Round 7 – Adelaide v St Kilda: Some Prayers not answered in the City of Churches yet the Sun still shines

AFL Round 7: Adelaide v St Kilda
Adelaide Oval
Saturday 16th May 2015 1.15pm

Yvette Wroby


A Saintly journey

None of my new friends from “The Travelling Saints” Facebook group seemed to be making this trip across to South Australia, so I looked forward to making some new ones.

I had my first experience of checking in for my flight via an SMS on my phone, and I am shown how to do self-service check-in and board via the pass on my phone. It feels like another giant technological leap, to have a few bits of paper and not the “boarding pass” I have always received from the check-in counter.

At the end of the flight to Adelaide, Terry from across the aisle asks me, “Do you think we have a chance?” “Unlikely, but that’s what I thought last week too,” I replied. We were off.

Terry and Sheryl were on their way to Adelaide for their 40th anniversary. There would be no football for Terry, but plenty of wineries and relaxation. Coming from Tassie, the land of great footballers, Terry was born a Saints supporter through his father. They both came over for the 1966 Grand Final, to see their Tassie boys, Ian Stewart, Darrel Baldock, Barry Lawrence and Verdun Howell. He said there were a new batch from the southern Isle, Eli Templeton, Maverick Weller and Jimmy Webster.

Sheryl was totally disinterested in football, and their kids barracked for Essendon, Hawthorn and Geelong. Their Hawk son worked for the Tasmanian public service, and had enjoyed holding the Hawks 2014 Premiership Cup when it came to visit the government offices. After all, the Tassie government puts money into both North Melbourne and Hawthorn.

When the plane lands, and we wait to disembark, another Sainter tells us she is going to the game with her daughter, who she’s visiting. We are cheerful and hopeful, but “keeping it real”. There were no over-the-top expectations.

It’s so lovely to check in and get to walk around Adelaide, reacquainting myself with a number of the streets (after having lived here for six months when I was 21), and scoping out “The Office”, the bar where the official pre-game function would be held on Saturday.

That evening, I organised an in-room massage. Chris, a Geelong supporter, gave a great massage which included a total football analysis as well as a workover for tired muscles. We talked about our teams, the season thus far, Essendon (which everyone but the Bombers themselves love to analyse), and the AFL. It surprised me how relaxing it was to talk, when usually I am half comatose.

I make contact with my Footy Almanac mate, Bob Utber, and we will meet for dinner tomorrow. I haven’t felt “alone” yet.

The next day, I walk heaps, some for breakfast, and then, once organised, across the footbridge to the Adelaide Oval to work out my directions, and then up to North Adelaide, looking for good shops and good food. The weather is lovely and warm, the shops nothing special, but the people, the wonderful people of North Adelaide, made me laugh.

First I meet Mick, a “kind of Crow”, who wants to be remembered as “the best Australian Post courier in the country”. He is sweet and wishes the Saints the best. He tells me this town is divided, footy wise.

Mick’s words are confirmed when I walk past Sam’s Shoe Repairs moments later. Sam is in the doorway, enjoying the afternoon sun, and cheers the Saints on to beat the Crows. Sam invites me into the shop and tells me some history of the state’s two AFL teams. A mad Port Adelaide man, he said Port had tried to enter the AFL in a roundabout way, and that had upset a number of other SANFL clubs. He also said Port Adelaide had been massively successful, had heaps of SANFL titles (36), and everyone else hated them for that, too. So when the AFL organised the first South Australian team, most of the other local clubs combined to create the Adelaide Football Club, all of 25 years ago. When Port Adelaide entered the competition seven years later (1997), the rivalry and hatred was already settled. Port Adelaide is the only pre-existing interstate club which has entered the AFL a fully-fledged club with a proud history. This footy town is truly at odds. Over the weekend, I learn that it is so incompatible that supporters of one team won’t go when it’s not their home game so as not to put money into the coffers of the other.

I said goodbye to Sam and walked into the lovely “Cucina” Italian restaurant a few doors up on O’Connell Street. Lunch was calling me. As I sat down, the waiter commented on my scarf, pointing me out to a Port supporter finishing his lunch. They all know Sam from up the road.

A few tables across sat Barbara and Vincent. Vincent turns out to be Vincent Rinaldo, a local celebrity from his development of “The Hair Machine” group of hairdressing salons in South Australia. Barbara is a Victorian, a North Melbourne supporter and a L’Oréal rep visiting Vincent, looking through one of his three books with all the newspaper cuttings and records of his life as a hairdresser and innovator.

