Round 13 – St Kilda v Western Bulldogs: Arm Wrestling with Siblings


St Kilda v Western Bulldogs
Etihad Stadium
Saturday 27th June, 2015 7.20pm



My football landscape changes weekly. Just last year, I had my regular mob — Uncle Bob, cousin Gary, Rina, Amanda and I — make up our little section. Amanda’s had a baby, Rina spends her time caring for her ill mother, and I have been inviting friends to join me. I contemplated all this as I stood on my own at Caulfield Station, how the journey has changed. How I often start off on my own and meet others at the ground.

On the platform, I started to talk to another lady who did just that, too. Joan was a longtime Doggie supporter, heading to the same destination but barracking for the opposition. She was meeting up with her daughter and granddaughter, and two friends she’s known for years. Joan, probably in her 70’s, told me her father used to go to the races every Saturday, and her mother would take their six young children to the football, walking from their home off Geelong road to the Western Oval. Joan talked about the lovely Collingwood young man her granddaughter was dating, as if she was surprised that a Collingwood supporter could be as sweet as this.

Many years ago, Joan started going on her own to the Western Oval, and there met life-long friends Leone and Helen. We talked of the changing nature of “who you go to the footy with.”

We walked all the way to the ground together, up to gate 3 where I went through and she waited for family and friends. I went searching for the Michael E and the Moorabbin Wing mob. He’d organised tickets for the next game, to sit all together, a Moorabbin Wing spectacular next to the cheer squad for the away game against Essendon. Except when I found Michael E and the other Wingers eating dinner in the Victory Room, he’d forgotten my tickets upstairs at his seats. (They were home delivered on Sunday.)

Undeterred, I just chatted. I met Lauren whom I had seen up when Uncle Bob, Gary and I had our first Moorabbin Wing experience, when we happily played the Bulldogs. Lauren sits with her parents Graeme and Alana, and Graeme’s grandfather was Saints player Horace “Harry” Hattam (1910-15, 84 games including the 1913 Grand Final). The choice of team was never the question. Lauren said her father started coming with his aunty many moons ago, and then Graeme and Lauren came together from the mid-’90s. Sitting by themselves all those years felt a little lonely; they noticed the Moorabbin Wing conductors Steve and Ben, joined the group and got reserved seats. Alana, on the other hand, was not a regular until recently. Originally an Essendon supporter who lived there as a young girl, she was never a fervent football follower. But recent work changes were the catalyst, and Graeme was away, so she joined Lauren and it’s been like that ever since.

What I particularly loved about the story was the chosen path of Lauren’s children’s football life. Her husband Mark gifted the firstborn son (now 4 years old) to be a Sainter, and the next little one (less than a year old) is a Blue boy like his father. After the birth of the mini-Saint, Dad was so grateful all was well that he rushed out to get everything baby-St Kilda decorated he could find.

Lauren reported the story that her 4-year-old recently said sweetly to his father, “When I grow up, I will be a Blue Boy like you, Dad,” but Mark said, “No, you are forever a Saint.” I am sure Mark means to be kind, and let’s hope little Saint gets to see some success for his team in the near future. On this night, Lauren was out enjoying the football and having a respite from busy family life. What a civilised way for parents to divide up football loyalties, and football lives, for now.

As I was leaving the feasting Moorabbin Wingers, I was given flyers to hand out in my area. The Wingers are going purple crazy for the Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision round in the match against Richmond. They had produced leaflets that they now wanted spread as far as possible. I took a bunch, and when I got back to my area, off I went, meeting the other early birds and having a chat. I met Kathy G, who introduced herself and said she loved my writing. We follow each other on Twitter. Another mad Sainter. Another face to a name.

And then, after being handed a flyer, Hilary approached me. She lives in my Mum’s retirement village. (Weeks ago she’d seen me walking near the shops around the corner from the village, seen my Saints scarf which is usually on my neck, and chatted then and there). I didn’t immediately recognise her in a different place, at the footy. With the flyer of Maddie in hand, she told me of her grand-daughter Jessica, who died of a melanoma in November 2013. Hilary said Jessica also loved purple, and her place of work, Darebin Council, and her boss, asked Peter, Jessica’s dad, whether they could have a service in Darebin Gardens. There were marquees, and 500 people there. Jessica had been the 96th applicant for the job, and even though she was late to the interview through unforeseen circumstance, they had seen something incredibly special about her that got her the job. At the service, the Boss said, “Everyone should have a Jessica in the family.” The Council have placed a 5-seat purple chair in Darebin Gardens for this St Kilda member and supporter who always had a number 12 on her back.

