St Kilda – Who Cares?

Sentiment is worthless when it comes to St Kilda.  Their frightful history of non-achievement should ensure they remain the AFL’s most sentimentalised club, but for neutral fans, bestowing that emotional investment is a waste of time.

 

Few neutral fans would begrudge the Saints if they won a premiership, but fewer actually want them to win one.  It is much easier for the neutral fan to feel sorry for clubs like the Western Bulldogs, Fremantle and Richmond.

 

History continues to hate Fremantle, but thousands of neutral fans wanted them to win the 2013 grand final.

 

Upon meeting a Fremantle fan, the first question is simple, why Fremantle?  The answer is often just as simple, I hate the Eagles.  Hate doesn’t excuse a bad choice, but most Docker fans couldn’t care less.  Their pathetic club doesn’t tend to affect personalities.

 

Fremantle fans are often seen smiling and laughing.  They couldn’t wear purple otherwise, and smiling is easier than staying angry for eighteen years.  It gives the impression they remain detached from the failure, yeah I follow Fremantle, funny hey?

 

Richmond fans summon a raised eyebrow and instant pity, you follow Richmond, I feel sorry for you.  But it is easy to reminisce with Tiger fans about those four premierships under Tom Hafey and their last instalment, the 1980 premiership.

 

At least Richmond fans have something to brag about, no matter 1980 was 33-years ago and they’ve hardly done anything since.  They remain an intense lot who don’t want to be pitied, but they’ll accept it anyway.

 

And they’ll always sing their song with you…

 

The Western Bulldogs have always been a hopeless underdog.  Sympathy bestowed to their supporters is real, you poor bugger, I didn’t think there was any of you left. 

 

Conversation inevitably focuses on two preliminary finals, anything could’ve happened had Libba’s kick been awarded a goal, and what about the Riewoldt’s goal after he got a free for being bumped.

 

Bulldog fans smile and shrug.  The neutral fan wants to hug them.

 

Meeting St Kilda fans is different.  After shaking hands, the neutral fan will want to wash his hands. The subject is quickly changed, nice weather lately.  The neutral fan might check their phone for messages or emails.  They will Google ways of exiting a conversation with a Saints fan.

 

Later they’ll text a mate, met a Saints fan today and got away before he could infect my psyche.  I can’t talk about Barry Breen anymore.

 

It isn’t success that makes people so apathetic about St Kilda.  It’s the expected lack of success that frustrates neutral fans.

 

They have won 26 wooden spoons, including eight since 1977.  No club comes close to that mediocrity.

 

Whenever St Kilda make the finals, it is easy to lose patience.  Cynicism is expected.

 

There is no doubt life could’ve been different.  A mistake by a goal umpire in 2009 and a bad bounce in 2010 seemed a conspiracy at the time, but those theories were wiped out in the Grand Final replay.

 

St Kilda’s most recent Grand Final foes, Geelong and Collingwood, have maintained their lists and their place in the finals.  They have been able to rebuild without mediocrity.  The Saints, for all their champs, seem about to bottom out.

 

That has to be poor list management.

 

When Scott Watters was sacked on November 1, St Kilda was said to be in crisis.  It always seems in crisis.

 

Watters was sacked for behavioural issues.  He was reportedly a control freak with a huge ego and loose lips.  There are claims he had relationship issues with colleagues and the playing group.

 

When Saints president Peter Summers announced the sacking, he mentioned tension, and described it as a good thing in footy clubs.

 

Watters has been told to go and find a club that enjoys it.

 

It is a big moment in football when a coach is sacked.  St Kilda has had a few big moments in recent history.

 

Stan Alves and Grant Thomas were sacked after leading St Kilda to the finals.

 

Malcolm Blight was sacked fifteen rounds into 2001, for behavioural issues.

 

Ross Lyon stayed for six years.  His record shows three grand finals for no wins.  His record could’ve been so different, but it wasn’t.  So he quit.

