True love this time?

St Kilda versus West Coast

2.10pm Saturday, April 11

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

I went to this game for two reasons.

I didn’t buy the Eagles of 2008. From 2,000 kilometres away, it looked like an opportune time to ride the wave of lost talent, invest in some elective surgery for its list and reap the benefits of a low finish in the last pre-GC17 draft.

They had enjoyed recent success, had a secure coach and loyal fans. One poor year in a bid to tap into a local personnel resources boom, was surely the way to go. I remained deeply suspicious; particularly after their demolition of Port the week prior.

Secondly, I needed to learn to love again.

As a Saints fan, I was accustomed to dining on a five – star buffet of colorful characters. Cowboy Neale, Big Carl, Barks, Plugger, Joffa, Robbie Muir and Neil Elvis Winmar – these were men of character. We had a used car salesman as a ruckman and a potato farmer for a full back. We had players that kicked:

  1. A dog (Doug Booth)
  2. A goal from the centre (Geoff Fehring)
  3. Tons (Plugger) and
  4. Dermie’s nuts (Winmar)

There was never a dull moment. To top it all off, we were usually hopeless, but at least I understood what we were all about.

With understanding came identification. With identification came a bond. Then came a cast of misfits, rejects, trades and unlikely types that somehow managed to make finals and grand finals. My one – way relationship had blossomed into a meaningful reciprocation. I was in love.

I am not sure what to make of the Saints circa 2009. They appear to be highly efficient, effective, determined and coherent, but have as much personality as a Weet Bix.

(If anyone doubts the importance of personality in a loving relationship, I suggest that you put yourself in the shoes of Craig Lambert or Micky Martyn’s mum. Sometimes it’s all you’ve got)

So it proved, that the characteristics that they have lacked for most of their 136 years, have appeared to become the cornerstones of this year’s tilt at the prize. This was perhaps best summarized by the events of the first quarter: Goddard was unpredictably sent to full – forward, had four goals in the blink of an eye, and was benched. The big guns had done little and the Eagles were just hanging on.

In the second, they were just hanging around. St.Kilda kicked 10 straight and the contest was over.

To their credit, the Eagles had a dip in the third, but only broke even. What had been a whiff of a potential belting in the first half, had grown to a stench. The final margin was 97 points and St.Kilda had a 3-0 start.

I have seen the Saints hand out beltings before, but this was different. The reliance on a ‘fab four’ or ‘super six’ was gone. It was hard to find a non-contributor and the tasks of chasing, tackling, sacrificing and assisting were the domain of all. Meanwhile, the Eagles were insipid. Cox and Kerr battled manfully and Priddis saw a lot of it, but the rest were M.I.A.

So much so, that during the second quarter, my watching colleague Scotty and I, were attempting to recount the words to Sesame Street’s ‘spot the difference’ song: “one of these things doesn’t go together, guess which one of these doesn’t belong”. It was the Eagles.

Three of the biggest positives for the Saints were the continued renaissance of Gardiner, the role of Koschitzke as a forward pack buster, and the previously unheralded Clinton Jones. Jones ran with Kerr and took the points.

In the end, I was forced to revise my stance on both issues of the day. The Eagles look like they will struggle anywhere east of Ceduna.

There was a lot to like about St.Kilda, but they have broken hearts before.

They say that September in Spring is the time for love – if the Saints can hold form until then, maybe I will love again.

St Kilda 5.2 15.2 20.7 25.11 (161)

West Coast 2.4 4.5 9.7 9.10 (64)

GOALS St Kilda: Goddard, Koschitzke, Milne 4; Gardiner, Riewoldt, Schneider 2; King, Montagna, Geary, Gram, Jones, Hayes, Dawson

West Coast: LeCras 3; Hunter, McKinley, Lynch 2.

BEST St Kilda: Montagna, Goddard, Jones, Dal Santo, Gilbert

West Coast: Cox, Kerr, Priddis, Mackenzie, LeCras

MILESTONES Stenglein (WC) 200 Games


REPORTS Dal Santo (St Kilda) for striking Stenglein (West Coast) in the third quarter

Dal Santo (St Kilda) for wrestling Stenglein (West Coast) in the third quarter

Stenglein (West Coast) for wrestling Dal Santo (St Kilda) in the third quarter

King (St Kilda) for striking Hansen (West Coast) in the fourth quarter

UMPIRES Grun, James, Sully.

CROWD 29,006

VOTES Montagna (StK) 3, Goddard (StK) 2, Jones (StK) 1

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