Almanac Footy: The Saints’ Department of Youth


After fifty years of supporting the mighty Saints, I finally was able to attend the 2023 Best and Fairest night – known as The Trevor Barker Award – at Crown Palladium, in our 150th year.

Thanks to my old friend John whose company is a major sponsor, I hooked up with the other three beneficiaries of tickets before the show at the Mahogany Room.

Our host Andy works for the same company as John, Johnno is a lunatic publican and psychotic Saints fan and Douggy is a former band manager, now owner of Rare Records as well as having been Nicky Winmar’s manager for ten years.

Douggy is also leader of the infamous ‘Aisle 29 Crew’ who sing anthems to Saints players from the bleachers. I’ve always enjoyed their spirit and creativity and they are growing exponentially each year.

There were a thousand people attending the night and with massive screens set up around the entire venue it was impossible not to see what was happening with the proceedings.

The usual speeches from the president, coach and captain were dispatched and greeted with warm enthusiasm. There was certainly congruence amongst all three, and genuine enthusiasm for the future.

Frankly, I’m not a fan of our CEO Simon Lethlean who has had a chequered career to say the least, but he introduced the president of Chery Motors who have become a major sponsor for the next few years, which is a lovely coup for the club.

At this stage we had hoed down on entrée and mains. It just so happened that the seat next to me was vacant so Andy and I shared the chicken on the erroneous plate – as well as their dessert.

We all filled in a sheet of paper picking our top 5 players in the B&F and paid $20 for the privilege. The prize? $1000, I think. I’ve never even come close to winning a chook raffle in my life but I took this seriously enough as I had seen a lot of the boys in 2023.

Then the voting updates were delivered in four brackets, including highlights, which brought the season back to life for everyone.

I watched as each bracket update appeared to be close to my choices, but my typical Saints’ brain told me not to get too excited. When the final announcement was made, I couldn’t believe I’d picked it.

1st – Jack Sinclair

2nd – Callum Wilkie

3rd – Rohan Marshall

4th – Mitchito Owens

5th – Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera

You little beauty! But then the Saints mentality struck again. “There’s probably heaps who picked that and it will be drawn like a raffle. Oh well.”

I didn’t think any more about the damned raffle. Conversation went to the result of the B&F. Our two top winners were All Australians this year and Rohan was dead unlucky to miss out.

I was hoping Todd Goldstein would come across to the Saints and free Rohan up to do what he does best, causing havoc around the ground like a tall midfielder but alas it looks like he’s heading to the Bombers.

But for me I’m so excited with our youth. Both Mitchito and Nasiah are only in their second years at AFL level. Just babies. Add to those Mattaes Phillipou who played all 24 games in his first year, and Marcus Windhager who has played 37 games in his first two years, and Ross knows he’s onto something special.

The Saints were in the eight for the entire season and were very competitive against GWS in the Elimination Final. When you see how far GWS went, it’s heartening to know we were not far off.

As the festivities ended I bid farewell and acquired a Saints 150 year table decoration for posterity. I did see our number one ticket holder Eric Bana in the toilet as I headed out and balked at the opportunity to say that classic line from Chopper, “No cash here”, to which I hoped Eric would reply from his position at the urinal, “Here, no cash”. But it wasn’t to be.

As I sat on the train waiting to take off back to Ballarat I received a text from the Saints Events Team stating that I was the winner of the “Predict the Winner’. They will contact me later in the week, but I think it’s $1000!

Time to upgrade takeaway night this week from Red Rooster to a rump steak at our local, The Grapes.

Could all this good fortune be an omen of things to come for the Saints in 2024? Nah…probably not.

Go Sainters.


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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker and blogger. Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.

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