 

Watters’ two-year stint wasn’t successful.  Aside from behavioural issues, honesty seemed a problem too.  Last year he said the club was in a rebuilding phase.  That comment upset the wrong people at the club, who had a different view of the list.

 

Five wins this season suggests Watters was right.  Five wins weren’t enough.  Honesty only gets a coach so far.  Sometimes it gets a coach sacked.

 

Repeated failure is a tough existence.  History is never erased, which is why few neutral fans feel anything for the club.  The neutral fan has a stinging mantra, who cares, at least I don’t follow them.

 

St Kilda, for all their early draft picks, won’t rebound in 2014.  They won’t play finals.  They will lose members.

 

Their newly appointed coach, Alan Richardson, will have to rebuild the club, but he’ll have to do it sensitively.  St Kilda is a club that tolerates failure but it doesn’t tolerate criticism, particularly from the coach.

 

Richardson will also have to rebuild respect, because St Kilda barely commands any.  It is why the neutral fan is sick of the Saints.  They just don’t seem to do anything.

 

As one neutral fan recently said, we play them twice next year.  That’s two wins.  What’s to hate?

 

Neutral fans have given up on St Kilda.  They just don’t give a damn.

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…

Comments

  1. Spot on Matt. I have told this story before so briefly, from 1966 (Bakelite radio listening to my first VFL GF live with my Dad in Renmark) to Blight’s sacking in 2001 the Saints were my VFL team. This lasted 4 years after I moved to Perth, and 2 years after I became an Eagles member. I still had the Saints at #1 and barracked for them when they played the Eagles.
    Sacking 2 of my favourite footy people in a couple of years (Blight and Stan Alves) was the final straw for me, and like the punt, I swore off them for life. They should carry a mental health warning, and wear plain brown packaging, just like cigarettes.
    I thought they were the pits in 2001, and they were only just getting started. Its been mostly downhill and disasters since then.
    I agree with everything you said, though the Dockers got off lightly.
    Cheers.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    I just hope the internet is down in a particular town somewhere in the States at the moment.
    I’ve already stepped over the line suggesting Yvette should change her colours from red white and black to red white and blue.
    Probably barracking for another struggling Club, I never thought ‘who cares’ in regard to St.Kilda. In the last ten years they have had the wood over the Bulldogs and I envied their champs, particularly Riewoldt and would you believe a bloke called Kosi. Kosi in his prime that is, as a tall marking forward who always seemed to outmark the small Bulldog backmen late in matches.
    And of course by luck or just by being a better unit, St Kilda stepped over the Bulldogs into a couple of Grand Finals. Once I got over yet another PF loss, I wanted the Saints to win those GFs.
    The present competition is made up with a mixture of Clubs all with a different ‘feel’ to them. St Kilda just needs to get their administration right to be followed by getting their recruiting right. I think their choice of the new coach seems to be a good start.
    I feel for the likes of Nick Riewoldt , Lenny Hayes and all the supporters when the sordid details of the current court-case is front-page news.
    It’s a long way back to get respect again but we need the so- called struggling but historically significant Clubs to continue with a chance to eventually get on top again. I would rather say ‘who cares’ about Gold Coast and GWS.

  3. mickey randall says

    As a Crow-eater and young football fan I had plenty of affection for the Saints- Trevor Barker, Nicky Winmar, Plugger Lockett. However, the chronic and continuing dysfunction has extinguished my patience. I suspect I am not alone. I can only imagine the misery of the supporters who have them as their first team. It must be excruciating.

  4. Skip of Skipton says

    Don’t forget Ken Sheldon. He got that club up and motoring. Then got the arse.

  5. Yvette Wroby says

    Hello Almanackers,

    can’t turn my back for a minute and the claws are out against the Saints. I am currently on a train back from Plymouth to New York, and I am having such a good time watching American Football, Knicks basketball, (soon the Bruins hockey) the Red Sox winning a championship that I am (almost) too happy to respond.

