Round 2 – Gold Coast Suns v St Kilda: Unexpected Blessings

AFL Round 2 Gold Coast Suns vs St.Kilda

Metricon Stadium

Saturday 11th April, 7.20pm

Yvette Wroby

 

Part 1. Saints Family

The first blessing was to find I was staying at the same hotel as the St.Kilda players, and finding myself riding on lifts with the boys and the coaches. Saying “hello coach” when Alan Richardson popped in on another floor. He’s my coach too, according to my subconscious. We chatted niceties until reaching the same floor, me to eat, Alan to meet (the group of players and coaches and staff). Travelling in the lifts with the Saints boys happened so often, I contemplated just staying the weekend travelling the elevator.

The second blessing of the day was walking an hour along the beach in Broadbeach to Surfers and back. Magnificent waves, lovely day (stiff legs and slight sunburn later from the long walk), barefoot, waves lapping occasionally as the tide begins to come in and catches me off guard. Later I walk another half an hour, to the Mermaid Beach Surf Club to meet other Sainters at the pre-game function run by the Queensland Saints, an official fan club of the St.Kilda Football Club.

The third blessing is arriving at the same time, me hot and sweaty, as four lovely travelling Saints, Gayle, Wendy, Maria and Susanne, who invite me to sit with them. We are putting faces to Twitter and Facebook people. I am welcomed to this group of friends. Gayle, Wendy and Susanne have been Saints supporters, Moorabbin Wingers, for years. Maria tells me she’s a later arrival, that her daughter encouraged her to go to the footy with her after her divorce, five years ago, and she loved it, and then started meeting the others of the group, becoming fast, true and needed friends. The football gives them all a great big smile on their dials. It has bought friendship and joy. Maria laughs as she tells me her daughter, due to work commitments, no longer goes to games, while Maria and her friends go as much as possible. Her daughter became a Sainter through her friends. Now Maria goes with her friends.

Susanne is Wendy’s sister. Their Pa was one-eyed, and Susanne kept pestering to go, and pestering Wendy to join her, and here now, all the years later, the sisters form an integral part of this group.

Gayle is a Sainter through her father, whose father was Harold Frazer. Harold played for the Saints. There is red, white and black in the blood.

Maria tells me the story of the four of them taking a selfie on the beach, they were looking for a hunky young man to join the photo. They approach one just out of the water, wrapped in a towel, and find themselves with David Armitage. He is happy to share the photo. They are so excited afterwards that when they try and look it up, they have deleted it accidentally.

Susanne tells me another; that she asks Lenny Hayes for a photo with her and her sister Wendy. While they wait for Wendy, Lenny leaves his wallet and keys with her as he goes to get a coffee. Susanne tells me she sits and looks after Lenny’s stuff like it is gold, like a lioness looking after her cubs, proud as punch. This photo they managed to keep.

I introduce myself to the group of Queensland Saints. I get to say hi to Bev and Murray, Chris, Jan, Patti and Jonathan, all members of the committee. Bev is from Tasmania but all the others are Victorian escapees. Bev and Murray are busy with their Presidential duties, while Patti tells me she’s a Saint because her Uncle was Les Foote. She loves her Saints and her group of friends who run the Queensland Saints. Patti even has a Foxtel remote in Saints colours, which I didn’t even know existed.

Jan tells me that she bought a Saints membership over the phone for her grandson when he was 2 hours old, it was the first call she made. She was in New Zealand watching the game when her second grandchild was born. Both of Jan’s parents were St.Kilda supporters, living in Prahran and going to the Junction. She says all her brothers, aunties and uncles and cousins are Sainters.

My lunch of fish and salad arrive, and back in my seat, I meet Nerole, who is part of five generations of St.Kilda supporters. She says in the future she will write a blog about the story behind them all. She told me that she loved it when Saints won, loved the excitement at Moorabbin, and the longer drives where her grandpa would tell stories about the Saints players from the past, some true, Nerole said, and some not. Grandpa’s butcher was Barney Carr, who would shut up shop and then go and play.

Chris introduced the President of the St.Kilda Football Club, Peter Summers. He told us that the upcoming game would be Nick Riewoldt’s 184th as captain, equal 6th all time. It would be Sam Fisher’s 200th and Mav Weller and Luke Delaney’s 50th for the Saints. Some good milestones all round. He said membership is still rising, though it was stalled because we are not playing another home game in Victoria until May. He said members were buying into the Club’s message and accepting where they were at as a team. We have great new sponsors. He told us that is was actually our club who started the push for kick to kick, and that Gillon was a Saints supporter.

