Round 9 – Brisbane Lions v St Kilda: St Kilda and Queensland, warm and yummy

Brisbane Lions v St Kilda


Sunday 31st May 2015 1.10pm


On the road again

I am loving going to every game this year. I love being at the footy in Melbourne, and bit by bit I am falling in love with the travelling aspect of footy life. So far, I have travelled to the Gold Coast, to New Zealand, to Adelaide and now to Brisbane. Each trip I meet Saints people, some of the Travelling Saints, some of the Cheer Squad, and some of the locals. Hot weather was expected this weekend, so I had a fan from Japan, a water spray and heaps of suntan lotion. I even remembered to bring my Saints cap, unusual for me as being such a princess, I get my hair done each week and rarely wear a hat that will flatten my hairdo. I plan to wear the summer gear and sandals to the game and fan myself like a proper Nanna. I am predicting I will be in the full force of Queensland sunshine, a rarity in my footy life, with an expected temperature of over 28 degrees.

It’s been so busy, I have had so little time to reflect that during the two-hour flight for some reason I put my watch back an hour. Just like that I’m back at a different time of year and completely out of whack with reality.

I find upon landing that one of my new footy mates, Jonathan, has left me a text, offering to pick me up from my hotel to go to training. I text back, accepting his lovely offer, and confirm once I’m in the hotel that he’ll pick me up at 2.30. So I think I have a good hour and a bit to have a cuppa and unpack. I begin to pack my little rucksack ready to go with notepads and suntan lotion. Except in the middle of that I get a phone call from Jonathan asking why I’m not in the lobby, and I go charging downstairs to meet up. He has his daughter Aurora with him, and after watching the Saints warm up, they are heading to her netball training, which she does six times a week. I put my watch back to the correct time and begin the day afresh. It didn’t help that I was flying up only one day before the match; I have made it two days up to now, to allow myself to orientate, acclimatise, and write. This time it is all concertinaed, muddled and full to the brim. I will not end up writing for days.

It is lovely chatting with Jonathan and Aurora as we sped towards the Gabba. They have sweetly come of their way to fetch me, and if they hadn’t, I would have missed the whole shebang. It only took 10 minutes to find a park and walk down to the only open entrance, where a few dozen other Saints fans were milling around. It felt like a reunion of sorts, seeing Georgie Day and Gail again (last seen in Adelaide), seeing Bev and Murray and Jan from the Queensland Saints (as was Jonathan). I am collecting new people like stamps. One by one, two by two, I get stories and then re-meet them at another time and place.

When the gates open, we sat along the fence line, watching the boys go through light training, and we chat with Murray. I got his story in New Zealand, but time and my sloppy handwriting meant it was disjointed, so over that afternoon and evening, I wrote most of it down again. Meanwhile, the boys have finished and come over to the scattering of fans to give autographs. I line up with the rest, saying hello, complimenting Alan Richardson on his weekly reports, seeing how magnificent Nick Riewoldt looks up close, all the usual crazy fan stuff. There are reporters and press. Jan and Bev are busy taking photos with their favourite players, to add to their collections. After all, they tell me, not all of them work out so well, so it’s good to keep taking more. I walk with Bev, Jan and Murray and Jo (from the cheer squad in Melbourne) up to the Pineapple Bar, where we spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening.

These Queensland Saints are the organisers and they are disappointed that the numbers were poor at training (it costs the club to put on an open training) and there were about 50 people there on the afternoon. On top of that, the Club function got cancelled for lack of numbers; perhaps, like Jonathan, they had sports to take their kids to on Sunday morning pre-game. The Committee of 11 try hard to engage with the wider fan base, to get other Saints supporters involved in the club at interstate events. It just doesn’t always come off.

A St Kilda love story

Jan from Queensland Saints tells me a funny story.   Murray had been President of the Queensland Saints for 15 years, but five years ago his friend and fellow committee person Jan introduced his wife and fellow organiser, Bev, as the “person who runs things” to the local Channel 9 news. Since then, they are both known as the Presidents. Murray quips that he was demoted through a comment to the press.