    Almost .I think it shows great strength of character and a little chutzpa (spunk) to be a long term Saints supporter. To me, its like family, you love em even if they drive you nuts. And because no one else cares, it actually brings Saints supporters
    closer together. Saints supporters I know have humour, patience, hope and a steady stream of retorts because our club has always muddled along and copped heaps from other teams, supporters and media Even when it doesn’t deserve it.

    So I’m kinda happy if we’re hated or ignored. Don’t be sorry for Sainters, hate us good and proper. Fans like me just take it a season at a time, a game at a time and try and find something good about it. For me it’s the Saints supporters I’ve met through the Almanac, like Glenn and DD and Stephanie and my Uncle Bob and Gary and friend Rina. The Saints need us in such a fundamental way, it needs every one of us to stay loyal.

    My brother and I actually talked about this today while strolling around a Premium Outlet store in Wrentham, MA, Who we’d barrack for if the Saints were moved to Wellington. HE’s always like North Melbourne as a second club. I’d go to the Bulldogs.

    Just remember, the Red Sox sacked their coach last year and came last. Everyone thought the same would happen this year. But they showed that with a little clever recruiting, some ugly beards and a great attitude from the get go (they decided they wanted the Championship in their preseason), they got the Cup. So I am going to bring a little Red Sox karma to the Saints and hope that this year, miracles and magic are made. Who knows? Come on Saints. Get those ugly beards going….

    Yvette

    PS The Grand Final replay was a disaster because so many of the Saints were injured that they had n thing left in the tank. When I went to the family day just after, I lost count of the number of GF players on crutches, bandaged etc. They looked and felt terrible. So I know they worked their butts off and that’s all I ever want. One day we will get the silverware again, meanwhile, life goes on and so do the Saints, no matter what.

  6. I’ll have some of whatever she’s having (footy club excepted).
    Cheers, Yvette.

  7. David Downer says

    Amusing.

    So the jist of this is …people from afar, who don’t barrack for anyone – or who barrack for teams other than St Kilda – and thus had little-to-zero interest in supporting or emotionally/financially contributing to St Kilda, now have even less of an interest in doing so?

    Well, ok.

    As a decidedly non-neutral – for a club of admittedly great continual dysfunction, St Kilda are still a going concern after 140 years. They must be doing something right. After all, they just elicited a 1000 word dissertation out of you, declaring you didn’t care about them.

    Saints fans accept calamities and near-misses as their lot. But there is always hope. You learn early on there is more to a club than merely a column that says “Premierships”. Supporters of other clubs may form entirely different opinions and mindsets growing up. And that is part of the great divergences of each club and the rivalries that have evolved over time.

    If there’s a club who allows you to step back and put football in perspective of the wider scheme of life – it’s St Kilda.

    Your family, extended family, and the many life-long St Kilda friends you make along the way doth grimace, rejoice, moan, and generally then have a laugh about it all.

    It’s probably what holds it all together.

    And we’d never, ever, give that up.

    As a “neutral” who doesn’t have the fortune to experience as such, I am sorry.

    The people who have always cared about St Kilda (except perhaps for the commenter above me), still do.

    That’s been good enough for 140 years, and will be good enough for another 140.

  8. I doubt most “neutral fans” would barrack for the Saints now, even as a second or third team, because by nature they’re looking for a feel-good story to supplement whatever ups and downs they endure with their first team. But Saints supporters will do just fine without sympathy or disapproval. We’re used to it, including the recent overwrought reporting by a certain Age writer.

    And, yes, I’ve only been a Saints supporter for a bit more than a dozen years and thus have a lot more good than bad to show for it, including a couple of great friends I’ll keep forever. But I waited four decades for the Boston Red Sox to win a World Series through astonishing heartbreak, and they’ve now won three in 10 seasons. So anything can happen.