Vincent is a mad Crows supporter, and the banter is on. Elio is the boss, and he’s a Port man. Vincent confirms how much the Crows hate the Power. He said he’s hated Port forever. He said Adelaide Football Club was about hating Port Power.

I just happened to pick the perfect restaurant, it had magnificent lamb shanks, lamb shanks which were enormous and delicious (Elio asked me to make sure I wrote that in my book) and a perfect prelude to both these Adelaide games. Further on chatting with Elio, he tells me that Tom from South Australia Saints and “his brother from another mother” both come here to eat on Saturday and Sunday mornings. How small is Adelaide? I was due to meet both of these guys, for the first time, shortly at training.

Friday afternoon open training

Before I even got to my fellow Saints, I was stopped by four Western Australian supporters who were about to do a tour of Adelaide Oval. Pat and Josie were West Coast Eagles supporters, and Tony and Carmel were Fremantle. On top of that, Pat and Carmel were brother and sister, you could tell by the banter. They were all celebrating their wedding anniversaries with a week here in South Australia. The boys would be at the game the following day. We exchanged details for when I come to their neck of the woods for the last Saints game of the season.

Then I am down on the fence next to George. We start chatting and he tells me he grew up near Fitzroy Street in St Kilda, attended St Kilda Park Primary School, and he comes to the Saints games in Adelaide. He was there at Lenny and Ben Rutten’s last game at the Adelaide Oval in 2014. He will join me at a game if he comes to Melbourne.

George tells me that sitting behind us, nicely suited up, was the Hon. Rob Lucas, MLC, and so I gesture for Rob to join us and we chat. Rob is a Saints man. His father was in the army up North before moving the family to Mt. Gambier. Rob said that Mt. Gambier football was played with the Victorian neighbours, and it tended to then be Victorian teams that the locals followed. Rob’s Dad was a rugby man from QLD/NSW so knew nothing of Australian rules. He knew enough to deliberately pick the team on the bottom of the ladder, and this choice was passed down.

At this point, I receive a phone call from Tom Giles, the president of the South Australian Saints group. Tom is trying to locate me in the small crowd at the training. He joins the three of us, and tells me a little of his story as the others listen on.

Tom tells me of the great games in 1966 between South Australia and Victoria which were magnificent to watch. And of his own days playing football at Mt. Compass, part of the Great Southern Football League. As he was progressing through this league, he was asked to come and watch the next level of football being played in Melbourne. He remembers going with his Dad and watching a game. Tom saw Peter Darley and Carl Ditterich keep kicking it to each other, neither being able to get the ball past. He began his Saints journey by falling for the great Carl Ditterich that afternoon and has been with them for all the time after.

During this talkfest, the Saints boys were running around, doing their light training, kicking for goals. I was stumped by the No. 4. Suddenly, I am frantically trying to remember who No. 4 was. I must know him but he was unfamiliar, and the Saints APP helped me see the new, short-haired Eli Templeton. It reminded me of how I couldn’t recognise the Bulldogs’ Luke Dahlhaus after his locks were dropped a few years back. I asked Eli later and he replied, “Just too much work. I was over it.” And just like that, I have to now recognise another young man from many.

Then I met John, the “brother from another mother”, who was busy at the ground giving out St Kilda cardboard supporter cards, ready for autographs after training. John could have passed for a club trainer, he was fit and busy with official business. He tells me later that he played footy himself, and someone from the Essendon Footy Club saw him play, and wanted him to play over there. When he was 16, he trained under Jeansy [Alan Jeans] one time and never forgot it. He went on to play in SA teams, the Panthers and the Bays, but always liked St Kilda.

He co-organises Saints business with Tom. He said, “The day after the drawn Grand Final, Tom was talking to Michael Nettlefold [St Kilda’s then-CEO] and he said they were looking for help to do odd jobs for the Saints in Adelaide, and we’ve done it ever since.”

Aside from John’s main life as in investment banker, he trains and does the fitness work with 32 teams for Adelaide University soccer. He was full of energy and spirit.

