AFL Round 9 – St.Kilda v Western Bulldogs: Throwing out the script

Back in 2009, I covered all three St Kilda v Western Bulldogs games for the Footy Almanac. I’m not sure if it was by luck or design. I’m not sure if this three-way email conversation between the editors and me from October of that year gives a clue either way:

John Harms: “Gigs, I love that you did all three SK v WB games this year – despite the results.”

Paul Daffey: “Did he? Unusual on our part, but then you’re an unusual man, Gigs.”

I’m sure Paul meant that as a compliment – didn’t you Daff?

They were halcyon days for the Saints and Dogs, four short years ago – at least by the Saints’ and Dogs’ standards. The two sides met in the Preliminary Final that year (and again a year later) and on the eve of that match I pledged to my footy girlfriend Saint Vic that I would allow St Kilda to win that match as long as (a) the Saints went on to beat Geelong in the Grand Final the following week and (b) the Dogs were allowed to win the 2010 premiership.

Of course we all know that didn’t go to script.

2009 was the year of the toe-poke. Nick Riewoldt toe-poked the ball through from the goal square in that Friday night Preliminary Final to put the Saints into the Big Dance against Geelong. A week later a Matthew Scarlett toe-poke to Gary Ablett set up a Paul Chapman goal which sealed the 2009 flag.

So many things have changed since then.

The coaches of both sides, so close to winning a flag in that year, are gone – one turfed out mid-way through 2011, and the other poached by Fremantle not many weeks later.

Jarrod Harbrow, who I gave votes to on that Friday night, is now a leader at the Gold Coast Suns.

Daniel Giansiracusa’s hair is not as black as it once was. (Not that it appears to be worrying him. He seems to revel in the George Clooney comparisons.)

And this afternoon, as the Saints take on the Dogs once more, Daniel Cross – permanent stalwart of the Bulldogs team – has been dropped. Dropped! That’s right, Crossy’s not playing and he’s not injured. He’s out of the team omitted. Unthinkable in 2009.

But time catches up with us all. It certainly caught up with St Kilda and the Dogs after 2010.

On the eve of the 2013 season, when I put up my hand to cover this match, I expected that the Dogs would be struggling at this stage. Coach McCartney, who came on board in 2012 had already flagged that we were in a long, painful rebuild process.

What I had also expected was that St Kilda, under the guidance of its own new coach Scott Watters, would be pushing for a place in the 2013 finals. But after eight rounds, the Saints are 2-6, only one game better off than the Dogs’ 1-7. Another of my scripts thrown out the window.

Bloody Footscray and St Kilda! The two teams I love the most. Why can’t one of them be good while the other one is crap so that I’ve got at least something to be happy about? But, no, like a pair of in-phase sine curves, their fortunes seem to rise and fall at the same time.

The Dogs won in a canter in round one this year against Brisbane but haven’t looked like winning since. I’ve seen positive signs at times but the vultures are circling. We’ve won one of 19 games since mid-2012. The Saints, while only a game to the good of us, have been competitive each week. I fully expect them to see us off without too much trouble today.

There are some things that haven’t changed. Nick Riewoldt’s one. He’s still the subject of a debate about whether he’s a champion or not. It’s a debate I don’t really understand. To me he’s unquestionably one. But some of my friends maintain he is a very, very good player but no more.

I’ll tell you one thing. He’s very, very good today. There he is running deep to the wing, taking a make. There he is running a 100 metres back to the goal square just seconds later to take another mark and kick a goal. And so on, throughout the game. In the second quarter, he even toe-poked a Saints goal, just for old times’ sake. Not just very, very good – a champion.

To my surprise, the Dogs make a game of it today. Unlike they’ve done for most of this year, they use the ball cleanly, and when they go forward they actually kick goals. The Saints do too, and the game becomes a proverbial “shootout”.  That’s something that didn’t happen in 2009. The Saints under Ross Lyon, would never allow that. The final score in that Preliminary Final was St Kilda 60, Western Bulldogs 53. We’ve got those scores covered by early in the third term today.

At the last change it’s 75-73 the Saints way. They’ll go on with it now, it’s in my script for today. And they do, but only for the first four minutes. Goals to Montagna and (who else?) Riewoldt put the Saints 14 points ahead.

