Ghosts of Seasons Past

There has never been a better distillation of the entirety of a player’s career than Justin Koschitzke last quarter of football. Only Kossie could have managed to send himself off in such a perfectly, unsatisfying way. In a half hour burst Kossie managed to capture everything we as Saints supporters love about the man. On an afternoon where even Ross Lyon joined in the festivities by butchering his side with eleven changes to signal he wasn’t concerned about the result, the stage was aglow with retiring greats.

Here were a trio of St.Kilda players easily summed up by one-worders: Milne-polerising. Blake- Serviceable. Koschitzke- Frustrating.

All are loved by the faithful but for completely different attributes.
When Saints fans look back on Kossie’s career it will be wistfully. So much talent and absolutely no luck. Injuries, followed by form slumps, strung together with unquestioned effort. Kossie had a huge heart, so much so that it was always an ongoing gag that the most fearful players on the park when Kossie was up and about were his team mates. He went at every contest with no fear for his safety and somehow managed to take out a mate with friendly-fire more often than he floored an opponent. It was fascinating to hear him state during his last week in the big time that upon looking back on his career he had come to realise that his biggest challenge was himself. Just when you didn’t believe you could love big Kossie more, he suddenly came across all self-aware.

When he ripped off the subs vest on Saturday it was to produce the perfect ending to his career. With every bloke in red, white and black raising their eyes and looking for the big No.23 it was practically impossible for him the miss out on a last goal for the road. He did get three really great looks, two he sprayed awfully. The third was the moment that made all the Saints faithful smile. Having taking a big contested mark on a classic Kossie lead-up, he settled over the forty metre shot, laid back on the kick and raised two arms skyward as he was mobbed by a team that loves him. The moment was perfect. Kossie, the conqueror, 200 games finally ticked off, life membership assured and a chance for his team mates to celebrate with him. He had his moment in the sun and for once it wasn’t overshadowed by what could have been….

No one knows where the score review came from. No one really understands why it mattered. Freo were playing for time, the match long gone. St.Kilda were in party mode and the ground was standing as one giving Kossie a big O. In a professional era of football-as-commodity, an afternoon of celebration; a chance to have a testimonial in a live game for club greats, has reached a point close to extinction. What Saints’s fans would have given for an opportunity to give Rob Harvey this kind of day. Even Fremantle knew the script. Jason Blake sheepishly stood on his own inside fifty for an entire build-up and was laughing with embarrassment as he took the uncontested grab. He was given his chance to get a standing ovation in a selfless act by the Dockers.

Sadly, the umpires missed their call to let sentiment reign. The score-review came up with the evidence that the ball kissed the post as it travelled through the goals. Boos echoed across the stadium at the outcome, but as Kossie stood hands on hips, mouth-guard in hand, shaking his head at the turf, the obvious context made most Saints smile with rueful delight. What else could be better to describe Kossie’s entire career than this cruel twist of footballing fate? Once again he had given his all and once again he had almost got there, only to be denied by himself. Lord knows if I had been in the same situation I would have given the umpires a spray, thrown that mouth guard so far I would have never seen it again and then sulked in the goal square for the rest of the game. It sums Justin Kositchke up that he shrugged his shoulders, went back to his position and gave another half a dozen efforts, even though he was clearly cooked. It is also instructive that Blake got his shot on goal from a Kossie pass.

Richmond meanwhile, have finals to focus on. Their last match of the regular season for once having little relevance. Regardless of the machinations of who plays who, the final motions of the home and away fixture is always a rather dull affair. No one cares who wins, especially so when it is a side with nothing to play for the following week. Collingwood faced that horror against a North Melbourne side smarting from a Port treachery that placed their season of missed chances in the starkest of light. There is no worse fate on the eve of the post-season campaign than being used as a punching bag for an alsorans frustrations. Where Richmond got lucky was that Essendon had been broken. An exhausting and calamitous scandal (for there is no better description of this saga) finally took the will from this very promising Essendon side. The dismissal of their coach the last shovel of dirt on a twitching corpse of a season. The Bombers were men led to the gallows expecting the whole length of the journey to receive a reprieve. Richmond ended their season playing ghosts and yet still the Essendon faithful showed up.

Strangely, there is more in common with St.Kilda and Essendon’s final hit outs for 2013 than there is distance. Both sets of supporters were reaching out to the ghosts of success that have passed too soon. The Saints said goodbye to three of the crusaders that searched for the Holiest Grail but alas found no peace. The Essendon faithful can find no peace either. The team has come of age and is ready to make that journey but the cloud of impropriety has robbed them of valuable experience in the finals. Richmond have all that in front of them and it is the envy of both of these ghost hunting supporters.

Seasons of success pass far too quickly, a blur of looking towards the next week, the next month, the finals. Seasons in purgatory, losses piling up and hope lost by mid-season, outstay their welcome. This was always going to be a difficult season for the Saints but as the curtain falls there is nothing but sweet relief. It was actually worse than imagined, a fall from grace so complete that next season suddenly has no expectations upon it at all. Richmond simply need to enjoy this ride while they can, it passes into memory far too briskly.


  1. Richmond fans know all-too-well that these opportunites come along far too rarely. Enjoying the moment is something we will surely do!

  2. Of all the finalists, it is the Tigers who will be feeling the worst right now…
    It won’t surprise me if they lose.

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