Round 17 – Melbourne v St Kilda: Antarctic winds and warm hearts

Melbourne v St Kilda

MCG

Sunday 26th July 2015 3.20 pm

 

The “G”

I don’t know what it’s like for other Sainters, but I find the MCG, in winter, a reminder of dark memories. It isn’t a place where St Kilda Football Club fans have great stories to tell. We can always talk happily about 1966, but all the other dates in my era — ’65, ’71, ‘97’, ‘09, ’10 — just elicit the kind of Antarctic chills that this Sunday provided. Walking on my own, through the cold, I wondered whether one day the “G” would fill me with warm and fuzzy memories, perhaps a smile that lasts a season and beyond. Memories like ’66 and the warmth that one Premiership win gives Saints supporters. I reckon it’s part of what makes us a tough and loyal crowd. This knowledge of a beacon of light and hope: We’ve done it before, we can do it again. And now, we’ve been told on Thursday night last, that Alan Richardson, our wonderful coach, is the man to keep trekking us along what we see as a fine path to glory. It is our first MCG outing for the year and a chance for the young team to get the feel of the place, pick up on some of the old tricks that the “G” can produce.

And today, it produced frigid winds, rainstorms, bright sunlight and shadows, and seagulls. A bit different from our roofed-in home, and it’s good for the boys to experience and learn to play at this ground for the future. The fan numbers showed two things. The sensible people sat away from the fence-line and under the shelter of the stands, therefore leaving the place looking like a ghost town. Secondly, there weren’t that many sensible people who even made it to the game; a grand total of 22,945 was flashed onto the screen during the last quarter.

I came early to the ground, thinking I’d scope out seating options. One option was to sit with the Moorabbin Wingers again and be amongst the warmth of the crazy people. And though I said g’day, it was behind the goal posts near the cheer squad, and we’d decided we’d prefer the second option, to get a better view from above. To be closer to the gods.

Usually, being this early, I would get in a walk around Etihad. But the “G” is such a different stadium. Here, the ground is split, with the MCC Members stand blocking one path and the AFL Members splitting the other. No one can walk around on the inside. Twice I had to go in and out of security to find my way to the fourth level, above the St Kilda cheer squad and to the right, as on the “wing” as I could place us.

As way of compensation, the footy gods sent me a young security man who was manning the AFL gates up on the fourth floor, and he came to me and said, “Go Saints.” He doesn’t get to watch much of the game from his standpoint, but his father and father’s family were Sainters and he has continued the faith. His greeting warmed my otherwise cold self, and we chatted a little before I looked for the best possie. I needn’t have worried. I was a good 1½ hours early and most of this section was deserted. I was the first up there, claimed five seats, and proceeded to use the time to Viber chat with my brother in Massachusetts and my sister Denise (who was listening to the Doggies’ win in the warmth of her home in Parkville) while pacing along the rows. I was determined to get some steps in, to reach my 10,000, so I would be talking and discussing family matters while determinedly stepping. Pacing with purpose. Walking for warmth.

For the first time in memory, I was wearing thermals, long pant ones and one singlet top, and it didn’t seem to make one scrap of difference. I had gloves, my boots (which have kept me warm through blizzards in the USA), my alpaca/possum hat and gloves and long jacket, and my coat and of course my Saints scarf. And I was still cold, until I’d walked 30 minutes. And where we were sitting, up in front of the second screen, there wasn’t wind and there wasn’t rain. Nor sun. I’d chosen the wing without the sun. We didn’t get the glare, but we didn’t get the warmth, either.

I was warmed however by the few other nutcases in my vicinity. I chatted with Sandra and her husband, Ned Kelly. (Yes, really.) Sandra was born into a Saints family who lived in St Kilda, and was part of the Angels group who feed the Saints boys regularly and raise money for memberships for people who can’t afford to come otherwise. I said I had donated some prints of St Kilda players to the Angels for fundraising, and as fate would have it, Sandra had my picture of Stephen Milne up on their bedroom wall (which she emailed to me later). It is funny how the universe connects us. My painting of a happy Milne is framed on her wall with her other Saints treasures. Ned was from Footscray and barracked for the Dogs and North Melbourne before crossing the river to his beloved’s team. He had lived in St Kilda at a time, and liked the team, and now it is formal and he attends with Sandra and enjoys telling everyone his name. Their children and grandchildren are mostly interstate, so there is plenty of time for fanhood.

Uncle Bob and Gary had their own adventure finding me. I mistakenly said Gate 3 instead of 1, and they, like me, had trouble getting to our section. Except a kindly attendant suggested they use the third-floor walkway to avoid going out of the ground. They used this to get most of the way, and when they finally found me, we all discussed the mystery pathway. I’d never heard about it, and no one in my journey today, in and out of the ground, had suggested it to me. Uncle Bob thought it was unlikely he’d ever be able to find it again. A mystery walkway that kept Bob and Gary from the freezing cold winds. I was a bit jealous.