    Honestly if the Saints make another run in a few years loads of “neutral fans” will barrack for them because of what would have to be an admirable rebuilding effort to get back to contention, with a new coach and new players and management that’s stayed away from controversy for that duration. What an incredible story that would be — “The Saints do something RIGHT! Can you believe it?” — and it would capture everyone’s attention. And many of you would come back to our side. That’s the nature of the beast.

    And then, as point of comparison, we would AGAIN be reminded of all the crap that went on for the 10-20 years beforehand, as if anyone with those current Saints would have had anything at all to do with it. You can’t win — until the Saints actually do win. And then attention would turn to the next sad case on the list. We can only hope.

  9. Cat from the Country says

    Hope is a wonderful word!
    Been a Cats supporter since 1964!
    Hoped every year, especially in the 90’s for that elusive Flag.
    Became a member in 2000. Continued to hope
    Over the moon in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
    Hoped for 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013.
    I will never give up hope for more premierships.

    Saints, Doggies and Tiger fans need to take on board that hope and stop feeling sorry for themaelves.
    Except for the newbies the “old” VFL teams have a long history studded with great stars.

    Finding it hard to wait patiently for next season still full of hope!

  10. I couldn’t agree more and well said Matt.

    Whilst there’s no logic to it, I cannot stand St Kilda and I know I should feel something for them, but again, I feel for the Dogs and lean towards other less successful clubs but St Kilda do nothing for me at all. I don’t expect St Kilda fans to care that a non Saint person can’t stand them, and I support Yvette’s comments about not wanting pity, but they are a mess.

    There’s a reason, many in fact, why this club has been consistently so poor and with such little success. Their record of managing coaches, changeovers and people and culture issues is simply awful. Will they ever learn?

    For a club with so many picks in the draft, so many star quality players, so much going for them, through the last 13 years to have not done more, is just lousy and the way they have handled Blight to Thomas, Lyon with his short term plan, to Watters telling the truth and the club not liking it, is a reciepe for disaster.

    Riewoldt is deified as Carey with good looks and better manners, Kosi forgiven as a great bloke who’s awkwardness on field was tolerated and off field behaviours just shrugged off as being “so St Kilda”.

    I don’t feel for Nick and Lenny etc when they see the off field issues spread over the press? Weren’t they there supposedly setting a leadership culture when it did happen?

    They are a mess, and the sad thing was that we weren’t surprised when it all went pear shaped again recently

    Sean

  11. How I rank perceptions of my footy club;
    People not caring about us; the biggest insult.
    People hating us because of dodgy behaviour/ethics; worrying.
    People having us as their second or third team; nup, insulting.
    People caring for us; slightly better, but not here.
    People hating us for the right reasons, like envious of success ; better again.
    People loving us; the best.
    Not giving a rats what people think; the ultimate, (but out of reach for nearly all).

  12. David Downer says

    Sean.

    Give me a spell.

    An errant bounce of the ball away from being back to back premiers.

    But feel free to overlook that, wouldn’t suit your argument.

    I guess we can blame the oval shape of a football on St Kilda’s “culture” also.

    #culture #clichealert

  13. an errant bounce the other way and they wouldn’t have won in 1966

  14. David Downer says

    We like to deliver the “neutrals” exciting grand finals where possible

  15. nathan jarvis says

    You’d get a different answer if you asked me “Why Fremantle?” and your personality would be quite severely affected. It would positively hum.

    The rest of your baseless and, worse, humourless generalisations I couldn’t give a toss about.

  16. This article could just have easily been titled: North Melbourne – who cares? Haven’t played finals in a meaningful sense for years; chuck it in when things get tight; still dining on feats of Carey (and Blight ); want Friday night footy spot not due to merit but because they “pioneered” it (spare me); proud Melbourne club (apart from games sold to Tassie ).
    And their tilt at the finals this year is to be fueled by a St.Kilda cast-off!

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