Round 22 – St Kilda v Sydney Swans: Zebras, Sharks and Saints

Etihad Stadium, Sunday 30th August 2015, 3.20 pm


Sandringham Zebras:

My journey this year has led me to follow so many different football stories, and on Saturday I finally managed to see the Sandringham Zebras, with many of the Saints’ listed players, take on the Casey Scorpions and win by more than 50 points. There were familiar faces on and off the field, and despite the rain and the sleet, it was a great game for those sitting comfortably in the grandstand. The Zebras now finish second on the ladder, and we are all hoping for success when it comes to VFL finals. I remember that the Western Bulldogs’ stand-alone team won the 2014 VFL, and that confidence has translated into their senior team this year. I am hoping for the same for my Saints boys, and for the great Sandy players who give it their all. Ex-Saints players Trent Dennis-Lane and Clint Jones were fabulous on the day, and seeing Ahmed Saad once again take his 23 steps to kicking just made me smile. I smiled more because it annoyed the hell out of the opposition supporters who at least counted them out for me. Other good players for Sandringham were Matthew Kreymborg, Yilber Zijai, captain Adam Cockie and Kenny Ong.

So many of our fine young talent are ticking along. Paddy McCartin managed to kick a goal towards the end, and it was good to see Tom Simpkin, Cameron Shenton, Luke Delaney, Arryn Siposs and especially Lewis Pierce, who did well all afternoon in ruck.

It was good to have a hot dog and chat to people I’ve met travelling with the Saints or at the games, and chat and get footy stories from Cam Shenton’s dad, Chris, and Ameet Bain, the Chief Operating Officer and general counsel of the St Kilda Football Club. To my left sat family of the opposition team. Words of encouragement came from them. Casey played well for the first quarter but were starved of opportunity after that.

Ameet observed that Sandringham Zebras used to be associated with the Hawthorn Football Club and that Casey Scorpions used to be associated with the St Kilda Football Club. Now there is a switch-a-roo for you.

St Kilda Sharks:

Come Saturday night, I am preparing for Sunday’s St Kilda game. Messages between the St Kilda Sharks’ Leesa Cato and myself are flying and I am invited along to the semi-final at Whitten Oval the next day. It means I have to meet them before 10am at the Peanut Farm Oval, for the noon start, but my sleeplessness that night showed me that it would all be too much – going to this game and then the St Kilda match afterwards. It showed me I can’t do it all even with my boundless enthusiasm and the wish to see as much footy as I am invited to. So I settled for getting the “Girls Play Footy” station on the “Tune-In” application and listening to the game live as I wrote up my Sandringham report on Sunday morning.

My bags were all packed and I was being picked up at 2pm by Danielle, Ross and Luke for the St Kilda v Swans game. Now I sat typing listening to the women fighting it out for a preliminary final berth. Melbourne University Mugars had slugged it out last week, winning by a point, and they continued to slug in this game. But they slugged my St Kilda Sharks.

The Mugars were ruthless. Even though St Kilda’s Moana Hope kicked the second goal of the game, her 67th of the year (and her 68th later in the game and hundreds over her career), the game and the Sharks were mugged by the Mugars. I thought of the brave act that saved the game last week but cost the Sharks the fitness of a key player, and thought of Brittany Bonnici, the doer of the brave act, sitting this one out with dreams of playing next week if her team got through. With Hope and also Brianna Davey carrying some injury, it was going to be a tough ask. These were all key senior, experienced players, who will hopefully all be fit and ready to go for next season and another crack.

The Sharks missed opportunities, and the others did, too. Keryn, the Sharks’ President, let me know later that there was a tricky wind at one end of the ground, but the first-quarter attack and accuracy set up the tone of the game and the win for Melbourne University.

The commentators, and the listener, waited for a Shark comeback, as dreamers do.

The Melbourne University Mugars now play Diamond Creek Creekers in a preliminary final while Darebin Falcons continue their incredible form (that I saw in my first game at Peanut Farm Oval) and go straight into the Grand Final, with a week’s break aiding their recovery.