I spent time with Bev and Murray in both New Zealand and Brisbane, getting to know about their St Kilda love story. Murray says he’s a masochist, born and bred to be a Sainter, with his whole family infected with the St Kilda gene. Back in the day, he went to Wesley College on Punt Road, St Kilda.

Bev is a Tasmanian, and had a girlfriend in Melbourne who thought Bev needed a Victorian team to support. Bev says that Ian “Molly” Meldrum, in “Go-Set”, the first pop music newspaper in Australia, often talked about St Kilda in 1971. (Molly is also famous for being at the 1966 Grand Final Premiership win and fainting when the Saints won). Bev obviously liked reading “Go-Set” and reading Molly’s articles about music and the St Kilda Football Club, because the Saints became her team as well.

When she shifted to Melbourne, she attended football at Moorabbin, and more importantly started going to the St Kilda Social Club on Linton Street to meet people to go to the footy with. She’d attended thus far with her friend, a Hawks supporter, and they’d alternate attending both teams’ games. To this day, Bev still has a soft spot for Hawthorn.

Many years on, one Thursday night after training at Moorabbin, Murray and Bev met and kept meeting. They’d found their perfect match, later married elsewhere, and had their reception in the Gold Pass Room (the function room of the St Kilda Football Club at Moorabbin), and in the background of some of their wedding photos is Barry Breen’s framed Golden Boot — the one used to kick the point to give the Saints their first and only Premiership win.

Murray came from a family of fanatics. His father Dick was 66 years old in 1966, and they were at the Grand Final with Murray (who was 13) and Murray’s half-brother, Dick Jr. (who was 38). Murray tells me that they were up in the stands when the sirens blew, and Dick was huffing, “blowing like a draft horse”. So Dick sat down to catch his breath as everyone around was going crazy celebrating.

Many years later, Murray asked him what had happened, and Dick said, “I was having a heart attack. We just beat bloody Collingwood by a bloody point and I wasn’t going anywhere.”

With the advent of his first child, and living in St Kilda, Dick hit Wesley for enrollment and then straight to the MCC to register his child before even meeting his wife and the newborn Murray at the Alfred Hospital.

Bev and Murray are full of stories. Murray likes to tell the one about his stepbrother Dick, who lived on Bluff Road, Sandringham. His best friend and neighbour was a Pies supporter, Alec or “Blackie”. They were best mates through the Sandringham Yacht Club. And they were enemies as far as the footy was concerned. Come the 1966 semi- final, Collingwood beat St Kilda by 10 points.

Blackie painted Dick’s black dog with some white on Monday night. Dick retaliated by painting Blackie’s black and white cat, adding some red paint. Blackie painted Dick’s front door black and white. Dick painted Blackie’s letterbox in Saints colours. Things escalated from there. Blackie climbed up on the roof, which had chimney with a patch of red, white and black brickwork at the very top. Blackie, a tradie, managed to put a huge picture of a magpie up, a timber framed piece of Masonite art at least eight feet wide and three feet tall from the chimney, properly nail-gunned into the brickwork.

Come Friday night, this malarkey had made the papers, with the “Herald” article headed, “This is War”. Dick’s wife Judy made a huge red, white and black flag, and they planted it in Blackie’s front yard, and this, with the flagpole in one hand and an axe in the other, was the photo accompanying the headline.

There is no follow-up story of what happened after the Saints were victorious. Perhaps all the energy had been spent in the lead up. And they were friends after all.

The crazy Saints couple have not eased up. During regular week, they are still working hard at their jobs. But come footy times, when they are not going to games on the Gold Coast or in Brisbane, or organising the Queensland Saints functions, they watch footy all together as a group at one of their homes. Bev tells me one time at the Gold Coast, after a Saints breakfast function, the players were doing recovery on the beach. There were 10 women from the organising group who were busy trying to take photos of the young men. Bev said that the players were standing there watching the women take photos from behind the bushes. She says they were so accustomed to being checked out, they laughed and took it in their stride.