As the boys finished up their training, they came along the fence line signing autographs on the team card given out by John. I put mine out to join the rest, as an excuse to say g’day to the team as they passed. I couldn’t get over how slim they all seemed to be, like runners. The only person not present was Nick Riewoldt; others told me he had media commitments. I got to chat momentarily as they passed by, signing their names and numbers in otherwise unrecognisable scrawls on the paper.

When my coach Alan Richardson came by, I complimented him on listening to me and playing Riewoldt on the wing. He laughed. He must hear this nonsense all the time and so was very gracious. I was struck again by the sweetness of the group, they were happy to have a few words, and give a smile, and show appreciation to the kids and adults (who are still kids inside) as they finished up for the day. And I was 12 again (and again and again).

Saying farewell to my new friends, I headed back to the hotel for a rest before dinner with my Footy Almanac mate, the Crows-supporting Bob Utber. We’ve caught up a few times after he took me to my first Indigenous Round game several years back. He comes to as many of his grandson’s games as he can, and his grandson is Patrick Dangerfield. Bob had always been a Geelong supporter, until Patrick turned him red, yellow and blue. Now Bob sits in the press box and enjoys watching his young man play his heart out.

Bob told me of his involvement in The Roo Project. This was conceived in 2014 when a group of Waikerie residents got together to try and find a way to promote their town, and that way was to celebrate the legend that is Mark Ricciuto, a leader, a great player and captain of the Adelaide Football Club, and a wonderful man from Waikerie. The aim of the project is to raise the funds to build a statue of the Roo to bring people to his beloved town. They need to raise $140,000 for a bronze life-sized statue based on a plinth.

(The Roo Project can be donated to: Bank Acc Name RWCC Inc. – The Roo Project, BSB 105048 Acct No 4647 8840).

We had a lovely dinner together at my hotel, the Mercure on North Terrace, and then we were off to our respective places of rest to watch the end of Friday night football.

New and old faces at the pre-game function

On a beautiful Saturday morning, at 10 a.m., fans of an older age gathered at The Office at Pirie Street, for drinks and food before the game. There I met up with Georgie Day, the woman of many roles at the Club, but mostly the Museum. Georgie also goes to every game of the year, every year, and her story will be told more fully elsewhere.

I met Gayle S from Ballarat, who goes to most Saints games in Melbourne, and used to come on busloads of Saints supporters from her area. The numbers are down but she assures me they will rise again when the Club becomes more successful. Gayle tells me that none of her family were into sports, but the local team she liked were red, white and black. Further, she went to school with several reserve Saints players. Gayle told me she’s converted her sister and niece to be Saints too, though her sister says, “It’s too stressful.”

I also meet young Joseph who has been in the cheer squad since 2004. He tells me that his dad Michael was 6 years old when the Saints got their Premiership in ’66. All his brothers were Geelong and Essendon, and the choice of St Kilda was an act of defiance. Joseph says that all his siblings are Saints, and that they have all “turned” their Bulldog mother into one as well. He loves being in the cheer squad, the fun, the work, waiting for game day over the week. He’s been sitting there, amongst his people since he was 12, when the Saints just lost the Preliminary Final to Port in 2004.

Gayle, Georgie and Joseph all sponsor players from the Club.

I get to meet George from yesterday’s practice again and his wife Sophie.

Tom and John have organised us all to be at The Office for this function, and Tom introduces our president, Peter Summers, to our small gathering. Peter is open for questions. I ask about the mission statement put out at the beginning of last year, and how he thinks the Saints are travelling according to that. Peter says that the statement came out before the Club had appointed Matt Finnis as CEO, and that it was Matt and his skill, dedication and hard work that was filling out the scenario outlined by the mission statement. It was he who was making it happen, and needs all the credit. Peter informed us that Matt is also meeting with potential sponsors in Adelaide (The Office is a sponsor, too), that 2017 would be the earliest we would have a stand-alone VFL team and that the relationship with Sandringham was very good at the moment. It was so informal and relaxed, and then Peter had to go to an official function and was off, while I was left to chat some more with those around me.

I met Sarah who worked at the Club as a community coordinator. She grew up barracking for Richmond, her dad’s team until she joined the Saints. This is her third season with the Club, working anywhere between 5-7 days a week, on community engagement, council and community camps, school visits and with Auskick groups in the local areas. She’s involved in the “fan engagement” stuff, and talks to fans, supports and members to get feedback. (We gave her some feedback on the terrible flashing lights, but she says that’s run by the AFL and their advertisers rather than the Saints, but will pass the message on. I wasn’t the only Nanna who was totally hating all the noise and lights. Georgie said it gives her a headache.)

