Round 4 – St Kilda v Carlton: Saints dose of the New Zealand Blues

Round 4 – St. Kilda v Carlton: Saints venture into New Zealand experiences the Blues

 

 

by Braham Dabscheck

 

1.10 PM Saturday 25 April

 

Westpac Stadium

 

 

This was St. Kilda’s third home game played in Wellington, New Zealand. The first two started a little after 7 PM local time, and were beamed back live to Australia following the afternoon clash between the Pies and Dons at the MCG. As night fell, Westpac Stadium, or ‘The Cake Tin’, as it is affectionately known across the Ditch, became wet and slippery, especially around the boundary lines, which made for poor quality and low scoring games.

 

The 2013 and 2014 games saw 20 and 23 goals scored, respectively. The game this year was played in the early afternoon and shown before the MCG game. It produced 30 goals, though it was not what one would call a fine display of the skills of Australian football. At the beginning, both sides struggled with any sense of fluency. Skill levels were such that at times the game was akin to watching a ball jump around in a pin ball machine.

 

Possibly the most worrying aspect of the game, from the point of view of the Saints and the AFL, is its inability to attract spectators. In 2013, over 22,500 turned up, 13,400 last year and only slightly more than 12,000 this year. It appears there have been problems attracting locals to the game. Both Rugby Union and Rugby League have experienced difficulties in gaining traction in AFL homeland, Melbourne. The Storm and Rebels have both been loss leaders, needing heavy subsidies of many millions of dollars, from their respective central bodies, to stay afloat. This attempt by the Saints to crack the New Zealand Rugby market, especially in the middle of the Rugby season, has a similar look of folly. This lack of interest may see an end to the AFL’s venture into foreign lands. But then again, this is only one game a year, and the AFL, with the creation of the Suns and the Giants, have displayed a predilection for playing for the long haul.

 

The game was also distinctive in that Carlton coach Mick Malthouse equalled Collingwood’s Jock McHale’s coaching record of 714 games, set way back in 1927. He will break it next week against the Pies; that team whom he coached to a premiership in 2010 in two Grand Finals against the Saints. You will never know how much it hurts for me to have typed that sentence! The Blues have had a bad start to the season and the Madame Defarge’s of the world have found their knitting needles and are scrambling to find good seats to see the guillotine fall. Mick is somewhat of a tortured soul, brusque, lacking the smoothness or charm of other coaches. He is undoubtedly a flawed character, a bit worse or better than the rest of us. Nonetheless, I dips my lid to his record in a sport as competitive, cutthroat and ruthless as the AFL.

 

The Saints lost to the Blues by 40 points. Even though it was less than last week’s 74 points against the Pies, it was really a worse and more devastating loss. As against the Pies, the Saints dominated the first quarter, and while being pegged back in the second were in front by 14 points at the main break. What at one stage was a 26 point lead ended up as a 40 point lost; an 11 goal turnaround!

 

In previous games, the Saints haven’t given away gift goals. Three were given away this time. A kick in the back 50 delivered to an opponent; one didn’t even get over the man on the mark. Then the Saints got into the habit of conceding soft goals where the ball was up for grabs. More generally, the Saints have too many players at the ball. They either run into each other or if they break clear there is no one further up the chain to kick to. This translates into short kicks to the flank to a contest which inevitably results in a turnover, rather than use of a long kicking game. Five Saints gathered less than 10 possessions; and of those that were gathered so many were wasted and ineffective. Despite the optimism following the great win against the Suns, 2015, unfortunately, has the appearance, I am sad to report, of being a repeat of last year.

 

St. Kilda  5.3   8.6   10.8   12.9 (81).

Carlton    1.2   6.4   12.9   18.13 (121).

 

Goals

St. Kilda: Sinclair 2, Shenton 2, Bruce 2, Lonie 2, Steven, Dunstan, Billings, Armitage.

Carlton: Henderson 5, Bell 4, Gibbs 2, Everitt 2, Jones, Ellard, Cripps, Tuohy, Armfield.

 

Best

St. Kilda: Longer, Armitage, Geary, Steven.

Carlton: Cripps, Murphy, Henderson, Tuohy, Bell

 

Umpires: Donlon, Ryan, Stephens.

Crowd: 12,125.

Our Votes: Cripps 3 (Carl) Murphy 2 (Carl) Henderson 1 (Carl).

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