But again, another of my scripts gets defenestrated. The Dogs kick five of the next six to lead by 15. Ex-Bulldog Farren Ray, who I was glad to see the back of after 2008 because his disposal was shonky, kicks a miracle goal for St Kilda. Behind me, my mate Mic screams, “That’s be f*ck*n right. Never got one good kick out of you at Footscray!”

It’s too late for the Saints. Riewoldt makes one last mighty effort, flying recklessly for a mark. He just fails to hold it and gets knocked out in the process. (He’s very, very good that bloke.) The Dogs clear the ball and hang on for a nine-point win.

Both sides are now 2-7, 15th and 16th on the ladder. Our sine curves are very much still in phase.

Four years on. So much has changed. So much hasn’t.

In the 2009 Preliminary Final I voted Riewoldt and Griffen as the best two players on the ground. In my eyes, they were again today.

My 2009 script went out the window, as did my pre-season one this year. And today, yet another one has. But as the Dogs celebrate just our second win in 19 games, this time, I’m very glad that’s the case.

St Kilda                       3.2       8.4       11.9     15.11 (101)
Western Bulldogs       5.4       6.6       11.7     17.8 (110)

GOALS
St Kilda: Riewoldt 4; Montagna, Siposs 2; Milne, Maister, Saad, Steven, Jones, Ray, Dal Santo
Western Bulldogs: Addison 4; Stevens 3; Griffen 2; Jones, Roughead, Dahlhaus, Giansiracusa, Smith, Murphy, Goodes, Hrovat

Best

St Kilda: Riewoldt, Montagna, Steven, Ross, Roberton

Western Bulldogs: Griffen, Stevens, Boyd, Murphy, Minson, Addison

Umpires: McBurney, Leppard, Kamolins

Official crowd: 25,982

Our Votes: 3 Riewoldt (StK) 2 Griffen (WB) 1 Stevens (WB)

 

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. Elisabeth says:

    Lovely piece Andrew. As a Dogs stalwart I watched my beloved boys on Saturday with the same frame of mind as you. But they showed that spirit we love. 2009 still cuts deep. But 2010 was worse. Johnno’s last game. My daughter loved Johnno, ever since she had her photo taken with him in his arms as a five month old. At 3/4 quarter time she sobbed uncontrollably. Not because the Dogs were going to lose – even as a 10 year old she understood the pain of being a Dogs supporter – but because her darling Johnno would never play in a Granny. The people around us couldn’t help but sob in sympathy. Our love for the Bulldogs will never wane.

  2. Lord Bogan says:

    Great stuff Gigs and a wonderful win for the Dogs. That 2009 prelim still strikes me as one of the most gripping games of footy I’ve ever seen. It seemed like every action counted and that every mistake was magnified.

    No wonder you long for the ‘halcyon days of 2009’.

  3. Beautiful piece of writing Gigs. And wasn’t it grweat singing the song arm in arm after the siren!

  4. Thanks Elisabeth. I don’t know how Johnno continues to smile as he does on telly each week after the pain he endured. Bob Murphy wrote a great piece about the likelihood of him ending his career without a flag or a GF either. But just like ours, their love for the Dogs will never wane.

    Our day will come!

  5. Thanks Phil. Your description of the 2009 PF is exactly how I remember it. My Saints friend told me later that she almost threw up at the end, such was the tension.

    As heartbreaking as it was, it was an extraordinarily unbelievable match that I was glad to witness. Worthy of a Grand Final.

  6. Thanks T Bone. You’re right – I should have mentioned the post-game singalong. Geez we sounded good!

  7. Hi Gigs, great description of the last few years and the games. All I can say is Woof, IF WE have to go down, let it to be to the Dogs. And may both our teams thrive in the future, and not just against each other.

    Yvette

  8. Thanks, Yvette. Hear! Hear!

  9. Peter_B says:

    Great win. Great report, Gigs. You are the only man who could put “in phase sine curve” into a footy match report. That’s one of those squiggly things on a screen that boffins gaze at intently in movies – isn’t it?
    I heard Brendan on the Sunday Inquisition on ABC Radio. He has so much integrity and common sense. Don’t know if they are good qualities in an elite sport coach, but I’d vote for him if he ran for PM.

