Among Saints

Originally and only published in the Footy Almanac – season 2012

Among Saints

Geelong versus St. Kilda
7.50pm, Friday, 21 August 2012
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Bob Pettifer

Bob and I caught up at KP in Round 13, 2014 vs Saints (something about Saints games and Bob eh?)

“Do you want to come into the rooms and meet the players?” asked Bob the doorman.

We were at Linton Street, the old home of the Saints. We snuck in under a wire fence at the Doonga Avenue end of the ground. The Cats were getting smashed so Nic and I went walkabout half way through the last quarter, eventually making our way past the players’ entrance of the Geelong rooms. That’s where we met Bob.

I was twelve, my cousin Nic was sixteen; he is my Saint Nic. He’s watched over me all of my life; it’s a special bond. Bob let us in the rooms and we waited. Our heroes burst in. We’d never been in the rooms before. Andrews Bews was my favourite player and once introduced we struck a friendship which lasts to this day. That was 32 years ago. Memories of that day stir me every time the Cats play the Saints.

Tonight Darl and I are at Etihad Stadium, sitting at the St. Kilda cheer-squad end, a couple of Cats supporters amidst a throng of Saints. Bob the doorman has retired to the Gold Coast and no longer can we sneak into the ground from under a fence. But at least we’re at Etihad where it is comfortable; a good place for warm-up beers and customary catch-up with friends.

The Cats team takes on a particularly familiar look with Pops, the Joshinator (Hunt), Smithy (Joel Corey) and Chappy all back in the team. Tomahawk is fit after KO’ing himself last week against the Eagles. But, as we’ve become accustomed, it’s another player, the unheralded Taylor Hunt who gets the Cats rolling with the two opening goals of the game.

The Cats have the Saints on the back foot until…enter the Tip-Rat: Stephen Milne. A snapped goal gets him started. In the same minute, another goal to Geary and the Cats superior effort in opening minutes seems to have been in vain. Saints fans find their voice; the Sainter two seats up senses a menacing opponent and tries to rev me up.

He succeeds. Darl gives me that look.

The third 50 metre penalty of the quarter comes after Duncan takes a strong mark against Gram. Duncan sends a long kick to the goal square to find West who takes a strong Glenn Middlemiss-like mark in front of goal. West’s goal steadies the Cats and Tomahawk opens his account. His second goal is a carbon-copy of his famous match-winner against the Hawks a couple of weeks ago. Fifty-five metres out, slight angle, dead straight. A late goal to the Saints keeps them in touch.

In the second quarter, the Cats are tentative. The Tip Rat goals again. The Saints dish out attention to Joel Selwood keeping him quiet. In fact they are a bit more aggressive than usual. Saint Lenny smashes Taylor Hunt’s nose in a brutal but fair bump.

The Saints keep ‘in touch’ until about half way through the quarter when the Cats play some inspiring football: four goals in thirteen minutes put Geelong in command by half-time.

A flurry of half-time text messages between my Saint Nic and me confirm two things. He’s happy with the Cats first half effort and equally unhappy at being stuck at a work function and unable to get to the game. I keep him up to date.

No one saw the change coming. The Cats can’t get their hands on the ball in the third quarter. The Saints play relentless footy and the Cats struggle to find the right match-ups on their smalls.

Seat 33 is really up and about: he’s going on about the umps are and how lucky the Cats are to be in the game. The Saints keep us goal-less for the term, but they’re still to hit the lead. Darl is two minutes away from divorcing herself from the game –and me.

Holding their nerve, the Saints check their cards and raise the stakes. Through quick goals to Saad and Schneider they get to within a point early in the final quarter. Flashbacks to the 2009 Grand Final flood back. Another close one? We need Max Rooke and the Moon Dog.

It seems that for the last forty minutes the Saints have been playing with two extra men. Or have the Cats been playing with two less?

These concerns are allayed when the J-Pod flies and purposefully taps the ball to the roving Hawkins who snaps the second most timely goal of his career. Then superb long-range goals to Murdoch (he reminds me of a young Riccardi) and Mackie, and Tomahawk snags his sixth of the night. The Cats have finally put their foot down. Old mate next to us concedes.

The Cats were pushed and when all seemed critical they responded. Watch out in the finals. If we’re ‘on’ for four quarters we will do some damage.

Postscript: The Cats lost that game at Linton St in 1980 by just 5 points after being down by 27 points at three-quarter time.

fa-2012-jd-siteGEELONG 5.3 11.9 11.13 18.15 (123)
ST KILDA 3.2 6.5 9.12 11.15 (81)

Geelong: Hawkins 6, T Hunt 2, West 2, Motlop 2, Podsiadly 2, Stokes, Murdoch, Mackie, Chapman
St Kilda: Milne 4, Saad 3, Geary, Armitage, Goddard, Schneider

Geelong: Kelly, Hawkins, Duncan, Johnson, West, Taylor, J Hunt, Murdoch
St Kilda: Gram, Montagna, Hayes, Milne, Armitage, McEvoy, Saad, Dempster

Umpires: Donlon, Rosebury, Meredith

Crowd: 38,169 at Etihad Stadium

Our (Malarkey Medal) votes: Kelly (3), Hawkins (2), Duncan (1)
Brownlow votes: Kelly (3), Hawkins (2), Goddard (1)



Read more of my stories and creative writing at the Footy Almanac here