Round 4 – St Kilda v Carlton: Footy in Aoteaora, Anzac Day 2015

Maryanne and I jetted across to Aoteaora. We were off to Wellington for the Anzac Day clash between St Kilda and Carlton. This coincided with the centenary , April 25, of the disastrous invasion of the Dardanelles, Gallipoli, in Turkey, where young men from Australia and Aoteaora died along with many thousands of young men from Britain, India and France. It is estimated over 150,000 allied personnel lost their lives in this poorly executed campaign, including 8,709 from Australia and 2,721 from Aoteaora.  Defending their home land against these invaders more than 200,000  Turks died.  April 25 holds a special significance in the lands of those involved, including our Australia and Aoteaora.

But why were we going to the footy there? In 2013 overtures were made to play AFL matches for premiership points in Aoteaora. Previously a number of exhibition matches had taken place across the ditch. These included Geelong playing St Kilda in Auckland back in October 1991, only a few weeks after these teams played an epic finals match in Waverley. Other encounters followed, with finally a desire to have real matches, for premiership points occurring. The deal between St Kilda, the AFL and Wellington City Council saw the Saints agreeing to play five Anzac Day matches in Wellington. The initial clash in 2013 saw them lose to the reigning AFL premiers, Sydney, with the latter winning 11-13-79 to 9-9-63. In 2014 they were pipped by Brisbane who won by three points, 12-10-82, to 11-13-79.

Anzac Day morning, I dug out the medals of my Grand Uncle Michael John (Jack) Conrick, who was sent to Gallipoli as a reinforcement with the 1st Regiment  Light Horse  in the latter part of 1915.  He was a few miles from Corowa !!! Anyhow a century later we’re in Wellington for the footy.

Anzac Day started amongst the thousands attending a moving dawn service at Pukeahu War Memorial. I had Grand Uncle Jacks medals. My mind keeps ticking over the dreadful waste of life the ‘Great Trade War’ led to. As the related monarchs, and wealthy industrialists fought amongst themselves as to the spoils of how the world was divided, millions lost their lives.

Off to the Westpac Stadium, known to some as the Cake Tin,  we trekked. It might be of interest to acknowledge football had been played in Aoteaora way back in the late nineteenth, earlier twentieth centuries.  Gold diggers leaving the Victorian gold fields introduce the game. One of the earliest clubs in Aoteaora was the Wellington Football Club formed in May 1871. They played a game influenced by what was called the Melbourne Rules.   Footy ebbed and flowed in Aoteaora  for over four decades. During the first decade of the Twentieth Century a representative team came across the ditch to play in the Australasian Football Carnival held in  Melbourne, way back in 1908. Unfortunately the interest/popularity in the game  faded away after the Great Trade War, aka, World War 1.

We arrived at the Cake Tin. It is the first time Maryanne has been to the footy, whilst  for yours truly it was only the second time I’d been to an AFL match this century. VFL, O&M, North Central League, I’d been to games in those competitions, but this was only my second AFL game since Round 20, 1999. We caught up with some friends we know from frequenting the Royal Oak, situated back in North Fitzroy, Melbourne. They were part of the Melbourne diaspora this weekend.

As I’d not been to an AFL game for eons, the atmosphere of a match outside of Australia was quite different. What would the clash hold ? Would the Blues lose again meaning Mickey Malthouse gets it in the Nek? If the Saints lost were they on the way to Hell-es? The game started with Saints off to a flier. As has been their wont in 2015 they peppered the score board. A minor to Adam Schneider opened the scoring, followed by a burst of Saints goals. Lachie Henderson became their first international goal scorer. A 25 point lead to the Saints at quarter time.

After this the Blues lifted , gradually reducing the margin. At half time the difference was 14 points. As was their trademark in the halcyon period of the 1970’s, 1980’s, the Blues lifted in the ‘premiership’ quarter, the third quarter. At the end of this quarter the Blues were 13 points up.  To this point the notorious Wellington wind was quite mild, then it rose in intensity, providing us a taste of the “Cake Tin Swirl !” From here the class of players like Gibbs and Murphy took over. The Blues came home to a solid 40 point win.

How do we view this clash across the Tasman ? The Saints have not set the world on fire in their Wellington clashes, losing all three. What do the next two hold for them ? The attendances have fallen all three years, this years clash bringing in 12,125 spectators. The quality of on field football was nothing to rave about. Some poor decision making, bad passing by hand and foot were prominent. Even the best piece of play, which took place in the latter stages of the third quarter finished poorly. A strong piece of work by a running, bullocking Lachie Henderson set up Dennis Armfield who speedily ran off to deliver a pin point pass to a leading Liam Jones. Liam Jones missed from 20 metres out.

Who would I award my  medals/votes to ?

1 vote, the Spiro Kourkomelis medal to Jack Steven (StK)

2 votes, the Rod Galt medal to Lachie Henderson (C)

3 votes , the Val Perovic medal to Bryce Gibbs (C)

I look at Grand Uncle Jack Conrick’s service medal, awarded for being in Gallipoli. On it is a image of  John Kirkpatrick Simpson, he of Simpson and the Donkey fame. Simpson was a brave man, a man who could see through much of the propaganda of the time. What can we learn from him ?

Anzac Day should NEVER be a day to CELEBRATE, it is a day we must COMMEMORATE.

Lest we forget.



  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Great report Glen,

    I like the reminder that it isn’t a celebration but a commemoration. I am in Wellington and did attend the dawn service, my first, and found it very moving. My grandfather fought with the French and thankfully survived and hence I am in existence.

    The game was disappointing from a Saints perspective and flattened the fans a little, but I felt healed this morning going to the family day and watching the young men play cricket with the young boys and girls. As well as kick the footy around. Always feel better hanging with my mob after a loss.

    Thanks for your report.


  2. John Butler says

    Well played Glen.

    Just good to get a win – no matter how or who it was against.

    Dennis Armfield and “pinpoint pass” don’t often occur in the same sentence.


  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Well done Glen, sounds like a fantastic trip.

    Interesting that Australian Rules was strong enough pre-WW1 for NZ to send a representative team over. I suspect the challenge of converting Kiwis to our game nowdays may even be a harder sell than in Western Sydney.

    Was the 1991 game between Geelong and St Kilda at Eden Park?

  4. The Philby says

    I had thought about heading over to The Cake Tin myself but work/life circumstances meant that I couldn’t do a NZ jaunt – a shame because this was my time of game: Carlton storming to a win and wide open seats!

    Definitely sounded like a good trip and very interesting historical contexts. Totally agree about the spirit of the day too.

  5. Ta for the comments. As it’s been so long since i’d been to a game it was quite intriguing. The incessant hype and noise reminded me of why I stoped going to the footy, but it was great to see ‘our ‘ game being played in another nation.

    Luke, to my knowledge the 1991 clash was at Eden Park.

    A very strong temptation to pop over here in 2016. Maryanne has friends and family here. As well, most of our group enjoyed the hospitality of Wellington, a friendly location. as they say, ‘the future is unwritten’.


  6. Luke, pretty sure the 1991 game between Geelong and St Kilda was at Western Springs stadium. Slightly bigger than Eden Park, but not as big as the speedway track that circled the ground.

    John, you said, “Dennis Armfield and ‘pinpoint pass’ don’t often occur in the same sentence.” Funny, we were wondering on Saturday if they ever had. He shows a lot of endeavour, but very little marksmanship.

    Glen, glad you enjoyed Wellington’s hospitality. I think all AFL supporters should, while they still can.

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