Round 6 – Western Bulldogs v St Kilda: The tale of two cities, the tale of two halves

AFL Round 6: Western Bulldogs v St.Kilda

Etihad Stadium

Saturday 9th May 2015


Yvette Wroby




Michael E, the multitasker.

Months ago, before the 2015 season had begun, I got together with Michael E for a chat. My mate David Downer, a fellow Almanacker, introduced us at the 2014 St Kilda Football Club AGM. I wanted to meet one of the people who was at the centre of “The Travelling Saints” and “The Moorabbin Wingers” and the “New Zealand Saints” Facebook groups. And a man who was a mad Tweeter. A man who generously linked me up to the three groups. Sitting there, having a cuppa and some lunch, just up from the Docklands Stadium in the shopping centre, I got to learn a bit about the man who connected people. Saints people.

And what an organiser. I needed to pick his substantial brains about how to travel around the country to watch our team.

Michael works at the Video Department of Channel 9 at the Docklands Studio, hence the meeting place. He’s been a mad Saints supporter from the age of 7. Michael said he had a funny story. I’m always up for a funny story. Michael’s family moved to Victoria when he was in grade three. Everyone has to have a team if you live in Victoria, he found out. One day, his Mum picked them up from school in Mornington, and had bought them a packet of potato chips, Sun Valley he thinks the chips were called. Each packet of chips had footy cards in them. He made a pledge with himself that moment, that whichever team card was in that day’s chips, he would follow them. And he did. There was no family history, no intersection of life, just a magnificent random decision of a 7-year-old who has stayed committed to the decision of the chip packet to this day.

So in 1971, he started following the St Kilda Football Club and has been a diligent supporter ever since. Listening to the Grand Final that year, he got so antsy that his mother made him go outside with his father to kick a ball around and calm down. He listened to the last quarter and was overwrought.

Michael has two major passions (other than his family, which is a given): the St Kilda Footy Club and Bruce Springsteen. I can relate to both.

In 1979, when the family moved to Melbourne, Michael bought his Saints membership. He still has his card from 1982, found recently. He started shift work at Channel 9 in 1985 which meant a reduction in the number of games, until a new job within the station, and the move of the Saints to Docklands, allowed him to attend more regularly.

Since 2000, he hasn’t let his membership lapse. He sees himself as a “life-long tragic fan”. The “Moorabbin Wing” group, which Michael is a member of, was started in 2002 by Steve Cress and Ben Alexander. Here were two mates who decided that there was nowhere to sit at the Dome (other than expensive options like seated areas or cheer squad, which don’t suit a lot of people) where you are guaranteed to be among your own.

They felt they had to have an area where you could walk up seating and know you are going to be with other Saints fans. They formed the “Moorabbin Wing” on Aisle 35 on the Third Tier, the Robert Harvey Aisle, and it has grown to a point where they put signs up on Aisle 35, 36 and 37 now. Michael said the group are recognised by Etihad Stadium management to the point where they have the aisle attendants encouraging opposition to sit other places.

This group has grown since 2008, originally advertised through “Saintsational” Fan Forum, and even one day Steve stood on the Southern Cross Foot Bridge advertising with flyers, until local council bi-laws officers moved him on. Apparently, the group learned, people can hand stuff out, it just has to have “Please Dispose of Thoughtfully” written on it. Through the word of mouth, this group packs out Aisle 35 and 36 each week (except for some reserve rows in the 6 rows in front).

In the good times, Michael said, of 2009 and 2010, the group spilled out, grew in numbers and it became the “Moorabbin Wing”. They have a great view, watching the boys run out across the way.

Michael continued: “In 2008 St Kilda decided to sell reserved seating up in the third tier, first 6 rows, but they were charging the same amount as Level 1. For the same amount of money, you could sit in Level 1. I told the Membership Manager exactly that. Then they dropped the price massively to $80 for the year, so I had a pretty extensive email list of everyone who sat up there, I basically put out an email to say, does anyone want a permanent seat up there? They said to liaise with the Club, I collated them, took them to the Saints, and basically we have everyone together. I think we sold 50- odd reserve seats for the Club just doing that. The other thing we do is the all-ticket games, where everyone has to buy a ticket (like against Essendon), we found that was hard to get everyone to sit together. I basically contacted Etihad and asked how we could do it, on sell tickets all in one bay to sit together, and one of the membership managers who was absolutely lovely, said we can work that out. And we used email (in 2005), I actually put a shout out for seats in this group and a whole bunch of people did, and I have done it for every ticketed game since. I email it to Sadie at Etihad and a week before I hand them out to everybody.”

I told you Michael was an organiser!

Michael said, back then, it had now transpired that a lot of the group travel together. So some of the “Travelling Saints” belong here, and others sit down below. The common denominator is that all in the group like to travel, although Michael has only been able to join them after his father, who he looked after, passed. His wife Robyn doesn’t follow but joins Michael on some trips or games. She grew up in Cheltenham, so she’s from the heartland.

