Round 16 – St Kilda v Richmond: Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision and Love

Round 16: St Kilda v Richmond
Etihad Stadium
Sunday 19th July 2015, 4.40pm

 

Yvette Wroby

 

On arrival to the ground, I was in need of a walk. A deep feeling of sorrow had possessed me that afternoon. We were here at a football game to raise money for Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision, and I can bet that every person at the ground was touched in a personal way by cancer or illness. We could all relate. We knew what the Riewoldts had suffered. Just counting around my friends and family circle, there were five around me in various stages of cancer. One friend has survived for 20 years. Her daughter Amanda was my guest this afternoon.

I did two laps inside the ground to stretch my legs and settle myself. I was overwhelmed with purple, purple-dyed hair, purple nails, purple hats and scarves, purple wigs, purple #fightlikemaddie t-shirts, purple wigs long and short, purple jumpers, shawls, shoes, make-up and jackets. A sea of purple to show the Riewoldt family we understood and knew, that we wanted to help in big and small ways. There were St Kilda players painting purple nails, there were queues to get t-shirts and shoe laces, which were all sold out on the day. The usual Sainters who volunteer to help with game-day experience were all at work for the purple brigade.

I almost cried walking around, the whole experience of seeing Richmond and St Kilda supporters laughing and joking and joining in the magnificent occasion, all joining in with love and support. It was an amazing sight and feeling.

Once sitting back with my mob, with Amanda and Anthony to my right and my Uncle Bob and Gary to my left, I settled to watch the game, which felt ordinary in light of the bigger events. An hour before, the Port Adelaide v Adelaide match had started, with plenty of emotion swirling around Adelaide Oval as well. Theirs was a tribute match to Phil Walsh, and they had a record crowd of 54,468.

The Saints v Tigers game had a record Etihad crowd too, 45,722 in all. I worked out that if $5 was taken from every ticket, a massive $230,000 was raised from attendance alone. On top of that, there are all the sales and general donations. It was a pretty magnificent effort all around. There was money donated for every goal kicked, a huge cheque for $34,500 presented to the cousins at the end of a tough afternoon and evening.

The game itself was as expected. Richmond are climbing their way up the top eight (post-game 5th), and St Kilda are reasonably placed at 13th, with five wins thus far. The first quarter was even on the scoreboard and error filled. For the first time I got to see how tough Richmond had become, how bullying and strong. This was an enormous change; they were fast and hard players.

I got to see mates play, Goddard kick the ball to McCartin in their first AFL match together, and it was a great pass, probably like the many in their youth. We all watched Weller come of age as a footballer, hard and steady and kicking three goals in the game, three wonderful, energy-driving goals when they were needed most. I got to see too many points scored by the Saints. And how truly skilled Cotchin, Martin, Deledio and Jack Riewoldt are. There was something clicking together in this team, and I was pondering their newfound strength when on the replay later I saw the camera span to Mark Williams and my brain said, yes, that explains it. He’s an assistant and a warrior on their side. Scores were even at two goals each.

In the second quarter, turnovers, inaccuracy and lack of skill killed us. Another good handpass from McCartin to Weller and I saw good signs for the future. But it wasn’t on show tonight. Instead, more of Richmond’s mature stars stood up. Rance was terrific all night, as was Newman, Grimes, Batchelor and Houli. Even their new guys started off well. They got six for the quarter to our two.

The third quarter was no better, for the Saints anyway. As supporters, we would worry every time the ball was kicked backwards, but sometimes it was the best way to change sides and go forward. Finally, some form began to show when a good goal was kicked through Armitage, but it was our only goal. Richmond got five.

Then Maddie must have put a little magic dust into the air. Something possessed our team in the last, with Richmond switching off and Saints goaling through Nick Riewoldt, Savage, Montagna, McCartin (who gets a big hug from his captain and high-fives from his teammates for his first AFL goal), Bruce and finally a last by Weller. It didn’t prove to be a replay of our Doggies comeback, but it made us Saints fans, swathed in purple, get excited for 20 minutes. We never did cut back the 16 points to steal the game.

When the game ended, we all stayed and got sad again, and proud again, and watched as the players all hugged and came together for Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision. It was a moving sight, as it was a moving game. And the purpose, of raising money, continuing into the future, seemed pretty assured. The Saints showed enough to give us hope. The Tigers were roaring aplenty, and their fans were well satisfied, if not a little terrified for 20 minutes, and sang the song proudly and loudly at the end.

The trains at Southern Cross were chaotic as is usual for post-game Sunday nights. There seemed a buoyancy amongst the crowd. Our presence helped tonight. Helped with fund-raising, helped with support of our captain and his cousin, helped with a cause, helped to distract the many affected by all sorts of cancers and other illnesses. Footy once again proved a healing place to be.

Finally, packed like sardines on the train, even after a 30-minute wait, Leslie, 80, sat next to me. She shared her story. She’s a Saint because her daughter Fiona, fell in love with Trevor Barker. (I am hearing that a lot in my travels. Trevor Barker’s presence had a great influence of many a young Saints girl fan at the time.) Fiona stayed loyal to Trevor and St Kilda over the years, involving her Mum and then her daughter Anne, who was standing next to us (or was it Fiona who was the granddaughter and Anne the mother? Must take better notes!). Originally, the family had been South Melbourne Swans supporters, but once they went to Sydney, all but one grandchild (a Pie) followed the Saints.

When their usual reserve seats were changed by the club, and their positions altered, the mistake was acknowledged when Matt Finnis personally rung up to apologise. He’s such a mensch (a good and decent man).

Leslie said they sit with a group of long-time supporters and friends. Her friend Lynn knitted 10 purple scarves and 10 purple beanies for all her friends, and travels to most games all the way from Mooroopna. Lynn loved the Saints because Neil Roberts taught at her school and boarded with her family.

At the end of an emotional night, I am struck yet again by the quality of love for our mighty St Kilda Football Club, and the fierce force which binds us together for better and for worse. In good form and bad. It’s all about love, as was the theme of this game.

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.

Comments

  1. Paddy Grindlay says:

    Brilliant piece as usual, Yvette.
    The atmosphere was unbelievable. Both clubs came together as one to farewell Maddie Riewoldt, and it truly was a beautiful scene.
    Paddy McCartin looks more and more frightening every time he plays, while Mav Weller looks more and more impressive every week.
    Good luck Sainters!

Leave a Comment

*