Mimi, my youngest, and her friend, Annaliese, arrived just as the ball was bounced. I’d told them to bring umbrellas and wear their warmest, but it was never enough. Even with my extra warm blanket. And the terrible game before us was even worse than the cold. It turns out that Annaliese’s sister Julia is a trainer/runner for Melbourne. She studies OT in the meanwhile and helps out at some games. She was out in the all the weather, all day.

Game on

The players, way down below, were “in” the weather. Perhaps their frozen hands and legs were the reasons that there were so many errors and points before the first goal by Nathan Jones. The ball bounced from one end to the other, and the new Saints McCartin and Goddard were presenting well and giving contests at their respective ends of the field. Captain courageous Riewoldt was a star when we needed him yet again, presenting to push the ball forward allowing Dunstan to goal our first. Riewoldt then scored his first for the afternoon. The next five kicks were between opposition players, here, you have it, no you have it, and Bob and I are laughing. Savage kicked the next. Saints were tackling like crazy, perhaps their way to keep warm. I get it. Not moving around up here is not helping.

Saints were three goals up at first quarter.

Let’s skip the second, where Dawes and Tyson were able to score (and two behinds), and Saints only managed three behinds. It was dreary football, defensive, hard played, and they gave their all. It was tough out there, on so many levels.

I gave Mimi and Annaliese permission to run away after half time. As they left, the sky opened up and the rains came, drenching the poor, cold players on the field, and any of those mad enough to be sitting out in the open. I’m glad I told the kids to bring rain shelter, and they struggled to the station with flimsy, inefficient umbrellas and missed the best part of the game. If possible, it got colder.

That winning feeling

Come the third, the gods up high, seated right near us at the back of the stadium, decided to give the Saints a little reward for effort. All the strong contests, huge tackles, manic attack, actually started to count towards a win. Captain Magnificent Riewoldt started the ball rolling, 10 minutes in. McCartin was a key to getting it to him. Lonie then got a free from a push in the back, and kicked truly. There were two more Saints misses, but we were always ahead in this game. Webster bravely went up to mark with Dawes and a Saint behind him and was flattened. Courageous contest. Hogan countered for the Demons with a strong goal before we peppered our posts, Riewoldt, then McCartin, some reward for all the effort all day, Dunstan from another Riewoldt assist. Garlett sprayed what looked an easy one in front of goal, only moments later doing magic from an impossible angle. What is it with moments and kicks like that? Finally, Riewoldt kicked a little way in front of him and Newnes managed to slot one through.

The last quarter was another defensive scrap, with goals to Bruce, Gawn and Weller. We were well satisfied, and happy to leave the chilly ground at least victors for the day.

Afterthoughts

Come Sunday night, and more booing of Adam Goodes, and the continuation of the division between people that this whole debate creates, I am left to wonder at why we cannot let things go. The supposed crimes of Adam Goodes are nonsense. His failings are not nearly as severe as the rest of us seem to manage to continue. If we can just stop being horrible to others for a while, remember that we are a football community and support each other and all players, if we can remember the great things that connect us rather than the things that divide us, if we can put ourselves in the others’ shoes for a while and wonder at how things are experienced and felt, and not take up positions and opinions, if we can just shut up and feel the pain or joy that life can bring, we’d be a lot better than we are now behaving.

For my last word, I would like to share an article that Francis Leach retweeted on Twitter:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/30/i-can-tell-you-how-adam-goodes-feels-every-indigenous-person-has-felt-it?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Perhaps we can understand only when it is told by the other who experiences this every day of their lives.

 

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. Terry Towelling says

    Hear, hear as far as your last paragraph is concerned. Whether the booing of Goodes is racially motivated or not, it is nasty and mean-spirited. The people doing it can come up with no better explanation than “He’s a flog”.

    So what if he is? Is he the only person playing footy who fits that description? Are there no people among the booers who fit the description themselves? What’s wrong with saying “Well the bloke is not my cup of tea, but love and let live”. We are all human. We all have our failings. How many of the heroes doing the booing would stand up to that kind of intimidation themselves? Not many.

    In 20 years time, these people are going to look back on this and have to live with the fact that they churlishly booed and jeered a champion player out of the game for reasons that they can’t even articulate properly. Shame on them.

  2. Peter Fuller says

    Yvette,
    I feel your pain in your exposure to the cold. I’ve always maintained that the MCG on a bitterly cold day like last Sunday is the coldest place on earth. I know that is not literally true, as I’ve wintered in Stockholm – lowest temp experienced minus 27, and I’ve also spent a February in north-east USA. I ran in gentle snow in Boston and in Central Park when it was minus 6.
    However my direct opportunity to empathise with you comes with my experience last Sunday, when I umpired on an exposed football ground at Williamstown. The wind chill factor and the added influence of a horizontal rain shower for about twenty minutes. In shorts and a polo shirt, with only a thermal top as added protection, I’d venture that I was as cold as you and your companions high up at the “G”.
    Congratulations on making it to the game and sticking it out, and also on the form your boys are demonstrating.

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