I was happy to hear it was NOT our club pushing for Junction Oval tenancy, and that plans were proceeding with the redevelopment of Moorabbin. I was even happier to hear that when Peter sat next to the CEO of Hawthorn, he commented that he rates our young team highly, saying we are strong at getting to the ball, they just have to learn to hang onto it.

Our General Manager of Football Performance, Jamie Cox, also spoke. As an ex-cricketer, he talked about Richie Benaud and his contributions. As our GM, he talked of bringing all the different parts of the Club together, his work is about finding solutions. He believes the Club have a strong understanding of where we were at.

 

Part 2:

“Where we were at” turns out to be a blessing.

While waiting for Russell (or Gus as he has been on the Almanac site) in front of my hotel, I started chatting to another couple wearing THE scarf, and they are Jack Sinclair’s parents waiting for Jack Billings’ family, all ready to go watch their boys play.

Russell, Lucy and their boys Simon and Benjamin, have driven down from Northern NSW where they are staying with a friend, overlooking the ocean, for part of the school holiday. They are seasoned travellers, teaching in Bali and Abu Dhabi and locally, but now changing directions and working as Posties until the next move is sorted. They are happy, gracious people who I feel at home with, despite our age differences. I feel a Nanna again! They pick me up, we park, and we join the throngs going by Metricon Buses to the ground. There is no parking at the stadium, and the city organises heaps of buses throughout the night. It is full of cheerful people, happy, warm, expectant people off to the footy. It is a journey of about 12 minutes to be expelled at the ground, and a short walk later, through security and into our seats. We are amongst Saints supporters, Bella in front recognises me from the pre-game functions and introduces Andy, who had asked our President questions. There’s 8 of them in front, and a young couple behind. I am happy, surrounded by Saints.

The Gold Coast Suns have the pre-game hype happening, and it does remind me of American sports. Lots of fireworks and flag waving and canned encouragement, everything orange. We sing the song as our boys show different colours. They looked pumped.

We are ready to go. The first quarter is even but the Saints are ahead at the siren, a first for a while. The boys look hungry and are tackling with frenzied attention. Saad kicks our first goal, a wonderful welcome back after a scratchy game last week. After two quick goals to the Suns, Dunstan, Riewoldt and Curren all kick goals, with only one punctuation goal from Garry Ablett.

The second quarter, the Saints go marching in, with eight wonderful, beautifully celebrated goals and the match was won and over by half time. The Saints fans were noisy, and stunningly buoyant from this unexpected brand of football. So much for no expectations. Bruce became our new hero with six for the night, Sinclair’s family would have been happy like us for his two, Nick got his captain’s two, and Roberton, Lonie and Saad added more.

In the third quarter, it was pretty quiet, with only a goal to each, and the Suns kicked 5 to our 3 in the final, enough to make us nervous, but the score was never in doubt.

When the siren blew, and the song rung out, we could see and hear the massive Saints supporter roar. Especially the Queensland Saints who were up in the stand, behind us to the right. Their roar was the loudest. We could see them celebrate. It was an unbelievable night, changing both fans and commentators minds about “where the Saints were at.”

Even though Russell is a Saint at heart, being a Queensland family they follow Brisbane during the year. We would be going to that game together in a few weeks too. Simon and Benjamin were caught up in the excitement of the Saints on this night. Next time, they’ll be the “other.”

The St.Kilda boys went to our cheer squad to high five. And when the players were off the ground, the gates were opened and we walked this way to the entrance, dodging flying balls. I came upon all the people I have now met, Michael E, Gayle, Wendy, Maria, Susanne and Nerole, taking a selfie, so I jumped right in and celebrated with them, as you do with new friends.

The bus buzzed with happy supporters, even the Suns seemed OK. So maybe people are just happy in the Queensland night. Taking in all the excitement. Being part of a wonderful game.

Throughout the night texts were raging, Denise in Dublin, Andre and Glenn in the USA, Mum, Bob and Rina in Melbourne, Yoshi in Kyoto. All connected through the fabulous technology and fabulous footy.

Come the next morning, the Saints boys are swimming or finishing breakfast, and when I finish mine, I can see that they are packing their Saints bags into the big bus, and about to go home. I bump into Billings’ family lining up for breakfast, and they were pretty happy, too.

The Suns were eclipsed by the Saints last night and it still feels perfectly warm and fuzzy. As unexpected blessings do.

 

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. Hi Yvette,

    I’m glad to hear that you made new friends, talked to players and St Kilda people and enjoyed the game.

    The game was so great and I wish I could keep up with entire match. It’s sad that it had been supposed to my day off on the game day, but the roster has been changed. I hope I will get a day off on Anzac Day and watch the Wellington game at a pub in Osaka (however it will be only replay).

    Take care and I hope you are having a good week :)

    Yoshi

  2. Good times and new friends Yvette !

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