Round 3 – St Kilda v Collingwood: Forty-nine years

MCG, Saturday 9th April 2016, 1.45pm

In 1966 the Saints won their one and only Premiership. I was probably always a supporter but started attending the year after. The 50th-year anniversary commemorative game on this day reminds me of the years that have gone by. Even though I have not been an active Saints supporter for each of those years, I have been a follower in the sense that I was always a St Kilda girl. I was there for 1971, 2009 and 2010 and watched 1997 on TV. I started being a supporter in the afterglow of ‘66 and have been looking for the warmth ever since.

I have found the warmth going with my Uncle Bob and Gary, with Mum and Rachel, and then with Rina and other friends when she couldn’t come. I found warmth in the winning streak of ’09, of the effort of 2010 to make it there again, and in watching my Saints when I can. I have developed and continued to find good things about my Saints while writing for the Almanac for the past 5 years. I have flourished in meeting wonderful Saints people, culminating in a terrific adventure to every Saints game in 2015. The people I have met, and the stories they have told me, have been amazing. And there were some who I didn’t quite get their story to fit into my book.

I learned, via my new networks, that one of the Saints community, linked to so many I have got to know, Tom G died suddenly this week, leaving many family and friends devastated.

So it was with some trepidation (playing an upbeat Pies outfit) and a heavy heart, that my guest Amanda (a Saint) and her man Anthony (a Pie) and I headed to the G. At Caulfield Station, I saw a Facebook friend whom I have never talked to in person. I recognised him from photos.

Dave, donned in Saints gear, with a standout grey moustache and goatee and radiant smile, is also known as “the Jiggling Saint” or the “Jiggster,” was a good friend of our lost Sainter, and we talked on the packed platform and train about life’s twists and turns. Originally from England, and then New Zealand, Dave came to Melbourne in 1990. Dave told me on his first day of work “he met a tiny little man named Les Griffith.” Les became his mentor and good mate, and was a loyal St Kilda man. “His nickname was ‘nipper’, he was small in physical stature but had the heart of a lion.” Dave filled me in from Caulfield to Richmond, saying Les went to the footy in the early ’90s with the Saints being belted every week. But Les had Tony Lockett, and because of that the “s— that was heaped on him” at work became more bearable.

Les would just roll his smoke and take the ribbing on the chin. “He smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish, and took getting cancer the same way as supporting the Saints.” He just took it. He was very ill in 1991 and “faced the challenge in the same way he barracked for the Saints: never asking for sympathy, and battling it out to the bitter end.”

At Les’s funeral, Dave was in awe as Stewart Loewe and Nathan Burke, and so many others from the St Kilda Football Club, turned up to pay their respects. “If the Club does that for one of their own,” he said, “that’s the club for me.” Dave said Tom G, who passed yesterday, was made of the same stuff. He said he lost Les as a mate 25 years ago, and now he has lost another. Dave went to meet many other Sainters at the bar before the game and had a drink to them both. (I heard him on SEN on Monday morning paying tribute to Tom G and to the Saints, and Dave certainly carried on the passion he first saw in Les.)

Parting for different gates, we found Uncle Bob and Gary, and settled on Level 1. In the pocket, Saints cheer squad to our left down below, we felt right at home in padded seats with a great view, surrounded by our supporters everywhere we turned. It was a membership section with a few interlopers like Anthony. In front, we found sister and brother, Almanacker Jenn and Scot. We were surrounded by love and St Kilda.

We needed love when the Pies kicked two quick goals in the first few minutes, and felt relieved when our boys kicked two in reply. At no point after this did the Pies lead on the day. It was a goalfest, and although the Pies worried us and caught up at times, St Kilda dominated this game with speedy forward thrusts, handballing over opposition, only kicking backwards to advantage and getting out free on the other side, accurate passing and handballing. It was everything that last week wasn’t.

When Riewoldt went down with a concussion, I got really upset. He’s had so many before that I worry each time he gets knocked. (He wrote an article in response to my and others’ fears on Monday, which was really sweet of him. He outlined the whole protocol, and he was probably writing it for all the mothers and wife out there.)

Then, again before halftime, Paddy McCartin gets a knock and he’s out of the game. With a halftime lead of two goals, we could at least head to the break and breathe a little.

Come third quarter, magic overtook the MCG, a place that is usually our house of pain. Channelling the efforts of Rooey and McCartin, channelling the efforts of the 1966 team and Cowboy Neale and Barry Breen, who had carried the cup at the beginning of this game, channelling all the surviving Saints premiership players, all willing the new boys on, channelling all the energy the ground full of patient Saints supporters, the boys played their hearts out.

And I started sobbing. The six goals to the Pies’ one had me quietly dabbing tears and heaving silently. Every goal just bought a rush of emotion. And an ecstatic state of being for Saints supporters. To kick six goals straight, good, fast terrific goaling, from our fast new band of players and our men of advancing years, meant that we had the quarter of joy and cheering. This was a game for all the Saints angels, both on earth and floating around us. It was the spirit of the living and a little spice from the dead.