At the Pineapple Bar on Saturday evening, Sue and John were introduced to me via Jan, Bev and Murray. They’ve moved up from Tassie to be warmer and closer to their daughter, and to see more AFL games. Sue met Bev two months ago, they got talking about life and eventually football and now they are part of the Queensland Saints, too. Sue remembers her childhood heroes Dick Reynolds, Ian Stewart and Bob Skilton, all Tassie boys. She grew up a Pies supporter because her local team were black and white, but married John, a long time Sainter, who loved “Doc” Baldock. And has been a Saint ever since.

One boo at a time

Swirling around all the conversations on Saturday night was the controversy over Adam Goodes “war dance” towards the Carlton crowd on Friday night. There was commentary on the TV, newspapers, Twitter and in pubs and groupings. My first response was to think that he was dancing towards the Carlton supporters, was giving them a little of the heat back. Later Adam provided his context, but from an observer it looked like he was taking the opposition on. It reminded me of when Stephen Milne would do his powerful fist and arm pumps after goals towards the crowd. Take that.

It seemed some “hated” Adam Goodes generally, and Friday just added to it. It was an interesting discussion that started with a lot of heat within one of the groups I chatted with, but what I found interesting is that when I began a one-on-one conversation, and began to wonder with the other person what it would be like to grow up black in Australia, wonder at the lack of the general population having anything to do with Indigenous people in their daily lives, how it was hard to imagine what the “other” may experience differently to ourselves, especially over generations, what it would mean to be representing your people at the highest level, the conversation shifted a little. Through one-on-one thinking, was there a minor move in thinking about the whole “Adam Goodes” thing being part of a longer, deeper, more painful or celebratory conversation? It left me wondering if we could ask someone next to us, whether at the football or on the street, why they “booed” or responded the way they did. Can we tackle one boo at a time with more thought and less heat?

More Saints, more stories

The next morning, before the game, I went for a walk along South Bank, enjoying the warmth, the fake beach on the banks of the river, and looking through the Sunday morning market. There I found a fabulous white wide-brimmed hat, perfect for a day in the Queensland winter sun. All it needed was my silk scarf to decorate it, and my morning was complete.

Thus dressed appropriately for a hot day at the footy, I was off to meet others at the Pineapple. This time I met Sandy and her two adult daughters, Cheryl and Tarin. They said they’d been “brainwashed” by their mother Sandy as children, by their Mum and their grandfather. They also grew up in Tassie. I am seeing a trend, lots of Queenslanders who have come to the warm after growing up in the Apple Isle. They introduce me to Mick, who joins us.

Mick had a great story of why he was a Saint. Henk, his father, was an immigrant from Holland, and a chef who came to Australia in 1966 and worked at the “Downtown” restaurant in Melbourne. A friend took him to the 1966 Grand Final. Henk said, “I will support the winner for the rest of my life.” And he has, even though Mick and Henk still go to Suns matches as well, just so long as they have footy to enjoy together.

I met Chris, another committee member of the Queensland Saints, who said he had heaps of family, huge swathes of Saints supporting family, whom he wants to introduce me to. We got to chat a little as Murray, Chris and I walked to the ground pre-game. We had a job to do on this day. We’d been invited to join in the Cheer Squad to hold the banner up, in lieu of asking Brisbane supporters to help out.

The People of the Banner

My big brother Andre used to be in the St Kilda Cheer Squad in the late ’60s. He would sneak out after my parents went to bed and meet up with his mate Warren, steal phone books from the then-plentiful public phone booths, and rip them up to throw up during a footy game. He would help make the banner and be behind the goals every game waving his flogger.

There’s no paper being thrown these days, and fewer travelling cheer squad members to hold up the Saints banner. It is the usual practice that if there aren’t enough cheer squad bodies to do the job while interstate, the opposition home team helps out. Jo is the only cheer squad member who seems to be travelling to every game this year, and Jonathan, on discussing it with him and the Club and cheer squad, volunteered the locals to help out. I became one of the locals.