My butt may have been in my kitchen chair in Caulfield, but my heart was with the Sharks at Whitten Oval.

Semi-Final 1

Melbourne University Mugars   4.5.29   5.7.37  6.12.48     9.15.69

St Kilda Sharks                                      1.2.8      1.5.11  3.5.23    4.10.34

Semi-Final 2

Darebin Falcons   3.6.24   5.7.37  7.10.52    8.14.62

Diamond Creek Creekers              0.1.1      3.2.20   5.2.32  5.3.33


St Kilda Saints:

What a day for floggings of teams starting with “St Kilda.” I was picked up and enjoyed the drive in and the parking under Etihad. I have only ever come this way twice, and the first was the first game of the season, when Danielle and her father Martin and 4½-year-old Luke were my guests, and we parked underneath then, too. We lost that game against Greater Western Sydney Giants by 9 points. It had been a great introduction for Luke into St Kilda life. Then, we missed by just “that” much. This time by “thaaaaaat” much.

It was a good thing that we were amongst the faithful, though sometimes I wonder about my extended footy family.

When the first moments of the game came to be, and Adam Goodes played near the members, there erupted a spontaneous, and my guess is an unconscious, “boo.” It was the noise of a few but it sounded bigger. It was so quick and unexpected and scattered that I couldn’t locate and eyeball anyone in particular, but what made it different this time is that people then seemed to self-monitor themselves afterwards. It didn’t happen again until Adam Goodes was awarded what Saints fans thought of as a dubious free, and again, at that time, the crankiest of Saints had another go, as they did to many opposition players and umpires. But it felt very different. It reminded me of the Legends Game and the women’s display match before, and the mutterings of a few that could have led to a rabble callout and having a go at the women, but calmed itself before causing trouble when the observers got engaged in a good game of football in front of them.

At no stage was this a good game of football, with Sydney Swans smacking two quick goals through Lewis Jetta and Jarrad McVeigh before Adam Schneider, in his final game, pleased the crowd with a good goal. That was it. The highlight of the first quarter. Sam Reid and Kurt Tippett (who grew 10 feet tall in this game) got more for the Swans before quarter time.

At that stage, some of the lingering flutters of hope sprinkled the good will of the members. Luke had his treats to keep him happy. Ross, a Carlton supporter, sat beside me and watched the desultory game and his active son on the lap of Danielle. Uncle Bob and Garry on my left knew what was coming. We all did really. I actually expected this against the Geelong Cats last week; the flogging just came a week later than originally thought.

I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t expect the capitulation that we saw in front of us. Nick Riewoldt got one back for the good guys before we got smacked: Mike Pyke, Isaac Heeney (proving to be a star), Heeney, Buddy Franklin, Tippett and Goodes. Brodie Murdoch finished the quarter’s scoring, and we at least had good moments to bookend an otherwise dismal quarter.

I never eat chips at the game. Today I asked Danielle to grab some for me when she and Luke went for a walk. I needed carbs. I needed them badly.

Surely the coach would settle them at half time. Surely not. If we were switched on and ready for a fight and a draw last week against old foes, today felt like we surrendered before we got to the end of the first. It was very unlike most of the games this season. Even when we have been flogged before, there was at least the feeling of a brave resistance movement, a comeback, a challenge. This game had none of that, which was most disappointing.

St Kilda started the third quarter with a nice goal by Schneids. We were going to miss this man, not just his “Schneiderman” interviews with players, but his smarts around the ground. We are secretly hoping that there are behind-the-scenes talks to keep him around as an assistant coach. He has been instrumental in the development of some of the young men out on the ground; we just want that guidance to continue as they develop. His third-quarter goal was our LAST for the game.

Sydney weren’t finished, though. They got five in the third (Reid, Heeney, Goodes, Harry Cunningham and Tom Mitchell) and another five in the last (Mitchell, Heeney, Pyke, Tippett and Goodes). Sydney Swans were flying, just in time for the finals. Franklin was subbed off in the third, not needed as they had nine other goal kickers on the day.