  10. Andrew Starkie says:

    Well done Gigs. Dogs gave me some happiness in a tragic weekend of footy

  11. cowshedend says:

    Great work Gigs, lovely piece. Last week we were invoking Fraser from ‘dads army’ …”we’re all doomed…..doomed i tell ya” this week it’s more corporal Jones “don’t panic, don’t panic’ bet Poons did a roaring trade on Saturday night.

  12. Neil Anderson says:

    What a relief to win one!
    Thought the idea of subbing Gia worked well and new recruit Nathan Hrovat was a beauty!

  13. Thanks Peter – I reckon Flynny could fit a sine curve or two into one of his reports.

    I also heard Brendan. He calms me down when things are seemingly desperate. He’s either a very wise man or a very good salesman. I hope it’s both.

  14. Thanks Andrew. I’ve avoided reading your North piece until now because of the associated heartbreak I’m expecting. Have my tissues at the ready now.

  15. Great script Gigs, shame about the ending. As you defeated us, I think you just forfeited the $2m that Eddie Everywhere reckons Dogs and Dees are owed . We must need it more than you to cover the Lyon hole left at Linen House.xx

  16. Ooops! Forgot to congratulate you on your win. We need to stick together us sine curving, single flag winners.

  17. Thanks Peter (cowshedend). Doomsday averted for another week or too.

    Agree, Neil. I like the Gia sub idea – I wonder how he’d feel about doing it every week. Hrovat very good. Good signs from all three new boys so far – Stringer, Macrae and Hrovat.

  18. Thanks Lou. I see the Saints are playing Andrew Starkie’s 4-point, 3-point, 2-point, 1-point Roos next week. What odds on a draw after the Kangas get out to a big lead.

    One day our sine curves will become out of phase, surely?

  19. Mic Rees says:

    Superb review Andrew, geez it was a good win wasn’t it?

    A big thank you for relieving me of my duties in covering the Saints and Dogs for FA – I’d “won” two of the previous three matches between these sides.

    Fighting win by the Dogs topped off a ripper day of footy with Port Melb, the ‘Brook and the Dogs all saluting. Been a while since that trifecta got up.

    CSE – Poons was rockin’ when I went past last Saturday evening, and I might add there was a decent size crowd at Wongs.

    MCR

  20. “…but then you’re an usual man, Gigs.”
    As compliments go, that is an absolute corker!

  21. Great stuff Gigs. I think the jury is still out on Koby, but he played a ripper. That Bob Murphy goal was something else. I just wonder why they make us all sit up the top of that stadium when it isn’t full? I ended up standing on the concourse so my old eyes could see what the hell was going on. Can you have a chat to Andrew about that please?

  22. Thanks Mic. Glad that trifecta came up for you. Great to see you at the game and your outburst after Ray’s goal was a true highlight of the day!

    Smokie – I agree. I’ll wear that compliment with pride!

  23. Thanks Bill.

    Agree on Koby. He’s looked outstanding at times this year. It remains to be seen if he can be so on a consistent basis.

    Bob Murphy is getting into the habit of providing a brilliant highlight each week. He is making our losses bearable almost single-handedly. And when we win, he’s providing icing on the cake, as well as being a key ingredient.

    I’ll see what I can do about seating, but I’m not sure if my sphere of influence has expanded to include Andrew D just yet. Standing on the concourse is my default position at Docklands. Pity I didn’t spot you.

    Look forward to your next trip down south.

    Cheers

  24. David Downer says:

    Good one, Gigs. You deserved this one.

    “Sinesational” indeed. Particularly from R.Murphy late. A gem. The ball just needs to be in his hands.

    Enjoyed the post-match festivities within the confines of a sober (nah, not really) St Kilda Social Club too.

  25. Thanks, DD. Bob Murphy is giving me little snippets of happiness every week this year. Which is a very important thing when your team is winning only one out of every ten games!

    The post-match hospitality extended by you and everyone in the Social Club to me and my fellow “enemy” was most gracious and much appreciated. I hope to get to a Saints victory soon and join you there in celebration.

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