Anthony was very stoic, and also concerned about picking up their daughter from Amanda’s parents. So suspecting his Pies were going to keep the St Kilda supporters happy, he and Amanda snuck away at three-quarter time and avoided the crush of retreating Collingwood supporters.

The fourth quarter was a little more even, but Saints just kept on plugging away and victory and glory was ours. You’d think it was a Premiership win by the sound of the singing and the joy in our hearts. That’s what Saints supporters are like, especially when we have a win against the Pies. And especially when that night, the Saints faithful, with current and past players, were celebrating the 1966 win. How much flatter would a loss today have made such a celebration.

I stood around as happy Bob and Gary left, and talked with Jenn and Scot. It was a great feeling to share the win and I was in no hurry to leave the G. We watched the screen as the Saints boys gathered together and sung our song. It’s been awhile since that has happened post-game.

Then I walked from the G to Crown Casino, listening to 3AW talk about the lively Saints. There was so much talk of the over-hyped Pies and their woes. All the way to Crown, in the soothing afternoon sun, walking with other supporters or Melbournians taking in some early autumn warmth, I could see Richmond and Adelaide supporters streaming back from the Dome. The Richmond people looked totally crushed. As wonderful as the Saints win was, I could sympathise with the feeling of heaving reality. Especially when your team and supporters, have “unfulfilled expectations.” I knew that feeling from last week’s loss against the Dogs.

After resting in a quiet corner at the Palladium, and a few cool sodas, there was quick change from footy gear to fancy night gear. Rina finished her day of mother-care having dressed up, too, and we joined the St Kilda Hall of Fame and Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of 1966.

It really was the day of love and happiness. All the remaining group from 1966 were gathered together both at the football and this event. Plus tables of players from the current group, sans the injured Nick Riewoldt, Paddy McCartin and Dylan Roberton. Table after table of those associated with the club, past players and fans. And Robert Harvey being inducted as a Legend having played 21 seasons with the Saints (started at 16), and introduced by Tony Lockett (who needs no introduction and was the last inducted Legend).

With good food, and highlights of the years before ’66 and then of the Premiership, the evening was a slow waltz down memory lane. Stuart Trott and Glenn Elliott both gave illuminating speeches when they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sandy Roberts interviewed Brian Sierakowski, Neale and Breen, three of our Premiership players, and we listened and enjoyed the banter. Theirs was banter of men who have known each other for over 50 years, and have carried the chalice of Premiership success, waiting for it to be passed on.

The game, followed by the night, has warmed my heart over the week. It makes playing Hawks in Tassie just a little more hopeful. And my 49-plus years of barracking for the Saints worth every minute. It is all the sad or troubled times that make days like this seem blessed.

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. jan courtin says

    I posted a Comment on Yoshi’s article this week Yvette, as yours hadn’t appeared at that stage; this is what I said:

    I was thinking of you Yvette, when watching the game and wanting the Saints to win. Also thinking of you and your Mum, and how you must have been feeling – the happiness, the sadness, and everything in between!

    Great game by the Saints, especially beating Collingwood!

  2. Neil Anderson says

    What a roller-coaster ride we sometimes have as supporters with our emotions tossed around on a weekly basis.
    After watching the Saints against the Dogs the previous week, I tipped them to beat Collingwood. They just looked capable and ready to beat the old enemy.
    I hope the celebrations at Crown for the premiership- 50 year reunion went well. Did I detect in your writing that you would much rather be there when the current group of players were celebrating their own premiership? Of course, silly question Neil.
    I was telling Yoshi how I worked at the Albert Park Barracks in the Army Department in 1966, Most of my workmates were Saint’s supporters, so as a nineteen-year-old, I partied long and hard when the Saints won. There was a teenage girl working there who was a Saints fanatic and kept the rest of us informed on how Big Red, Sirra, Doc and the rest of the team were training etc. She was an earlier version of you Yvette.
    Good luck against the Hawks. The Dogs couldn’t beat them after throwing everything at them, including our beloved captain.

  3. Yvette Wroby says

    Thank you Jan and Neil . Your thoughts and words much appreciated and I did see them in other article. Direct email. [email protected] Jan . Used to be able to email back but couldn’t this time xxxx

  4. Hi Yvette,

    I am so happy to support the same team. I understand how much you love Saints.

    Your emotion at the game reflects which path you have been thorough. Excitements is the word to describe my emotion when I see my boys score goals.

    I wish I could be at the ‘G and the special occasion after the game. It’s nice to hear you were at the event.

    We are rising up. Like your great attitudes on writing about the mighty Saints, let’s have hopes for St Kilda.

    Go Saints

    Yoshi

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