Life after Lenny

My life as a St. Kilda supporter has been a series of good-byes. Of coming to terms with loss. Not just literally as in all those grand finals, and some demoralising losses to Hawthorn at Waverley in the 90’s, and the recent record breaker at the MCG. These things certainly hurt, but there’s something more existential at work: an almost mystical set of encounters with the St. Kilda Football Club that have shaped my life in no insignificant way.

 

Loss No. 1: Trevor Barker

In the late ‘70s, someone decided Trevor Barker could write a column as part of the kid’s page Corinella, which was published every Saturday in the Herald Sun. At the age of 13, I followed this column with a passion that could only be defined as ‘pre-stalker’. This culminated in a love letter sent c/o Corinella in which I wrote amongst other things, “I cry when your eyes are bruised like violets on the football field’”. Considering the St. Kilda Schoolgirl saga yet to come, there but for the grace of God go I.

Unfazed, Trevor cheerfully thanked “Megan of Burwood for her great letter”. That sealed it. I was a good Catholic middle class girl, in lust with a brutal game that completely marginalised women: and I was caught up in a way that would set a complex standard for my future relationships with men. Happily, I didn’t know then that footy players could be accused of things like rape, racism or setting fire to post-season entertainers.

When Trevor died of cancer aged 39 in ‘96, it wasn’t just a shock. It confirmed something I had sort of suspected: people who shine so brazenly, so brightly, so uniquely don’t last the distance.  From that point on, I was on the watch for things connected to my footy team – and therefore me – to go wrong.

 

Loss No. 2:  The Club Lets Me Down

The Grand Final of 1997.  Given St. Kilda’s history of, well… losing, I had an outwardly pessimistic view of ‘our’ chances in this Grand Final. None the less, as my husband and I were living in a double story Victorian Terrace on Punt Road at the corner of Brunton Avenue – facing the MGC and the Punt Road oval (yes, that’s right gentlemen, right next to the very famous brothel), we invited the club to hang a celebratory banner from our balcony. We were hoping they’d give us two free tickets to the GF as a thank you – in fact, we were sort of expecting it.  The St. Kilda Marketing Manager was very keen and said she’d get back to us if they wanted to take up our offer.  No phone call. The banner went up one day when we were at work. – it was just there when we got home. We waited for our  tickets or even a letter of thanks. Neither came.

After the loss, it took the club weeks to take the banner down: this giant piece of plastic hanging off our house, heralding footy humiliation in the most public way.

 

Loss No. 3: Mum Lets Me Down

2002 was the year my Mum – mother of four girls, and obsessive supporter of the St. Kilda Football Club – turned 60. In fact, her passion is miles higher up the zealous ladder than mine which is saying something.

We planned a big party for her milestone, about which she was mildly anxious, i.e., not exactly thrilled about qualifying for a pension. My sisters all made huge contributions to the party planning, but I had an ace up my sleeve. A contact in PR at St. Kilda organized for my Dad and me to rock up to training at Moorabbin and film a few players wishing Mum a happy birthday.  Unbelievably, as Dad and I stood waiting on the frosty oval, out came – not just any players, but Mum’s heroes at the time: Max Hudghton and Aaron Hamill, Justin Koschitzke and Nathan Burke – even ‘Harves’ made an appearance. All with a personal birthday message for her.

The night of the party. Speeches are made and Mum’s looking happy. Then, we put the video on. The first super comes up: “A birthday message for Lyndall from her sons”. Everyone’s looking bemused, especially Mum who’s standing a long way from the video screen. Then she clicks. She screams like a banshee and rushes to the screen, crying and squealing with joy and generally losing a grip on reality.

I thought she’d be pleased, but this was ridiculous. The rest of the night was all talk about her ‘sons’.

A miscalculation on my part.

 

Loss No. 4: Nick Lets Me Down – Twice

My footytipping.com.au pseudonym is ‘Megan Loves Nick’ as in Nick Riewoldt. My nine year old daughter says it’s seriously embarrassing for her 48 year old mum to have a tag like that. I agree. But I admired Nick more than any other player in the history of the Saints, until two things happened which diluted the love quite a bit:

First: In 2008, he taunts Essendon’s Andrew Lovett about ‘bashing his missus’. Given my hero’s squeaky clean image, here was cognitive dissonance. As Lovett eventually brought his own brand of rot into the club, here was also more evidence of St. Kilda’s predestination as the Hamlet of the code, i.e., a self-harming mad hatter.

Second: He was a real pussy in the two losing Grand Final matches against Collingwood. I’m sorry to have to say it, but I was there – with a good view both times – and I saw it. Nerves set in; he vomits before games, but come on, this was the big one (s).

 

Loss No. 5 – Lenny 2014

Why does Lenny Hayes rate so highly on the ‘players from other clubs you love to love’ scale? Is it his fearlessness in putting his head over the ball for 15 years? Is it his selflessness? Is it his ‘never complain, don’t explain’ attitude synonymous with his brand of football?  Was it the scenes of Geelong triumph juxtaposed with an inconsolably heartbroken Lenny Hayes in the aftermath of the 2009 Grand Final? Having left everything on the field in not one, but (technically) three Grand Final losses, ‘pussy’ is not something you’d say about Lenny Hayes unless you’re spoiling for a reaction. He almost literally busted his heart out in the drawn Grand Final with Collingwood and although his efforts were recognised with the Norm Smith medal,  he’s never truly been the same since for mine.

 

Okay, so Lenny was a bit too fond of applying the old elbow from time to time for my liking, but all in all, he’s the antidote to loserville. I will miss him and I’m truly gutted that he’s walking away without a Premiership.

Having said that, as I’ve finally faced up to life without a Premiership, then surely Lenny can.

And it wouldn’t be a St. Kilda story if it had a happy ending.

About Megan Sloley

A St Kilda fan since 1978, Megan lives in Richmond with her husband, Steve and daughter Emily. Megan tried to bring nine year old Emily into the Saints fold, but she chose Collingwood. It could be worse, but not much.

Comments

  1. There was a brothel on the corner of Brunton Ave and Punt Rd?

    All those close-fought Essendon wins I could have *ahem* ‘celebrated’!!!!!

  2. George LILLEY says

    great article Megan

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good amusing read , Megan loved the part re your mum , thought you were a tad harsh on , Lenny ( disgraceful re the banner part by the saints there v lucky you have stuck with them ) thank you

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