Murray, Chris and I walked from the bar and headed through the security (who wouldn’t let me go in with half-open bottles of water, only full ones) and around to the cheer squad area in Section 15 of the Gabba. Here we registered our names with the organisers of the cheer squad, and waited around for the specified time to go onto the ground. We had to be there an hour before game time. As the time ticked on, we were gathered up and walked the whole distance of the ground to the opposite entrance onto the ground, given yellow paper wrist bracelets labelled with GABBA FOP, and were led into the inner sanctum, along with all the Brisbane people to line up on the roadway up to the ground. Here were the first-aid vehicle and the Brisbane cheer squad who would line up in front of Brion the Lion. There were media doing interviews nearby and Indigenous performers preparing to go out for the celebrations of the AFL Indigenous Round.

Being gathered all together, and instructed by a Brisbane Lions employee as well as other cheer squad members on the routine, I suggested a group photo. It was certainly a first for me and I wanted to remember it. The group all gathered together, and then the Brisbane Lions lady took one of me included as well.

We all marched onto the ground, the men picking up the two huge poles, another two people carrying the bases for the poles, different members holding the ropes to keep the structure up, and then the rest of us just wandered out to help. I stayed close to the poles, holding some of the material in place, trying to be useful. Once on the ground, further instructions given by the Saints organiser from the Club or cheer squad: Place the banner on the ground, roll it out, connect the ropes, stand it up, stand certain ways to hold it up, bring it down again and wait.

Lots of waiting during all this, and then the Welcome to Country and the dancing and the anthem. The banner now standing, with the ropes held tight by the more experienced people of the group, and my labour going into the holding up the poles on one side, we watched our players come out the gate and gather in a group. Nick Riewoldt assembled them all in a rousing moment before breaking the banner. Suddenly, it was “Gather it together, just roughly, don’t roll,” shmushing and scrunching it up and walking across the ground to get out of the way as the players warmed up. Around the boundary we went, and put the spent banner (which had read “Tenacity & Energy, Advance with Momentum”) back where we’d found it and made our way to our places.

For me, it was a loo stop and a sandwich stop before picking up my gear from others sitting near the cheer squad, and heading back, hot and bothered, as I could hear the first three goals scored by the Brisbane Lions (Robinson, Bewick and Rich). My seats were with my Brisbane friends, who told me a funny story when I arrived.

In front of us were my four Moorabbin Wing and Travelling Saints friends who were trying to find me to take a photo as I’d asked. They were saying, “Where’s Yvette?” at the same time as my mates, trying to locate me (after an SMS informing them of my banner duties and look out for me), were also saying, “Can you see Yvette?” Michael, Wendy and Gayle turned around to Russell and Lucy and their boys, and said there surely can’t be two Yvettes out there. Unbeknownst to each other, we were all sitting together, thanks to random chance via the ticketing gods.

When the Lions got their fourth goal through Rich and fifth through Lester, it was time to settle down and see what the hell was happening out on the field. The sun was high and burning, I was hungry and thirsty. Nick Riewoldt got one back for the Saints, Lester another for the Lions, and Nick again before Rockliff finished the quarter and the siren blew, giving both me and the boys a moment to compose ourselves.

“The Saints…are coming…..The Saints…are…coming”

After the Saints came back against the Doggies a few weeks back, the media, the teams and the fans no longer look at a quarter-time deficit of 28 points against them as a huge gap to conquer. It’s not necessarily a given that the Saints will come back firing, but it seems to have become our “thing”. When David Armitage smashed two goals in a minute at the beginning of the second, you could feel the mood of the surrounds begin to settle, then goals to Lonie, Dunstan, Steven and Dunstan again completely changed the afternoon at the Gabba. In a comprehensive turnaround, St Kilda were now ahead. Green clawed one back to steady his team, but Saint Nick put that to rest.

The Saints had come.

At halftime, Saints led by 10 points. Our seats were by the St Kilda entrance, and so we could cheer the boys for good work as they ran in and out and up and down their race. We could stretch our legs and laugh about another great comeback. With only 10 points the difference, it was game on. Gayle took a photo of Lucy and I, and it probably summed up the day: Sheltering under my wide-brimmed hat, I was grinning, and Lucy, wearing my Saints baseball cap for shelter from the sun and wearing her Brisbane Lions guernsey, looked a picture of hammed-up “mortification”.

