Round 16 – St Kilda v Richmond: The Sunday Observer

The Sunday Observer
St. Kilda V Richmond (Maddie’s Match)
4.40pm Sunday 19th July
Etihad Stadium
Noel McPhee


Part of my enjoyment going to sporting events these days is observing the crowd, watching people, hearing people’s comments, catching parts of overheard conversations or witty comments.

I’ve started my observations early today because I’ve caught the train to Etihad.  Originally I was hoping to do some reading but the Dad with three young boys has caught my attention.  They are at him with question after question and he does his best to answer them all.  “Why is all that stuff coming out of the pipe?” as we go past the North Geelong woodchip pile.  “Oh that’s woodchips coming out”.  “How come the pile spreads out like that?”  “Are we getting on that train, Dad?”  “What’s all that water?”  Dad says it’s the Werribee River.  “Why is this station called ‘Little River’?”  The elder boy starts reading the V/Line rules: No smoking, No feet on seats,  Bikes allowed with conductor’s permission…   Later in the journey Dad reminds him about putting his feet on the seat.

The boys are dressed in their Tigers’ garb.  By the time we’ve gone through the new stations at Wyndham Vale and Tarneit the train is nearly full and most people have their club colours displayed. Based on this train it looks like it will be a fair crowd.  I’m distracted now looking at the new route to  Southern Cross up through West Werribee and then north until we join up with the Ballarat line.  It feels much further.  Where am I now – going under the Deer Park bypass.

I’m meeting a friend from the other Peninsula.  (Actually we’re not meant to call our Peninsula that any more it’s just The Bellarine).  Last time we went to a game together was the Richmond V Carlton Elimination Final in 2013.  Sounds like he made a good choice as he barracks for Brisbane and thought this match would be a better contest than Melbourne V Brisbane.

There is definitely a fair crowd when we get to the ground and a reasonable smattering of purple as tribute for Maddie’s Match.  David Koch’s radio comments on the way to the station that he views Port Adelaide as not just a football club but similar to a church or community group are relevant when I see people in their purple.  There is a community feel to the game and a sense of purpose beyond a normal match for four points.

The first quarter is mostly a scrappy affair with a few highlights thrown in, including a mark to Jack.  It actually feels like St Kilda should be further ahead than the couple of points.  Nick Reiwoldt looks like he is barely capable of running, his spirit is willing but body is weak.

More crowd-watching at quarter time – the boy a couple of seats down with the ipad playing games intrigues me.  Isn’t the football enough entertainment? He spends the entire match and breaks playing on the ipad and with limited interaction from his parents.  I prefer the Dad on the train’s approach – learning from observing, children looking out windows and exploring what they can see and communicating with them.  There’s so much scope for this at the football – look at the people coming out after a goal to give the players a drink, look how far and fast the boundary umpires have to run, the footy record,…

Richmond play quite well in the second and third quarters and capitalise on some good old-fashioned butchering of the ball by St Kilda.  Perhaps some of it was caused by Richmond’s forward pressure; the rest just seems to be poor skills.  The Tigers’ mid-field seem to have an extra body at most contests so can handball their way out of trouble although they do overuse the ball on occasions and also give the ball away more frequently than you think possible for players who hone their skills three or four days a week.  Brett Deledio is an exception.  I haven’t noticed on TV what a skilful player he is.  For the first three quarters he is clearly the best player.  Whilst Richmond is relentless it is almost a surprise to see how far they are ahead at three quarter time.

A three-quarter time observation has an older Richmond supporter saying “we can’t stop now we need the percentage”.  He surely must be remembering the 1960s and 1970s when Richmond were indeed ruthless.  There’s a contrasting view amongst another Richmond follower that despite the nine goal margin this is still a Richmond team where anything is possible. (Don’t mention Karmichael Hunt, Brock McLean, ninth positions or Chris Judd in that Elimination Final at this juncture).  Thirty five years of mostly mediocrity or worse and I’m including the 1982 Grand Final when unusual selection choices and positioning could have cost the game.  For example Alan Martello and Ian Sartori picked ahead of Brian Taylor and Phil Egan and the choice to go with the 1980 Grand Final recipe of Roach, Cloke and Jess up forward when surely Jess down back and Taylor up forward the better option.

Where is the switch that was flicked at three-quarter time?  St Kilda come out and start playing one touch football with passes hitting targets lace out, creative hand passing through the corridor and accurate goal-kicking all of which were missing for most of the other three quarters.  Brilliant to watch. Nick Riewoldt wills the body to kick a goal and create another.  After 90 seconds the margin is seven goals; a few minutes later it is five and with still half a quarter just four goals.

On the ground there is much finger pointing and hands waving amidst panicking Richmond players kicking direct to St Kilda players through the corridor resulting in goals.  In the stands there is much wringing of hands and heads in hands of panicking Richmond supporters.  “Have they added that last goal to the score; is it four or five goals difference?”  Invoking the Western Bulldogs comeback several times is one of the youngsters behind me “we’re going to win like when we beat Bulldogs”. The Richmond fans nearby know that it is possible.  Eventually some time is wasted off the clock when some Richmond backmen manage to hit targets back and forth across the ground in the back half.  The siren sounds, Richmond have won and banked the four points but it seems a bit hollow.

A final observation sums up a Richmond supporter’s lot: “how could you go to a Richmond final and endure that?”


St. Kilda        2.5   3.8   4.10   10.13 (73)

Richmond    2.3   8.6   13.8   13.11 (89)

St. Kilda: Steven, Gilbert, Weller, Armitage, Montagna
Richmond: Deledio, Lennon, Martin, Riewoldt, Cotchin           

St. Kilda: Weller 3, Dunstan, Armitage, Riewoldt, Savage, Montagna, McCartin, Bruce.
Richmond: Deledio 3, Lennon 3, Riewoldt 2, Vlaustuin, Newman, Maric, Lambert, Grigg.


Umpires: Findlay, Mollison, O’Gorman.


Crowd: 45,722 at Etihad Stadium.


Our votes:  3 Deledio (Rich), 2 Lennon (Rich), 1 Steven (St K)


About Noel McPhee

Noel's background is in statistics including 13 years at the ABS. More recent employment has been at Deakin University and Services Australia. He has worked on every State and Commonwealth election this millennium plus a few Local Government Elections. His weekly article, 'The Stats Bench' appears weekly on the Eastern Football Netball League's website. Noel's legacy as a sportsman is that he tried hard; two cricket fielding trophies, a tennis premiership and boundary umpiring about 80 EFL senior games. He has completed over 35 parkruns in quite slow times in the last three years.


  1. Dave Brown says

    Thanks Noel. As ti the iPad question it depends very much on the age of the child. I pack a veritable fun fair in my bag each week to keep the kids entertained at the footy. Slowly but steadily their attentions are turning to what is happening on and around the ground. Three hours is an eternity to a kid.

  2. I’m not really one to talk Dave – my family say I am attached to my ipad, although I didn’t take it to the footy!

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