I was, back in pre-season, invited by Michael to sit amongst my people in the Moorabbin Wing and get the thousand stories that are floating in the rafters way up there. Away games, I decided, at Etihad will see me become a member of this group, and drag my mob along with me. How good it is when you are among the faithful, with your colours and your passions. I was “tres” excited.

The Moorabbin Wingers

Come this Saturday afternoon, I listened to the Facebook messages and got to the ground as the gates opened at 12.30, found Section 35 and staked out seats, with Michael E two rows in front. Here the Sainters were gathering, and I felt right at home spreading my stuff over the required number of seats. I ate my lunch as I watched others do the same, as the area filled, as there were Saints colours creating an environment, a sanctuary, for this away game against the Western Bulldogs. With the Dogs having played such great games lately, none of us were confident of anything than our boys having a crack. St Kilda’s boys had shown such spirit in the weeks before, could they bring that again today?

Uncle Bob and Gary found me and we were all seated as planned, ready for a very different kind of experience. We all usually sit on Level 1 Aisle 36, looking across at the centre square and circle. These were great seats, amongst great people.

In front of us sat Barry, who was saving seats for his people, like he had done for 13 years. From Rosebud, Barry has formed a new grouping, like lovely Lynn and Win, who were happy and chatty, and Chris and Liz from Hampton Park to my right, Bruce right beside me, and Ben and Steve, the original Moorabbin Wing organisers, a few rows down to our left. So many of the faces I have meet and written about this season were there. Saints abounded. I was a like a pig in shit. Until the game started.

Even the Saints were playing for Luke Beveridge.

When Easton Wood and Jake Stringer managed to put the first Bulldogs goals on the board, and then Brett Goodes smacked one through, it felt like the game that we’d expected in our hearts. A runaway train, a full force of nature seemed to be upon us. Three perfect, fast and furious goals had our section very quiet indeed. Then our beloved super-Captain Nick Riewoldt blessed us all with a goal from a free kick, followed by Adam Schneider who made up for his misses last week, at least leading us to be closer at quarter time.

When the Saints got their goals, Ben and Steve, were up and facing us in the Moorabbin Wing, Steve being the magician today, moving his arms like the best trained conductor, and getting us all going with “Saint Kilda….(clap, clap, clap), Saint Kilda, (clap, clap, clap).” There were poets and wits amongst the group, and I was too slow to catch the words that different people called out in addition to the chants. I did get “Oh Hickey, you’re so fine, you blow my mind….Oh Hickey, Oh Hickey” from the song “Mickey” when Hickey kicked a goal or played well.

Come the second quarter, we all went stone cold silent, as the Bulldogs bull-dozed our boys. Seven straight goals, to Dahlhaus, Crameri, Stringer again, and then again, Picken, Koby Stevens and Picken and the Saints were in shock. They played with us, sped past us, capitalised on every terrible error our boys made. Uncle Bob and I were overwhelmed by all the mistakes, the easy gets our team were giving away. It was a car crash. And we were silenced. The Dogs barked loud and long.

The Western Bulldogs got their one and only Premiership in 1954. That is 12 years before the Saints got their one and only. So the two teams and their supporters can relate to each other very well. For most of the time, when we don’t play each other, when one of us don’t beat up on the other one, we have a soft spot for each other.

The Western Bulldogs are a league ahead of other clubs in numbers of women on their board, the sort of community culture that they have developed, their support of women’s football. They have made their Club a centrepiece for their community and locality. They are the Sons of the West, revered in their region, and loved passionately by their people. They represent the place of their name, the Western Bulldogs (formerly known as Footscray).

St Kilda is across the Yarra, a Club representing a place and a time too, and as meaningful to the suburb of St Kilda and the area around it as the Doggies are to their surrounds. I am proud that St Kilda developed as a centrepiece to communities all along the Bay, first Moorabbin and then Seaford and Frankston, and all the suburbs between. I am also proud of the culture and development and openness that I have been part of for the last few years. Whether the Junction Oval in St Kilda is ever used by the Club again or not, it was our first home, even if a totally restricted one in terms of power and control. Moorabbin, it seems, may have a more sustainable life into the future, which seems significant as it is the place where we won our one and only.

My sister Denise, and Jon’s family, are all devoted, long suffering Dogs fans, who were both enjoying this surprising, magnificent, attacking play of the last few weeks, but who were also somewhat freaked out when Riewoldt and Montagna were named as returning to play for the Saints. Denise, listening at 1 a.m. in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was both happy and nervous. Doggie fans, like Saints fans, do not get too excited until the final siren blasts victory.

Come half time, we were eating away our problems. And facing an insurmountable deficit. It was 64 points to 15. We prepared ourselves for a long afternoon at the office. The two teams were having their own version of an argy-bargy all-in brawl before heading off to the rooms. Savage had been subbed off for concussion in the first term, and Clay Smith had more troubles with his third ACL and finally ferried off before the break.

