thanks everyone.

    @Swish: They definitely didn’t turn it up to eleven with this one. Mind you, I understand St Kilda makes as much from this game as six or seven games at Etihad (part of that by courtesy of Wellington ratepayers), so it looks like they might have record company support for several more albums yet.

    @Peter B: Yes, I saw your piece, and enjoyed, but wondered why so opposed to future NZ games? (And I hope you enjoyed your holiday,) You at least now understand the difficulty of selling the game here. It’s great to see it on TV (something we’ve only just been able to enjoy in that last 3 years, really) but as you know, unlike the rectangular-field sports it’s a game that should really be enjoyed live. And therein lies another part of the difficulty.
    Mind you, I’ve noticed a small number for friends who started watching games on the box as a curiosity are now watching it more regularly, and wanting to talk about games afterwards. So it’s not quite like selling the Koran in Tennessee. Maybe more like Michael Jackson to a roomful of metal fans.
    PS: Indigenous NZer: played in Auckland, Welington, UK,, once in Toronto, and once (just half a game, therein lying a story) in Darwin.

    @Mickey: Beer was definitely a highlight. Mind you, our honorary Auckland Geelong Supporters Club member from Christchurch was largely unfamiliar with hops — a confrontation won by hops later in the evening with a TKO.

  5. “As a second album the event seemed to be on par with The Vines’ sophomore record “Winning Days” which wasn’t.”

    I prefer to think of it more like Patti Smith’s ‘Radio Ethiopia’ not as great as the first one, not everyone’s cup of tea, but still;leading to many more and better. :-)

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