The extraordinary run of the players, both Lions and Saints, was thrilling to watch. Suddenly a mistake or turnover saw the other pass beautifully over and over again, and if lucky, snatch a goal. There were moments when just two kicks took the goal into on or other of the goal squares. There were marks and passes and fabulous team workmanship, and incredible tackling which, when stepped up by either team, changed the momentum over and over.

While I sprayed myself with water and fanned myself like a royalty, the boys were running around in this tropical heat and being wrapped in cold, icy towels when they were on the interchange bench. It seemed so weird being attacked by the sun while watching a game of footy. For a Melbourne girl through and through, it was bizarre indeed. For all these refugees from colder states, or natives to sunny Queensland, it was a magnificent winter’s afternoon. I knew that the Queensland Sainters, who had a noisy second quarter up in the stands, were sunning themselves and enjoying this treat immensely.

Third quarter proved to be an equal-opportunity 30 minutes. Adam Schneider came out with intention and goaled twice, quickly. It felt everybody on the field were giving their all. Brisbane answered through their stars Rich, Zorko and Lester. And then injuries began to affect their run. Riewoldt sealed the quarter and the Saints’ heat and intent with a goal.

It’s funny how Nick Riewoldt’s return to the team results in less flash, dash and magic from Josh Bruce. He had four shots for one goal. And he is still great in the contest. This last quarter was more of the same for the Saints, especially with Weller slotting two through to start the quarter (before later being reported for striking and getting a one-week ban). Lester again goaled for the Lions, their biggest goal kicker for the day, before Bruce’s one and only. Christensen pulled one back before the day ended with our defender Dylan Roberton sealing the afternoon with a kiss of a goal. It was a 22-point victory, and Saints fans sang the song truly as the team clapped at the cheer squad before high fiving the crowd on the way back past us again. It was a truly wonderful afternoon of experiences, and if St Kilda keep winning up here, I’ll have to keep following them up north.

How I want to be

Saints have been having a good deal of positive chatter about them this year, as commentators and fans alike can see the gradual and steady improvement. On top of that, a belief in themselves has been born. Our slogan this year, “How I Want to Be” is brilliant, a part of our song and brilliantly used to spur the boys and fans on. A directive pointing us all to be better in all we do, not just in footy but in our lives every day.

As for the U-turn on the ground, apparently Schneider talked to the group at quarter time, reminding them all of their fantastic ability to come back and improve. Watching the boys develop week by week, up close and personal and watching the replays, I can see the changes for myself, even in our losses. The Brisbane Lions were magnificent in the first quarter, and a little shocked, like their fans, at the unbelievable turnaround in the second. Injuries, as well as self-doubt caused by a more attacking St Kilda were hard to manage on the day. But they are improving, too, and their fans have a lot to look forward to in the future.

I wondered back to the Pineapple and joined the happy Saints. Murray had taught me a knock knock joke, old as they come but new to me:

Knock Knock

Who’s there?


Owen Who?

O When the Saints, go marching in

O When the Saints go marching in

How I want to be in that number

When the Saints go marching in.

Even Luke Hodge, captain of Hawthorn who we play this week, is taking notice of our fine young men.

Come Monday morning it was the journey back to a cold Melbourne and responsibilities. My Melbourne taxi driver was so pleased to have a woman in her car who loved talking footy and sharing stories. “E” was a Hawthorn supporter but found herself yelling “You’re a champion” to Riewoldt when she saw him one time. The trip home was pleasant and funny, a perfect full stop to a pretty awesome weekend of football fanaticism, opportunity, friendship and victory.


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. Yvette Wroby says

    Oops typo got past. St kilda lost in semi final in 1966 by 30 points not 10

  2. Nope. I fixed the original typo. St Kilda lost the semi-final by 10, 99-89. The original said 30.

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