Poor Jason Holmes, a second gamer, was completely outplayed by Pyke and Tippett in the ruck. I am glad his parents saw his first game last week, which was brilliant. His parents came all the way for the USA to watch this game. Welcome to being Saints supporters. Today, he got cheered when he got the ball and kicked it forward. It was probably the highlight of the afternoon and the only things that was cheered other than Schneider.

We all held our breath watching Nick Riewoldt take an unnecessary but very Riewoldt leap for a mark with a pack of players doing the same thing coming towards him. We all sighed with relief when he got up relatively unharmed, but he did run off the ground and his teammates he helped flatten were OK, too.

It was that kind of day.

The best bit was the music of Billy Miller singing “Beside the Seaside,” the old theme song from the Saints until 1965. Fans behind me, older fans, sang along. It was a trip down memory lane for some. Tex Perkins sung a really bluesy version at half time. They were the highlights of the game. And the chips were OK. And the company was great. And the booing stopped.

Both teams lined up for Adam Schneider — who played five seasons with the Swans before his eight with the Saints — to be chaired off. It was a lovely touch.

And there was post-game kick-to-kick and we had a ball. A literal one and the fun one.

So come the siren and the relief that bought us all, we waited for the ground to clear and headed onto the hallowed turf. It ain’t the MCG but it’s hallowed as far as Sainters go.

There were so many people there for a kick. Garry and I stood apart from Luke and a friend who Danielle and Ross spotted in the crowd near us. Their son was a few years older than Luke, and the two young boys kicked it to us two older farts. Garry was great, and as more balls came flying from everywhere, I found that I had chickened out and moved closer and closer to the safety of the fence. Danielle got bopped with a ball to the back of her head. She joined me soon after on the sidelines. I took photos and enjoyed seeing Garry be young again, and the kick-to-kick bringing laughs and enjoyment to a field full of families and young people.

This was where the joy was at. This is where there were both happy Saints and happy Swans. These are the moments I will remember from this year. This is fan engagement at its best. This is what warms the heart. My kicking has improved over the year. In the backyard several days ago with Luke, after making kreplach and chicken soup, I could even kick with my other weaker leg. I have found I am a left footer and can now control the kick. The more I kick, the better I am getting. If I can improve over six months, let’s hope the next six months brings great improvement to our young team.

The crowd could have stayed there for hours. The time was over too soon, and as people dispersed and the ground was once again cleared, it was the home season over for the Saints and another expected flogging next week with an in-form West Coast Eagles in Perth.

Garry went off to the station. Danielle, Ross and Luke drove home. I headed to the Victory Room for the last gathering of the faithful. I have come to enjoy these moments, both here and interstate. Gathering with your own. Post-game catch-ups. Saying hello to all the faces I now know through my travels. Bruce Eva says g’day before he goes up on stage to interview some of the injured young players and stars currently playing with Sandringham.

I say hello to Jason Spinks from Sydney, and laugh with Ree and her Carlton-supporting but ever St Kilda-present husband Jason, from Tasmania. I saw (over the past two days and weeks) some of the lovely ladies I met in Queensland who always welcome me with a smile: Wendy Rode, Gayle Fraser, Suzanne Ferguson and Maria O’Conner, some of the first travelling Saints to share their stories in my travels this year. The happiest four friends who still have grins after defeats like today. There was Michael Egan, the organiser of the Facebook kingdoms of Travelling Saints and The Moorabbin Wing.

I met two new people, the amazing Nina Sundqvist, and the woman “Nadine,” who was interviewed for “Footy Passions,” by John Cash and Joy Damousi, (UNSWPress, 2009).

