While hopes were not high for the St Kilda when they travelled to Sydney for the second annual Pride Game against the Swans at SCG, their eventual 42-point defeat was still a bitter pill for Saints fans to swallow. Only a fortnight after expectations were raised in the wake of their electrifying display against the Tigers, their season lies on life support after yet again succumbing to the pressure of the resurgent Swans.
Much like in their defeat to Essendon, there was a moment in the second quarter against the Swans where it appeared that the Saints could compete with their opponent’s pressure and effort. Unfortunately, in both instances, it would be a brief respite before the Saints wilted under the force of an opponent more willing for the battle. So often this season we have marvelled at the Saints when they have brought their maniacal best to the contest but, like against the Bombers and Swans, when they are unable to bring that intensity they are not much more than cannon fodder.
That was probably the story of the night for us, we just didn’t cope with their pressure.
St Kilda Coach Alan Richardson, speaking post-game.
Corralled, harassed and harangued, the Saints were forced into overuse and error as they repeatedly failed the pressure test the Swans applied. By the time the final siren had brought a merciful end to a miserable night for St Kilda the stats sheet reflected Alan Richardson’s forthright summation of the game. Despite dominating the hit-outs, the Saints were shaded in clearances. Despite accumulating more possessions, the Inside 50 differential was a massive -28. The quality of the forward thrusts also evident in the Percentage of marks and scores per Inside 50. Sydney easily eclipsing St Kilda on both fronts, scoring on 48%, and taking marks on 25% of entries compared to 38 and 13 respectively for the Saints. Not only do these figures illustrate St Kilda’s inability to function under the Swans’ assault it also highlights the fact that the Saints were completely unable to effect Sydney at all with their own ‘Trade Mark’ aggression and pressure.
They were able to stand up in our pressure. They were able to stand up in our tackles and still execute.………..
We just weren’t strong enough or aggressive enough in the contest.
St Kilda Coach Alan Richardson, speaking post-game.
For St Kilda fans the action on the field did little to fill them with pride but the significance of their teams involvement in AFL’s Pride Game should.
“It’s huge. This is sending a message to every kid that loves footy, whether playing it or supporting it, to tell them they’re welcome in this game.”
Jason Ball, speaking with foxfooty.com.au
Figures released during the week ahead of the second Pride Game between St Kilda and Sydney indicated that the first had made some small steps towards its ultimate goal. A La Trobe University study found, in interviews with members of the LGBTIQ community, that more than half of people who identified themselves as LGBTIQ felt AFL games were not a safe place for them. Similar numbers told interviewers that they did not believe that AFL games were a welcoming or inclusive place. These numbers were radically different when speaking to those LGBTIQ supporters in attendance at the first Pride Game who strongly agreed that the game was a safe, inclusive and welcoming place. These are baby steps but they are unquestionably headed in the right direction.
“I think the Pride Game is super and I’m really proud of the club and really proud of the AFL that they can have a game that just promotes inclusiveness and that people of all walks of life can feel welcome at the footy, like it should be.”
“Everyone should want to be able to go to the footy and enjoy themselves, it doesn’t matter who they love or what their skin colour is or where they’re from, it should just be ‘footy’s footy’ and that’s a place where people can go and enjoy themselves.”
St Kilda Ruckman Tom Hickey, speaking with foxfooty.com.au.
The other positive in other wise dirty night was the performance of mature aged debutant Rowan Marshall. The 201cm utility was drafted by the Saints from North Ballarat at the end of last season, and an extended run of good form for Sandringham this year, saw him get his chance to grace the AFL stage. In a well beaten team he struggled for opportunity but did show potential when he got his hands on the ball.
The weekly feeding frenzy over the futures of veterans Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna is sure to reach a new crescendo after this game. Montagna was providing good run off the half back line before a serious hamstring injury forced him from the field, while Riewoldt, the former captain, clearly played hurt and struggled to have an impact. Both stars remain uncontracted for next season and as a result, speculation as to their futures will continue unabashed. Regardless of the long term decisions of either player, Saints Summary is hopeful that this isn’t the way the 287-game journey of Leigh Montagna comes to an end.
Port Adelaide lie in wait for the Saints next week, in the first of what will be a series of must win games if they are to qualify for September action. There is no question that the best that St Kilda can produce is more than enough to compete with the Power, unfortunately the Saints’ ability to execute at that level is more than questionable.
SYDNEY 3.5 7.8 11.14 14.17 (101)
ST KILDA 1.2 3.2 5.4 9.5 (59)
Sydney: Sinclair 5, Franklin 3, Towers, Kennedy, Hewett, Heeney, Rohan, McVeigh
St Kilda: Bruce 3, Stevens, Savage, Riewoldt, Billings, Newnes, Dunstan
Sydney: Sinclair, Kennedy, Hannebery, Heeney, Franklin, Parker
St Kilda: Ross, Dunstan, Montagna, Bruce, Savage, Roberton
St Kilda: Leigh Montagna (hamstring)
Umpires: Stephens, Findlay, McInerney
Official crowd: 35,773 at the SCG