Round 9 – St Kilda v Sydney: A Dove Among Pigeons

By Jake ‘Cobba’ Stevens

Not that long ago I was on a train in India. True Story. (More on my adventures in India later…) Aside from my Parents and my sister I was the only non-Indian on the train. It was packed, and I estimate I was the only person with white hair within a 20km radius. I was a dove among pigeons. I copped glares left, right and centre. I was almost a celebrity. It was a strange sensation that bordered on uncomforting and awkwardness. Yet I loved it. I loved that I was exciting, unique, an attraction. I was almost famous. Although I do believe that this should be taken in very small doses.

It was a strange and daunting feeling. And a feeling I felt once again last Saturday Night. St Kilda was hosting Sydney at Etihad Stadium and I was attending with my occasional Saint supporter, Jason. We trained it in and took our cheap seats in the rafters. The swans were in reasonably good form but I wasn’t overly-confident, knowing their poor record in Melbourne.

Everybody’s favourite Lenny Hayes was playing his 250th game, and in all honesty, it was something I was glad to be apart of. My admiration for Hayes was second to none, and I believe his courageousness, guts and philosophy is something all football fans should acknowledge. So the game began, and Jack Steven (I like this kid because we almost have the same name) booted the first for the game, but an unlikely running goal from Sam Reid evened it up. I could feel the swans starting to get a run-on in the first as Bolton thumped one in from outside 50 and ‘Supercoach Star’ Josh Kennedy slotted one from the pocket. But late back-to-back majors from Saints’ Blake and Dal Santo kept their ship level. A good first quarter by Benny McGylnn and an accompanying goal meant that Swans led into quarter time by 9 points.

During the break I felt rather happy with myself as, for the first time, I purchased a beer at the footy as a legal 18 year-old. But the celebration was short-lived as the Saints started the next quarter well, much to Jason’s satisfaction. Riewoldt was let off the leash and damaged the Swans with two goals, and the defensive efforts of Goddard and Gwilt ensured their progress. Armitage and Steven gave the Saint’s faithful something to look forward to the future. St Kilda’s attack on the ball and tenacity was awesome, typifyed by Geary’s brave collision in a group tackle, resulting in a bloodied face and consequent substitution. On the other hand, Sydney’s decision making was poor and as their confidence fell, so too their performance. With perhaps the exception of Kieran Jack the team was amiss. A gang tackle on Malceski resulted in a free kick and goal to Saad which sealed their dominate quarter as the Saints led into the main break as 21 point leaders.

With mutual agreement, Jason and I went searching for better seats, and as it turned out, the most convenient and best ones were deep within St Kilda’s cheer squad. It didn’t take much to stroll past the attendants and soon enough I braced myself for the onslaught. I was indeed, a solitary Swan among Saints. As it turned out we were sitting down the right end of the ground, as all the action was right in front of us. Unfortunately for me it was St. Kilda’s action. ‘Tip-Rat’ Milne kicked two in a row including one that could’ve been touched on the line. As an unbiased supporter I admitted its legitimacy, much to my dismay. However, the tables soon turned as McGylnn gave the one-two and ran into 50 with a team-lifting goal. I jumped out of my seat exclaiming “MacGooooo!!” and cheered loud and proud. Through the burning glares and harsh looks I was thankful it was not a Collingwood game. However, my passion soon came back to haunt me, as the Saints kicked the next 4 in succession. I had front row seats to Nicky Dal’s long bomb, Siposs’ miracle snap and Saad’s fly kick goal. St Kilda ran rampant and were beating the Swans at almost every contest. Their pressure was phenomenal and their tackle count was one of the reasons they were able to enter their attacking 50 so frequently. On the other hand, Sydney struggled to make it past half-way, and the efforts shown by some of their ‘elite’ were disheartening. The only joy salvaged from this one-sided period was a long bomb by Lewis ‘Jetstar’ Jetta. Again my celebration was not reserved and I let my surrounding crowd know my approval. Despite this glimpse of pleasure, St Kilda took full advantage of the quarter and led by 44 into 3 quarter time.

By this point in time I had convinced myself it was game over. Jason took pity on me and was hopeful of a Sydney comeback. I was a little more realistic. A strong mark by the Benny McGoo and a respectable goal from Jetstar, earned some applause by myself – and only myself. It was like a funeral around me, and the only sound you could hear was the lonely, slow but loud clapping by myself. I didn’t care that I was copping looks and disapproving nods all around me. I was going to cheer for the swans no matter what. Kieran Jack scored from a cheeky toepoke, and Sam Reid’s goal almost hit me on the chest. For a minute – it was probably more like 30 seconds – I could foresee a possible victory, but reality soon came crashing down as Milera guaranteed the St Kilda win. Sydney had three times as many scoring shots in the final quarter, and won it along with a little bit of credibility, but the game was well and truly over. The siren sounded and everyone except me jumped up in delight. I was left alone to ponder where the rest of this unpredictable season might lead. I had enjoyed the experience, but not the outcome, because sometimes it is great to be a dove, but only if there is a noticeable lack of pigeons.

 

 

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