On Sarah’s off days, she helps a friend at Dandenong Market and is a keen netballer and basketballer. She studied to receive an AFL Sports Ready Traineeship Certificate III-IV. She organises player appearances and works under the supervision of Rory Sackville, who works under Lisa Laing.

When I get up to stretch, I see a table with a familiar face. Here is Andy, to whom I was introduced to at the first Gold Coast game. He and his family had been sitting in the row ahead, and here he was with friends in Adelaide.

Andy tells me that his mother’s cousin is Des Kennedy [who played 56 games with the Saints 1965-70 and missed out on the 1966 Grand Final win through being injured in the second semi-final]. He said his whole clan were Saints supporters. True and loyal.

He introduces me to Bron and Russ. Russ said he commented on my last Footy Almanac posting. They tell me they were there in the game against the Crows when “Plugger” [Tony Lockett] kicked 12 goals. Bron’s father was a Collingwood reserve player and the Saints wanted to employ him but he couldn’t get a clearance, and he barracked for St Kilda when he stopped playing. The family moved to Moorabbin, she attended Moorabbin Primary, and her class teacher was Bob Murray [Premiership player, 1963-72 and 1974 for the Saints]. Trevor Barker was their teacher in the footy clinic at the school. St Kilda through and through.

Her husband Russ’s dad, Alan Barclay, played for St Kilda under-19s.

Then there were the sisters, Vic and Sal, whose dad was from England. His soccer team colours were red, white and black, and it was an easy transition to the Saints.

Bron tells me how much she likes St Kilda people. She tells me the story of talking to Karen Summers, Peter Summers’ wife, who says she can’t get over how positive Saints people are. Bron says that being a Saints support builds character, but she’d like a bit more success even at the cost of less “character”.

Finally I meet Tan and Chris. Tan is from Malaysia and was living in Tassie in 1966. His old boss was Bill Moss (I should have checked whether it was the heavy-hitting Macquarie Bank executive or the car racing driver). Tran lives in Adelaide now and is a Crow except when the Saints come to town. His buddy Chris, who kindly drove Tran, Tom and I to the car park near the ground, is another old-time Saints man. Chris’s wife used to teach Tom’s son, and Tom’s son used to wear his St Kilda guernsey to school.

When we parked, we could see all the groups having drinks pre-game in groups around the carpark, scenes I don’t see in Melbourne. I told my friends it reminded me of when Footy Almanacker Glenn Brownstein and his wife Debbie took me to see the Louisville Cardinals college football several years ago, and how everything was red, white and black. How people had big parties before going into the games.

We do the slow march to Adelaide Oval, with the tens of thousands of other fans wearing their colours, and wondering what the game will bring. When we got inside the South Gate, they went off to the member’s seats, while I headed up to the River End Stand, where the Club had allocated a section to the local Saints and me.

The First quarter full of hope and drama and then reality hits

With the sun bearing down on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, and still high from last week’s victory against the Dogs, the first three goals snapped through by Newnes, Bruce and Hickey give Saints the false hope of another fabulous upset. Then reality crunched in with young Lonie getting flattened and concussed, to be joined shortly after by our Captain Courageous, Nick Riewoldt. These two sickening moments, plus the terrible ACL of Jaensch and concussion of Smith, really dampened the rest of the afternoon. That and the eight-goal flogging.

It took ages to move an immobile Nick off the ground in a stretcher, and fears for his health abounded. That anxiety was with us all afternoon, as he was sent immediately to the Royal Adelaide Hospital for scans, and thankfully, we found out later, he was OK. Bruised and battered, but ultimately OK. The radio, Triple M, helped with the news during the game. Saints Twitter feed helped with the time afterwards.

The game took on a different meaning and colour. A flatness overtook the Saints supporters, although all the supporters were sickened by all the injuries this game produced.

My one salvation was the lovely family sitting behind me, who became my game-day company. Half Crows (the parents) Gloria and Hartley, and half Saints, their daughter Jody and husband Neil were very inclusive and even offered me sweet biscuits.

