I take thee, Sainter

Round One Bye
David Downer


The council paddock behind our Glen Waverley childhood home staged some fierce after-school battles. Kick to kick. Then fight. Then squeal to Mum. Generally in that order.

I was Tony Lockett. My brother Chris, he was Tony Lockett too. In reality, Chris’ kicking gait was more circa-1980s Stewie Loewe. I was more Jayson Daniels, circa his whole career.

The Victoria Police Academy formed the impressive visual backdrop to these epic encounters.  Its spire an imposing landmark high atop the Waverley Road summit.

Two decades on, it’s Friday night of Round One. We find ourselves not at the MCG cheering on our Saints, but inside that imposing spire. The academy chapel plays host to Chris’ wedding to his sweetheart Lauren, a member of the force.

A mutual love of St Kilda is responsible. Ironically it’s what keeps us from tonight’s game. More was gained than just four points and a healthy percentage boost when St Kilda belted Richmond early in 2005. Pre-match, Chris and Lauren first met inside Dockland’s ill-fated Cougar Bar. On the surface, a Hooters-type watering hole appeared a dubious venue for young love to flourish. Perhaps their mothballed red, white and black scarves portrayed compelling evidence of future loyalty and commitment.

From my groomsman’s vantage point, I scan the crowd from the altar. It’s definitely a Sainter wedding. Collectively, both sides of the aisle have seen it all.

Killigrew’s hot gospels. Ditterich’s debut. Breen’s point. Keddie’s last quarter. The toe-poke. Baldock. Barker. Harvey. Linton Street. Goddard’s mark. “Saints footy”. Everything in between.

St Kilda are the fabric binding much of the congregation here. The Saints always lead the conversation, whether the setting be birthday, reunion, Christmas morning, or wedding. It’s a comforting ice-breaker at funerals.

My parents are in the front row. Dad grew up in Windsor alongside the Junction Oval. Dad’s Saintly devotion was not restricted to just football. He opened the bowling for the St Kilda second XI, and helped found the St Kilda Basketball Club that won the first NBL title.

A North Ballarat girl, the heart of St Kilda’s old recruiting zone, Mum is a Saint by default. She mightn’t quite know her Robert Elphinstone from her Robert Eddy, but loves the Saints, because “her boys” love the Saints.

Dad’s long-time St Kilda cohorts, our “uncles”, sit behind him. Over many a quiet beer, they’ve been rejoicing, pontificating and moaning about the Saints, more so the latter, for nearly sixty years.

Further back is my father-in-law Gerard, Sandringham Football Club President. The Saints became VFL-aligned with the Zebras not long after I proposed to my wife Brooke. I like to think I influenced this outcome. I didn’t.

The mother of the bride Karen leads the St Kilda charge on the other flank. Each Saints game an intense personal experience to either shatter or kick-start the week ahead. Unlike last year’s Grand Final replay, today Karen sheds tears of joy as Lauren glides majestically down the aisle.

And the bride herself, as recounted in the groom’s speech later, once stole a nightclub kiss from a young Lenny Hayes in the era BC (Before Chris). As per most Saints tragics in the room, Chris was more jealous of Lauren than Lenny.

Keen-of-eye Sainters note the bridal dance selection also. You Are The Best Thing by the raspy Ray LaMontagne. It sounds suspiciously more like a Farren Ray/Leigh Montagna duet.

Just as the vows are being exchanged, a burst of brilliant red light streams through the stain-glass chapel windows. The bride and groom’s traditional black and white clobber are injected with the missing third hue. The timely red illumination is decreed the work of St.Trevor of Cheltenham. Or maybe St.Darrel of Devonport. They clearly approve of the occasion.

The newlyweds have pledged their love to each other, just as we will keep loving the Saints.

We take them in rebuild, and in topping up. In Moorabbin, and in Seaford.

And we take them in premiership (singular), and in wooden spoon (plural).

Til death do us part.


  1. John Butler says


    It wouldn’t be a Saints story if a few tears weren’t thrown in.

    Did the groom sport a blond rinse?

  2. JB – more importantly when they left the chapel was it in a paddy wagon?

  3. Somebody should option this for TropFest – or preferably, a short film festival that doesn’t involve John Polson – the wedding scene shot is a ripper!

  4. Perhaps we should all write a scene and executive produce the movie. Following the ‘People’s Horse’ principles espoused in JTH’s book. (Pardon begged, I read the book 10+ years ago and think it may have been appropriated by a thieving Geelong supporter…)

    DD, good to see you back!

    Fighting a tough last year abroad, compounded by the Falcons first loss since the GF 2 seasons ago, I needed a lift. Cockles of heart warmed!

  5. Wow! Very well-written. Congratulations to the bride and groom.

    Go Saints!

  6. DD, were you half way up the spire holding the red cellophane towards the west? (We should have a fatter book. This is such a Melbourne piece. It drips with fair dinkum Melbourne-ness. Classic.)

  7. DD, don’t know whether you have seen Spotswood. Speaking of fair dinkum Melbourne-ness there are some moments of the purist obseravtion in it: a kid chasing another kid saying, “I’m on ya, I’m on ya.” Slot car racing. Blokes looking under car bonnets.

    Have you read Matt Hardy’s book? I think it is masterful observation in one sense, but then again just sheer good fortune that he lived it, and hence it has what Les Murray calls quiddity. Whatever, it is a terrific telling of the tale of a suburban Saints fan.

