Footy: How I got back my passion for the Saints

By Luke Mather

I bought back into the Saints with about 15 minutes remaining in last season’s prelim final against the Dogs. Thankfully we won.  Seven days later the result wasn’t as satisfying but that was probably a good thing.

My love for St Kilda and the AFL in general has always run deep. My memories are a patchwork quilt of trips to Waverly, Moorabbin and even a couple to the Western Oval. There were late nights spent watching footy marathons, trips to the ‘G in my high school days just to watch Gazza play for the Cats, and the classic night when I first dropped the F Bomb in front of my Mum watching the Brownlow. I don’t remember which Saints player got robbed of the 3 votes but I do remember the look on my Mum’s face and the roast I got from the old man later on.

All that changed a couple of years back. The new style of the “modern game” coupled with the fact that I had to watch every game of footy every week for work – and yes I know this sounds great – wore on me. Somewhere, probably midway through the third quarter of a dreary Fremantle-Richmond game, I lost interest.  I didn’t flick straight to the footy section of Monday’s paper, I didn’t sweat on the teams coming out on a Thursday night or follow the life-long tradition of settling in for Friday night footy. I was always finding something else more interesting or something better to watch.

As the 2009 season rolled around I didn’t really care and as the season progressed things didn’t change.  When the finals started I had still only watched two games in full for the year.  The Saints and Kangas while having a few beers at the casino with a mate (Kozzie was brilliant and got three votes in the Brownlow, which saved another F Bomb) and the Anzac Day game, which  was a cracker even if the biggest point of interest to me was whether I would get a zero in my Dreamteam from David Hille after he did his knee in the opening seconds.

I’m not sure what flicked the switch on prelim night but I’m glad it happened. All of a sudden Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations was no longer so appealing. The Saints were on the brink of elimination and I had bought back in. After yelling at the TV for fifteen minutes, I was starting to feel like the old me. I was in full “don’t talk to me the Saints are playing” mode again, much to my wife’s chagrin, and the boys were marching in.  Grand Final, here we come.

About now you‘re probably thinking “have a listen to this bloke … bandwagon supporter if ever there was one” but that’s not the case. You see I have suffered for years as a Saints fan and then for reasons unknown managed to neglect them through what was an almost undefeated season. I followed them on the coldest days at Waverly, threw my pocket money in the “Chuck a Buck for the Saints” fundraising tins at Linton Street, and have a signed Weg ’66 premiership poster framed on my wall next to Robert Harvey’s jumper. I didn’t make sense to me or my mates but it’s just the way it was.

Grand Final day rolled around and of all places I was in Adelaide, home of the team that tore my soul out 13 years earlier.  I could have been having dreams – make that nightmares – of Jamie Shanahan being led to the ball by Darren Jarman as our premiership hopes sunk, but the reason I was in Adelaide saved me.  The footy trip.  I was too busy entertaining myself with all that Hindley Street has to offer to think of the ghost of Grand Finals past.

On the big day I watched in earnest as the boys took some chances and wasted plenty of others.  There was a fair bit of back slapping going on, but for me, Tuna and Muddy – the only Saints fans there – it wasn’t enough.  We needed the fat lady to sing. As things went pear shaped and Chappy iced the game I fought the urge to walk out.  I saw it out, watched the Cats get their medals, and then went back to the hotel for some alone time.

It was here that it all started to make sense. I needed the sting of defeat to realise just how much the Saints meant to me.  The week before it was the threat of a loss that lit the flame and it took Grand Final heartbreak to get the passion burning like a bonfire again. Neglecting the Saints and the game in general meant that I missed out on one of the greatest regular seasons in the club’s history.

So where does that leave me? Hungry for 2010 glory. I promise you that I’d much rather be hanging a 2009 Saints premiership poster on the other side of Harves’ jumper than reflecting on the fact that it took at another loss from the Saints on Grand Final day to re-ignite my own personal spark, but sometimes life takes you on some interesting journeys.

Bring on 2010


  1. pauldaffey says

    Great piece, Luke. I love it because it reflects my experience.

    I was angry when Richmond got involved in that stupid recruiting war with Collingwood in 1983 (I suspect I’m a bit older than you). At the same time, I was doing Year 12, and on Saturdays I used to watch one of my best mates play in the seniors at our local footy club, and the Tigers just got crowded out of my life. The next year I started playing senior footy at our local club and that became my life.

    I still love the Tigers, but I miss the mad passion I had for them as an early teenager. If we get to a Prelim and we have a realistic chance (I gave them no hope in 2001), maybe it can come back for me.

  2. Richard Naco says

    Excellent work, Luke. I really love the tales from the heart like this, and especially when presented in so articulate and open manner.

    I would have also thought that a bandwagoneer would have jumped on far earlier in the season (around Round 14, especially) & not sat right through the Grand Final. Your cred’s good with me, mate (but you probably don’t need reassurances from Geelong people right now).

    I think your blokes will be in for a very good 2010, so the fire is lit at exactly the right time.

  3. coachnoodles says

    Yeah mate one can only hope. I called it quits on my own local footy career at the end of last season so i am hoping to get to plenty of Saints games this year at the Dome….not quite the same ring as at Moorabbin is it!

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