Round 11 – St. Kilda v Melbourne: Joe Frazier’s revenge; Saints win a thrilla but it wasn’t in Manila

by Braham Dabscheck

4.40 PM Sunday 14 June

Etihad Stadium


Here we are. The score is tied at three quarter time. Two teams who have won three and lost seven. Two teams who have been in the bottom third of the table showing signs that they are on the improve. In the first quarter the teams had traded goals with the Saints up by a point at quarter time. The Saints then dominated the first half of the second quarter kicking four in a row. The Demons then kicked two in a hurry. The Saints kicked two more in reply. Then with three minutes to go the Demons slammed on three. The Saints up by a goal at the main break.

The Demons dominated the early stages of the third quarter. They kicked three clutch goals. Things looked bad for the Saints. At the bounce following the Demons’ third goal, ‘Joey’ Montagna (no relation to Joe Frazier at this stage of the game) handballed to Jack Steven who burst forward and kicked a long goal from inside the square. This is not something that he normally does; but more of Jack Steven later. Luke Dunstan took a mark on the flank near the 50, played on immediately for Nick Riewoldt to mark dead in front and put through his fourth for the game. Tim Membrey kicked a point after the siren to tie up the scores at three quarter time.

Now the last quarter. In the early minutes the Demons dominated but couldn’t get the crucial goal. From then on the Saints controlled play but were equally unable to put one through the big sticks. It was as if the Demons had decided to do a Muhammad Ali and ‘rope a dope’; let the Saints attack and attack until they they wore themselves out and land a knock out blow at the end. And it almost worked. Jesse Hogan, who had already scored five goals for the Demons, marked in the forward pocket, but steered his shot wide. Then Jeremy Howe marked strongly and kicked truly from the angle; the Demons up by four points with 41 seconds left on the clock. A sad loss for the Saints was on the cards. The Demons had landed its knock out blow!

Footy, however, is not like boxing. Even if knocked ‘out’, the game is not over to the final siren. And, while there is no evidence to substantiate the following claim, Jack Steven doesn’t follow boxing and hasn’t read Norman Mailer’s The Fight, an enthralling account of ‘The Thrilla in Manila’. Maybe he will in the future. So there are 41 seconds left on the clock. The ball is bounced. Jack Steven grabs it with his back to goal and veers around to the left. He is not what you would call an accomplished kicker on his left side. He heads down forward and kicks it as long as he can with his right foot. He keeps running. Jack Lonie grabs the ball as sweet as a kid grabbing a chocolate and handballs it to Jack Steven who goes left to evade a tackle and screws it toward goal with his left foot; his greatest left footer ever. He effects an off break which evades everyone and bounces into the arms of ‘Joe Frazier’ Montagna running into the goal square who puts it through to wild delirium by Saints fans around the globe (Yoshi will tell us of his unbridled happiness in due course!). The Saints are up by two points, with 19 seconds to go. They hold out with Jack Steven having the last kick of the game. He had three crucial possessions in those unbelievable 41 seconds.

Any side could have won. The key to the Saints’ victory was their tackling; they had 99 for the game, a club record. The injury to Luke Delaney, late in the third quarter didn’t upset the applecart. His absence was easily covered and the Demons only managed one goal for the rest of the game. Substitute Blake Acres strengthened the mid field with 9 possessions. The team had more run. And Nick Riewoldt, despite injuring his knee played a major role in the last quarter with his marking and football smarts. All in all a great game for the Saints and their supporters. It is nice to be on the right end of a close one. Both teams are on the way up and their supporters can look to the future with optimism.


St. Kilda:       3.5   9.6   11.9   12.13 (85)

Melbourne:   3.4   8.6   11.9   12.11 (83)



St. Kilda:   Riewoldt 4, Lonie 2, Membrey, Minchington, Ross, Bruce, Steven, Montagna.

Melbourne: Hogan 5, Toumpas 2, Brayshaw, Garlett, Viney, McDonald, Howe.



St. Kilda: Montagna, Riewoldt, Steven, Dempster, Armitage.

Melbourne: Howe, Vince, Jones, Watts, Toumpas.


Umpires: Chamberlain, Kamolins, Wallace.


Crowd: 24217.


Our Votes: Montagna 3 (St.K), Riewoldt 2 (St.K), Howe 1 (Melb).



  1. DABS: actually saw Smokin’ Joe in action — albeit in two three-rounders, exhibition bouts as they were — in Port Moresby, 1975.
    He and entourage were en route to Manila to contest The Thrilla.
    Couple of big, local Aussies and one large Papuan were involved in the 6 rounds. Joe was magnanimous and didn’t land any of those famous hooks out of nowhere.
    I was the Moresby blow by blow caller for the Nat. B’casting Commission which had taken over from the ABC in the early Seventies as self-government and Independence loomed. Some of the bouts we called for the ABC were taken, via shortwave, by ABC Nth. Qld.
    Joe’s out-of-ring exploits were perhaps even more memorable than the bouts staged at the outdoor Sir Hubert Murray Stadium.
    A line of girls snaked along the corridors leading to his suite in Port Moresby’s biggest hotel, each apparently waiting for their one-on-one time with the Great Man.

  2. Braham Dabscheck says

    Thanks Richard for the background information on the lead up to the fight; both in and out of the ring. If I was sure that Muhammad Ali wasn’t up to the same extra curricular exploits, we would have an alternative explanation to the ‘rope a dope’ strategy.

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