Nina is our Saints version of the Geelong’s Catman. She has a magnificent, huge red, white and black hat, like the Mad Hatter, with the St Kilda emblem on the front, a knee-length bright red jacket, her scarf, badges and black boots. Her hair is black too, a wig I am to find out later. It covers her long Finnish blonde locks. Her face is painted with red, white and black, in proper actor’s face paint. She is a wonderful picture to behold. She promises me her story, and it is a beauty that will be written up fully in my book.

(She was good to her word too, sending me three pages and eight photos. In the first photo she is with three blokes, all painted up in Collingwood colours and artistically painted. I look at the photo, and I know those blokes. They are my mad cousins, Danny, Ricky and Paul. Their faces were painted by Danny’s wife, Carolina, who is a wonderful artist as well as runs her “Creative Fairies Entertainment” business when she’s not teaching at a school. A busy woman. The world is an amazing place. Now Nina knows their names, too.)

When I met “Nadine,” she told me that her story was already written and so I use the name used in the book, and in fact, I had just read it the last few weeks.

“Nadine’s” story in the book is in the section about fathers and daughters, and tells of her footy connection to her father. The chapter begins, “My father barracked for St Kilda, so I barracked for St Kilda.” In the book, the chapter tells of the close emotional connections between daughters’ football teams and their fathers, how “Nadine” fell in love with the game, being with her father in these special moments, and the story of when she fell in love and married a Collingwood man. What makes her story even more poignant is that her father died at a St Kilda football game.

“The day my dad died, we’d beaten the Western Bulldogs and gone to the top of the ladder, so that was the last thing he knew. He died at Waverly Park after seeing that happen. He couldn’t have died happier … That would have been his script. If you could write your own script, that would have been his.”

When “Nadine” was told of her father’s death that afternoon, she thought: “‘No, he was standing there singing the song when I left him. He was fine, nothing wrong with him.’ Then, afterwards, I found out that they’d gone down to the car and got in the car and they were trying to get out of Waverley. And the car in front turned, and Dad didn’t go, so Mum turned to say, ‘What are you doing?’ and he was dead, like that. He was talking about Robert Harvey when he died.” (p60-69)

“Nadines” story wasn’t told to me that night, and I looked it up once home. It was such a brief conversation, but such a great chance to meet another person with significant St Kilda stories. Another daughter like me who had a footy connection with her Dad. Another father who died suddenly, and too soon.

Raffles were drawn, players were interviewed, and some of us stragglers were pushed out as the staff wanted to go home. Joe from the Cheer squad, ever present at these events, and also a traveller to every game this year, was also there. I saw him again on the bridge over Southern Cross Station as I went past him. We talked of our trips to Perth and the event pre-game next week. The season is nearly done. The boys have one more rough game to get themselves up for.

Even the post-match members’ report from Coach Alan Richardson hit snags, and we didn’t get it in our inboxes until Monday. Trouble recording, apparently.

Richo confirmed what we all knew. There weren’t many positives to come out of the game. There’s a lot of work to do before they head to Perth in just six days. Jason Holmes learnt a few things from more senior ruckmen that would help him into the future. The midfield got taught a lesson. Our old defenders, Sam Fisher and Sean Dempster, were strong, but they were battling way too many entries, and too many mistakes from other players.

It’s OK, Richo. Saints fans are a patient lot. Dreamers. Believers. And crazy people who love to be there for the ride. There is much to sustain us and we will be patient and hopeful. And I’ll see you next week at open training in Perth. After that though, there is still plenty to entertain us. Best and Fairest night at St Kilda. Marngrook Footy Show Grand Final Show. Trade Period. Drafts. Pre-seasons.

It will be 2016 in a flash of an eye, and we’ll all start again.

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. Hi Yvette,

    Your weekend seemed kind of an all footy one. It’s sad that Sharks or Saints were not able to win.

    Good on St Kilda and Sydney players to honour Schneider. I heard that he joined a coach meeting before our last game in Perth. It’s good to hear how he has been doing and his leadership skills will be transformed into an assistant coach.

    Your positive thoughts on our club make me happy and proud of being a St Kilda supporter.

    I enjoyed reading your good writing.

    Go the Saints


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