  8. Love is in the air….

    Beautiful piece.

  9. David Downer says

    Thanks for all the comments guys.

    JB, with a nod to StK stereotypes my brother and I both sported blonde rinses of various degrees at various times. He still has the quoff to enable it an option, I am of course now struggling in this regard.

    Litza, Gus – you’ve struck some chords here. The Almanac movie house! Many worthy vignettes floating around on this website – not least you’re last piece Litza, five of them! …plus ajc’s Ainsworth story, beautiful.

    JTH – you’ll recall that horrendously inclement Round One Friday night Geel v StK. The temporary red illumination could not have been stage-managed any better if I was up the spire with the cellophane! No mayonnaise required here, it bloody well happened! Sweet sacramental timing.

    I have seen Spotswood with Anthony Hopkins, they played it to us in Year 10 Economics. Very under-rated film. Loved it.

    Funny you mention Matt Hardy. I know Matt and keep bumping into him from time-to-time (including at Lords on our honeymoon, fair to say he was taken aback!). His tales in Saturday Afternoon Fever struck an extra chord as, apart from the obvious Saints musings, remarkably Matt grew up literally two streets away from us. All his local Glen/Mount Waverley references resonated personally. Bloody small world indeed.

  10. DD – meant to ask. Who organised a wedding for the evening of round 1? Unbelievable.

  11. Love your work.

  12. David Downer says

    Dips, we were all bit a stiff on this one – but judging by the weather, quality and result of that game, perhaps not that stiff (despite the continual mantra from Catters that it was a “gooood win”).
    The wedding date was locked away long before the fixture release. And as we couldn’t recall St Kilda ever playing a Friday nighter in Round One, it was presumed to be a safe bet.
    The final score trickled through just as my brother rose to make the groom’s speech. I debated whether to tell him the final score.
    I told him.

  13. ouch

  14. Skip of Skipton says

    I once lived in Spotswood. In Hope St. a few doors down from where Toni Collette’s character lived. Opposite the Pub on the train line. It was like the film suggested. Even into the ’90s. Once the gentrification and yuppification came, it started to lose it. It officially lost its soul when the TAB in Hudson Rd closed.

  15. Richard Naco says

    Isn’t it an interesting quirk of fate that the son of the bloke who scored that winning basket at the very end of St Kilda’s triumph in the NBL (and his StKBC star player/ wife) was announced today as joining the Cats?

    Is this that evolution thing that Mr Darwin was on about?


  16. Weddings are the one thing that must be planned in minute detail. Mine own was a failure/success in that while the wedding was mid week, early am beach scene (and perfect, even down to tuna jumping out to sea as the vows were concluded), the reception was on GF day a few days later.

    The feed was a bit late, leaving the ‘speeches’ a bit squeezed for time before the bounce. This was a failure in that I had actually prepared a cracker and a success in that I managed to thank all and sundry, sneak in an explanation of the ‘alternative’ wedding cake, (it was a passionfruit snow cake that my recently passed away Grandmother would make on occasion) and be downstairs to watch the Lions win the first of their 3 in row. This moment has been voted by my close friends as the shortest amount of talking I have ever done, in fact the only time I have not used all of the available time.

    The biggest win though is that no matter how, ahem, tired and emotional I get, at some point on GF day, enough brain cells rub together to create the thought that there is something else important about the day. In 10 years of marraige. I have been the first to remember our anniversary each time…

  17. Great piece, DD. The Cat fans ALMOST managed to keep a respectful distance.

  18. Hi DD, wonderful piece. Got me thinking about a few extra books that can be published by Malarky publications: Saints stories and memories is a good start. Titles: “Well, you just have to laugh, don’t you”, or “I’m a Believer”, “Stories while we are waiting” or “Are we There Yet”. We suffer greatly in the silverware department, but we tell some great stories with tragedy, comedy, memory, humour and wit and a great deal of passion and pain. Your descriptons were wonderful. I grew up a Springvale girl, and I know the area well. Once of the first alternatve shopping centres up that way (ie alternate to Chadstone, still the mecca to that area).

    I have found I have to check the Almanac daily, or I miss some brilliant stuff!

    Have a wonderful Christmas and New year all in case I forget to say it closer to the time. (Happy Chanukkah as well).

    Love this world of ours


  19. David Downer says

    Richard – good get, despite tenuous Geelong link to which MOC refers! Your reference to that NBL GF did strike the curious trivia fires within. Apart from helping found the club, Dad was St Kilda’s team manager for those first two NBL winning titles. After refreshing his memory (and checking the team-lists on his ’79/80 Premiership bottle of Old Tawny Port!), he insists that moustachioed Saints legend Andy Blicavs was not actually part of those championship sides – he was injured those years – confirmed via tweet with your new Cats recruit last night! (a good kid). If Mark can indeed make a career out of footy after not having played for 6 years (and maybe post being an Olympian to boot), S.Wells really deserves that bronze statue at KP.
    Gus – wowee, I imagine you were probably the keenest footy fan at your own wedding reception – despite the social faux pas of GF day scheduling. But as you mention, your future anniversary reminder trigger a stroke of sheer genius.

    Thanks for the kind words Yvette. Next time we must discuss more of those south-eastern rain-belt suburban references.

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