Hartley said of his Saints son-in-law (he has two Crows-supporting ones), “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

Neil can’t remember why he started to barrack for the Saints. Jody said that she took their son to Seaford after writing to the Club, telling them in his young life supporting the Saints over here, he hadn’t had much pleasure. The Club were wonderful to them, she said. They got the tour, got to watch practice on the ground with the boys, talked to the coach and some players. You see, the son is called Nick, or Nicholas; born on the 12th February, he was named after Nick Riewoldt.

After the first 15 minutes, after the terrible injuries, the Crows overran the Saints. By the end of the first, the teams were both 21 points. Both teams had 12 scoring shots in the second quarter, but the Crows came away with 6 goals while the Saints only managed 2. This was so disheartening for the boys and for the fans.

It became a game of brilliant forwards, Bruce kicking five for the Saints and Eddie Betts, a true champion, putting on a magnificent show that had us barracking for him rather than for the team he played for. The radio were calling him “Eddie Everywhere”, which is usually the derogatory way we talk about Eddie Maguire. Here, it was a positive, loving phrase about a man who found a second football home. Carlton fans would be watching Eddie be magnificent and wonder why they ever let him go. He’s actually very lucky to have left, his old club would have just bought him down this year. He kicked five for the day, with Cameron, Walker and Lynch also getting three each. It was an Adelaide goal-fest and 42,532 people enjoyed the sun and the scoring.

Adelaide Oval was itself a star, too. With the old scoreboard and Morton Bay Fig trees, with the undulating roofing and stadium of seating, it felt a place of meaning for so many people. The staff were helpful, the toilets were plentiful and clean, my neighbours kind and inclusive and the radio at least keeping us informed of our captain’s health as they were notified. And I could tell my new friends so they wouldn’t worry either.

I felt sad for the boys (and the supporters) that we lost, but happy to have been able to experience the place at this time.

After farewells, I walked back to my hotel over the walkway that links town to the stadium, in a quietly buzzing crowd of mostly Crows supporters. We did the crowded pathway shuffle, with the sun still out, the river flowing gently beneath us, the river of humanity above, and the small city of Adelaide gleaming in a sporting afternoon. It was hard not to enjoy the experience of the exodus, as people divided to go to carparks and trains and buses, or back to hotels or homes or to meet others for drinks.

I was truly stuffed, and used my night to write and watch other games before eating another excellent hotel meal and getting ready to head back to my non-footballing life. I will be back soon for the Port Adelaide game, and I will make sure I catch up with all my Port Adelaide and SA Saints people when that happens.

(I was shocked to learn several days later that this was Nick’s fifth concussion in four years. Is that correct? And it made me too wonder about whether the great man needs to think of his future health rather than to risk more. And it also bought back memories of those little black head protection hats some players used to run around in, that you never see anymore. Were they proven not to help with concussion? I know the worst types has the brain hitting the inside skull and even the hat wouldn’t prevent that. The Club is thankfully taking their time in making a decision about his return. He is truly a man who gives 150% even to the detriment of his own long-term health. He definitely bleeds red, white and black, and though the decision is ultimately his and his families, he has already bled enough for 10 lifetimes. Our thoughts are with you, Nick.)


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. Jan richardson says

    Hi Yvette, Really enjoyed your post on your visit to Adelaide. As a Saints supporter living in Adelaide we are always outnumbered at the matches but I would NEVER dream of switching allegiances! We always try to come over to Melbourne for 4-5 matches a year to watch our Saints. Unfortunately couldn’t get to The Office on Saturday (but went to the match) however we will definitely will go to the pre-match function when Saints play Port. Kind Regards Jan Richardson. GO SAINTS!

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Hey Yvette, Adelaide’s a great place to discover on foot, isn’t it.

    When you go over for the Port game, I’d recommend that you do the Adelaide Oval Tour ( )

  3. Ben Footner says

    So many stories in one story Yvette, really enjoyed it!

    Glad you had a good time in our fair state. Young Bruce looks like he’ll be one hell of a recruit for the Saints.

    Despite the unfortunate result for Lonie that was such a courageous contest from both parties – both hard at the footy and determined to win it at all costs. Bone crunching stuff, but fair. From my perspective I loved 2nd gamer Lever’s attack in that moment.

  4. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi all thanks to Russ for letting me know that he and Bron from above story are happily married but not to each other. Woops. Apologies beloved spouses.

    Would love to catch up this next trip with more knackers.

    Thanks all for lovely comments

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Yvette enjoyable read of your sa experience

  6. Yvette Wroby says

    Also Russ Barclay is correct spelling

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