Alternate universes and reverses of fortunes

Jake Stringer came out and kicked the first goal for the Doggies in the third quarter, making the deficit for the Saints 55 points. We remained on mute, silenced.

And then it began, 15 minutes into the quarter. Tom Hickey goaled from an amazing, unexpected tackle on Bob Murphy, in front of our posts, and Steve was up and about stirring us on. One of the supporters grumbled that there was nothing to cheer about, and Steve got cross, saying that they were our boys and it was our job to be there no matter what. When David Armitage receives a handball from a mess of bodies at a ball up in front of the Saints goals, he snaps it through and now we are all making some noise.

Mistakes are now being made by the Dogs but they still make breaks to their forward line. They miss several snaps before the Saints steal it back with fancy work by Schneider to Riewoldt to our forward, only to be missed by Sinclair. Another attempt to take the ball out of defence finds Jack Stevens passing a ball to Billings who marks and goals. Three goals in only 5 minutes.

It is heading towards the Bulldogs’ end with Johannisen running until he tries to change course and slips, lots of changes in possessions and balls out of bounds and a poor kick by Steven adding another point.

We are noticing McKenzie, our second gamer, as every time he touches the ball something good happens. He had 19 possessions. Brilliant. He has the shape and hair of Brendon Goddard and the athletic ability and footy smarts as well. He’ll be one to watch.

The ball is back in the Saints’ forward line and Lonie gets another after a high tackle. There is only 29 points the difference, from a deficit of 55. With 4½ minutes to go, McKenzie again passes well, and kicks it to Bruce, who gets a free kick for his troubles, but the ball has gone to Sinclair and passed to Dunstan for another.

Unsurprisingly, the Moorabbin Wing, and all the other Sainters who didn’t go home at half time, are going nuts. We barely finish one chant before we are compelled to start another. The noise. The excitement. The thrill. Are we at the same game?

There are three minutes to go in the quarter, and after more frantic tackling and balls up, Sinclair sneaks one through. The crowd go wild. That’s six goals in less than six minutes. With more spectacular pressure, and seconds on the clock, Bruce marks and goals. Now it’s seven goals in a half a quarter.

The roof blows off as we cheer and clap the boys to their well-earned rest before the final quarter.

The Doggies bought the house down and their supporters up in the second quarter with 7 goals. From our position up high, it looked like they had stopped in the third, but on replay later I could see they hadn’t, they just made more mistakes and we just stepped up. Or rocketed up past all expectation and dreams.

Come the final quarter, with the Dogs up by only two goals, and the Saints having got the last seven, the competition was now on. Ace Cordy got the next one for the Dogs and Honeychurch followed, both within minutes of the start. For a few minutes, four goals behind and counting, we thought that the Dogs would march on home. But the Saints weren’t finished for the afternoon. And we weren’t finished chanting. Billings got his second, a moment later his third, both brilliant, small forward, future-king kicks, before Jack Sinclair rubbed it in and Hickey got us five points up, the first time in the day we were leading. So much pressure, so much noise, would the Doggies steal it back as expected and sneak in? Not to be. Jack Billings became our beloved new goal sneak and hit another one through to put us 7 points ahead. When the final siren roared out, Bruce had marked to kick a point after the siren while his teammates were hugging and the Saints fans went wild.

The Moorabbin Wing went nuts. The whole St Kilda group of players went nuts. All the fans in the red, white and black had never seen anything like it. The last time we felt any of this elation was at our unexpected massive win against Freo last year or the wonderful 2009 year full of 20 wins in a season. Only 13,000 saw the Fremantle game. Here we had 29,619. The common theme was how unexpected the outcome. The underdog wins on the day. The Bulldogs fans were in shock, and bless their hearts, expected as much when they became the favourites and were talked up all week.

Saints have some great young guns, and the Club finally listened to what I have been saying to Uncle Bob for years and played Riewoldt up the ground, and it was brilliant. It was all so brilliant.

We were the headline act of the weekend before Brisbane smacked Carlton and GWS smacked Hawthorn. It was another weird weekend of footy results and I will take it any day of the week.

And we have a new statistic:  It was the fifth biggest comeback in AFL history. Sorry to our Doggies brethren, that once again our success comes from smacking our favourite sibling.


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. John Butler says

    Yvette, I grew up in Moorabbin. Went to Worthing Road Primary School. One of my earliest football memories is the devastated mood in the school yard the Monday after that ’71 GF. It was an early lesson in how much footy could mean to people. So I can well imagine how Michael felt.

    A great win for the Saints. And deserved, after the effort of the week before.

  2. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi I was actually at that grand final and wrote in my diary how awesome peter Hudson was and how they played better. Philosophical even back then. But u have actually made me feel ancient now. I was 17.

  3. Marty Gleason says

    Thank you for the kind words. As you mentioned, it is curious that the two teams’ cycles seem to correspond. I can think of at least three recent times both teams were up at the same time (92, 97 and 2008-10)

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