Round 9 – St Kilda v Essendon: Welcoming visitors with a magnificent win

Etihad Stadium, Sunday 22nd May 2016, 4.40pm

Practice run:
Almanacker, journalist and editor Glenn Brownstein and wife Deborah Brownstein, photographer extraordinaire, arrived in Melbourne on Friday from Indiana USA (via sunny warm Queensland). It’s been footy ever since their arrival. A Friday night dinner with some Almanackers included, watching the last quarter of the Swans’ tight-ish win over the Hawks, eating a heap of food, and arising on Saturday morning to an open training at trusty old Moorabbin, augured well for all.

There were only a few die-hard supporters along the fence line of the derelict terraces at the training. As we saw a few of the players warming up inside, I hoped that the insides of Moorabbin were travelling way better than the decaying stand, old coaches’ boxes and terraces. The ground itself looked immaculate. The renovations can’t come soon enough for Saints supporters and the Club.

Standing on the fence with Glenn, Debbie and cousin Gary, waiting for the boys to come out for their Captain’s Run, bought back memory after memory. Sitting on the fence, being part of the roar that was Moorabbin, coming back to visit the magnificent Museum or to buy merchandise, Moorabbin still sits special in all our hearts. Debbie clicked away with her camera. Glenn soaked up the history.

And then the boys came out to play, amusing both young and old. We watched Paddy McCartin do light exercise, not even wearing his footy boots. Was he OK? Was he still going to play? All the rest of the squad did the usual light warmups, stretches, exercises, kicking for goal and training. I was fixed on Paddy, watching him mark and pass, over and over again, with the forward coach Aaron Hamill.

When the players come along the fence, I find I am helping Glenn, at his first-ever training, have photos with the players. The players come past, have their photos taken with good grace, and are engaged when I introduce an American Saints fan. Debbie is snapping away until I get her one with Jason Holmes and Tom Hickey and now she is really sucked in. These lovely men are curious and gracious. Debbie is now hooked to following these particular players. It was a light-bulb moment, watching how a person is transformed into a fan just like that.

When Paddy comes along, I get a huge grin and hello, and I ask him if he’s OK, and he assures me he is fine. I get into THAT photo with Glenn and Gary, and can’t take the joy out of my heart for the rest of the day.

Nick Riewoldt asks about Glenn’s hometown Indiana and their sports, and Alan Richardson chats away, too. We have photos of all those who trained as they walk along the fence line signing autographs and being photographed.

When back at my place, I save the photos, unedited, on my laptop. The rest of the afternoon we rest and prepare for footy the next day. It feels a wonderful start to the weekend, and we haven’t even played a game yet.

Legends Game:
Sunday morning finds Debbie and Glenn in my weekly Tai Chi group, and we are all working our butts off. Another member of Tai Chi, Marianne, will again be my guest this afternoon. We exercise and are happy to flex our muscles and build our strength.

Once home, there is no rest as I prepare for the footy. Organising lunch, packing my rucksack, waiting for Debbie and Glenn to arrive, driving to Caulfield Station. Normal, ordinary activities that feel extra special when attached to a footy match.

(Someone asked me on Monday when I became so enamoured with St Kilda and footy, and I realised it was after 2010, after two years of incredible highs and then great lows, that two great friends helped me see the positives in life and I haven’t looked back. The crazier I became, the more I wrote, really paid attention and participated in footy life and writing, the more fun I found I was having. And I discovered the Almanac community.)

On the train to the footy, doing what is normal but with my American mates, felt really joyous. Added to that it was an early arrival to see the Legends play, Schneider’s team v Kosi’s team. There were the usual range of men from young to older, but added were 4 very good footballing women (later I found out that were all from my St Kilda Sharks team) and one 10-year-old girl. Frances Leach was in Kosi’s team (he walks in my local park and we chat at times), and Steven J Peake (SEN commentator and Saints supporter) was a goal umpire. And the magic of playing on the ground meant that everyone was having a great time and a real crack at winning. The young girl played great footy, and was given a few goodhearted advantages with goal kicking after a good mark or two.

With kick to kick planned for post-game, we’d be on the ground for some fun, too.

Game time: 
Snuggled all together, Gary, three guests and myself, we were ready for the main game of footy. I’d introduced Glenn to all the souls who people my book (that I could locate within our vicinity and Glenn could put faces to stories he’s been reading over the last year.)

And of course, there was a game, with first two terms of effort, and a runaway train in the second half. What a way to entertain guests. Lots of cheering and happiness, lots of success and tension. And celebrations and laughing. Debbie was witnessing her first game as a new fan. She’s been to a game in the past, but meeting the players yesterday clicked on the crazy footy gene and she was eager to watch young Hickey play. And all the other lovely young men we had met.

Winning makes for absorbing footy, surrounded by happy Saints members and pleasing moments that continue to create the sort of afternoon Saints fans dream of. It is amazing how you can never relax until the final siren ensures a win.

Then onto the ground for an improved performance from yours truly, and Almanacker Dave Downer joined in, Glenn started getting his kicking boots working and we managed to avoid any stray balls to the head. The siren to stop kick to kick always brings groans of disappointment. All of us could have stayed there for ages.

Food was calling us and we stopped at the restaurant at Caulfield Racecourse, discovering many other Saints supporters stopped there for dinner, too. Saints scarves abounded. The food was magnificent. We were well sated, with a fabulous win, kick to kick and food hitting the right spot.

Welcome to Melbourne again, Glenn and Debbie.

(When I watched the singing of the song on the Saints web page, I noticed Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna singing and laughing at something in the group. When another shot came of the group singing, I could see that it was Jack Steven that Nick had pointed to do sing out and lead the group, and he screamed out “OH WHEN THE SAINTS, GO MARCHING IN” with a hoarse voice, barely making it, and that’s what the leaders were smiling and laughing at. When the circle broke up, Nick and Jack hugged and laughed and it was a moment where my own heart swelled, seeing this natural leader and this fine footballer have a moment that I got to share and laugh with too.)

And come Friday, we will head to Glenn and Debbie’s first Almanac Lunch. A pretty good week all in all.

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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.

Comments

  1. Terrific read Yvette

  2. Cat from the Country says:

    Hoping for another win for you this weekend.
    My three brothers are Saints members,

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    That visit to training sounds sensational Yvette.

    Is there a better half hour or so than the train trip to the game? Hope, smiles and conversations all round.

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