I have found in my journey that people love to tell me their stories, both happy and sad.

I was glad at this point that I had almost finished giving out flyers and I could wait to get the ticket to Rina, who was joining me for a game for the first time in almost a year, and being together at the footy every game is now a memory. It was so good to have her back. Denise was spending the first half of the game with her Doggie-in-law family up on the third tier and joined us at half time.

Uncle Bob and Gary, Rina and I watched the scrappiest, defensive, mistake-ridden first two quarters with some disbelief. After the running and attacking football of both these teams the last meeting out, they both pulled back the dragon. On top of the defensive nature, it was error-riddled. There was only a goal each (Bontempelli and Bruce) and so many behinds in the first quarter. Had either team kicked more accurately, it would have been so different. Our kicking in front of goals was terrible all night. Second quarter was equally low scoring, a goal to Johannisen, one to Minchington, a second goal to the Saints via Weller before Grant grabbed one back. There was three points in it at half time when Denise came down to join us. Dogs were in front.

“I’ll go sit down with my sister, and I bet we start winning then,” she’d said to her in-laws. It’s the last time I’m inviting her to sit amongst the mad Sainters downstairs. (Not really, but it’s fun writing it anyway.) Denise is very subtle; the only Bulldogs gear is a knitted Mobius scarf (it is a knitted circle with a half twist that is often used to crochet a scarf, cowl, shawl or wrap, she says) around her neck and the small quiet fist pumps and elbow jabs into my ribs when the Doggies did well.

Come the third quarter, the Doggies picked up the attack after Bruce kicked the first Saints goal. Boyd, Dickson, Picken and Dale all had a party at our expense, four terrific goals that bought a silence to the Wing. The Western Bulldogs supporters were up and about. Our super captain Riewoldt steadied the ship in the last moments with a goal. The Doggies were 10 points ahead at the last change.

The Doggie family upstairs texted Denise, “Sitting with Yvette has done the trick.”

Come the last, inaccuracy killed us as it had all night. Plus all the kicking to the opposition in front of their goals. Not just in this quarter but all through the game. We handed the ball back on a silver platter. Here Doggies, have this gift, this offering, this game. (Our coach later said, “It’s very hard to defend when you kick it straight to them.”)

Denise’s groans every now and again were signs that the Doggies too had moments of woeful playing. But watching the game, I remembered why I’d been so ambivalent about Gilbert’s return to the team. He is so fabulous at marking and getting the ball, but I saw four of his disposals end up as  Western Bulldogs goals. Others did it, too. It was infectious.

The Doggies kicked their two goals (through Stevens and Webb), meaning they had no multiple goal kickers in this game. For the Saints, Riewoldt and then Bruce kicked our final majors. We attacked so hard in the last 10 minutes that it looked like another fabulous comeback, but we were just not good enough or accurate enough or tough enough to take the cake. There were three missed opportunities. In the end, it was a 6-point game, and both sets of fans, chewing on their fingernails, contemplated a draw.

The Doggies got the chocolates on this night, a fair revenge for the stolen game last time the teams met. The siblings had won, both on and off the field. Denise was happy. Joan was happy.

With Denise coming back to stay the night at mine, we headed home. On the train to Richmond, we met someone I hadn’t seen since last year. Jenn and Scott, a brother-sister Saints team, had come across my football exhibition in Caulfield in early 2013. We’d seen each other at the footy since, but not for ages.

Scott was on our train, and we all chatted about the game and life until Richmond, and as fate would have it, life answered my question about the Essendon game. Jenn and Scott will join me at the match, sitting with the Moorabbin Wingers, next Sunday afternoon. I asked the universe a question, and it kindly answered back. I wonder when I can start asking for another crack at a Premiership with a successful outcome.

About Yvette Wroby

Yvette Wroby writes, cartoons, paints through life and gets most pleasure when it's about football, and more specifically the Saints. Believes in following dreams and having a go.


  1. Peter Fuller says

    Thank you for another beautiful human interest version of a day (night) at the footy. Your reference to Hilary’s grand-daughter Jessica had my eyes glistening.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Yvette. Isn’t it fantastic talking to people at the footy! Really liking A.Richardson’s work at the Saints, was a big fan of him as a player.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Yvette as always love your passion and community spirit

  4. Another great read Yvette xx

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