An AFL club will spend over 150,000 seconds on the field of battle in the quest for glory in any one Home and Away season. Unfortunately for St Kilda, after their Round 19 clash against Port Adelaide, it will be a mere 90 that will most likely define their 2017 campaign. It will be this minute and a half that will haunt their off-season dreams when they wonder what might have been had if they had found a way to stop Robbie ‘Bloody’ Gray.
Farewell, St Nick
Having lost over 600 games of experience, through the unavailability of both Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt, it was a glimpse into the future for Saints fans with a youthful team sent out to face the Power. This was evident in the fact that eight Saints had less than 50 games to their names and on average St Kilda had forty games less experience per player than their Power opponent. What the young Saints surrendered in knowledge and nous they more than made up for in endeavour and effort. After a pair of disappointing efforts against the Bombers and Swans the same charge could not be levelled at the team that took to a sodden Adelaide Oval charged with keeping the team within touching distance of the top eight.
One of the young, inexperienced faces in the team to face Port Adelaide was Brandon White. The 20-year-old, who was famously overcome with emotion when taken with Pick 40 in the 2015 draft, was selected for his second career game against the Power. White appeared extraordinarily assured collecting 13 touches across half-back. It is early days, but in the 188cm backman the Saints appear to have unearthed a real gem.
It was in the back half of the ground that another positive was to be found for the Saints, in the performance of Jake Carlisle. After being well beaten by Callum Sinclair the week before Carlisle was sensational against the Power. It was a strong response from the former Bomber, taking eight intercept marks, effecting 9 spoils and collecting 16-disposals, as he stubbornly fought to withstand Port’s forward thrusts.
With the positives a familiar foe reared its head, with St Kilda’s inaccuracy in front of goal again proving costly. At three-quarter time the Saints had booted 3.12 in a new low for the team in converting opportunities. It meant that rather than entering the last break with a deserved lead, instead the Saints were still busy trying to chase the game. It has been an expensive weakness for the team this year with percentage and premiership points surrendered as a result of the Saints inability to convert their opportunities into points.
That they were able to lift themselves off the canvas and produce the last quarter that they did was remarkable. That with 90 seconds to play, due to Tim Membrey converting a tough chance, they had taken a 10 point lead was intoxicating. It was enough for Mark Riccuito to suggest, “this will be a massive upset.” For some reason, the Brownlow Medallist being of the view that a team beating another one game ahead of them being a cause of major surprise.
Unfortunately an awful lot can happen in a minute and a half, and what followed was absolutely heart shattering for the players on the paddock and for those cheering them on. Throwing absolute caution to the wind, the Power players played with a freedom that only requiring 2 goals in under two minutes can allow. In the blink of an eye St Kilda’s match winning advantage was gone, a ‘massive’ upset was adverted, and with the siren’s wail seven seconds later, the Saints hopes of returning to September were most likely dashed too.
“We didn’t get everything right there. We’ll learn from that, absolutely. It’s a bloody costly way to learn the lesson, but that’s the reality,”
“We gave ourselves a terrific opportunity to have a really important victory but we weren’t able to seal the deal, so we’re incredibly frustrated and disappointed. But for big parts of the game the boys were outstanding.
Alan Richardson – Post Game
This season the Saints have had victories, like those against GWS and Richmond, that have felt like landmark moments in the development of this list. While these nights have been crucial in instilling belief in the team, it is wise to remember that there is a reason why failure is considered history’s greatest teacher. It is for this reason that in the fullness of time, like Geelong’s 2005 Semi Final defeat to Sydney was for them, the pain of this defeat will ultimately prove more beneficial than the joy of the landmark victories along the way.
PORT ADELAIDE 2.3 3.5 5.7 9.9 (63)
ST KILDA 1.3 2.8 3.12 8.13 (61)
Port Adelaide: Westhoff, Amon, Impey, Polec, Trengove, Dixon, Ebert, Young, R Gray
St Kilda: Membrey 3, Lonie, Acres, Gresham, Dunstan, Sinclair
Port Adelaide: R Gray, Wines, Hartlett, Ryder, Byrne-Jones, Jonas
St Kilda: Dunstan, Carlisle, Ross, Roberton, Acres
Port Adelaide: Nil
St Kilda: Nil
Umpires: Stephens, Kamolins, Findlay
Official crowd: 30,335 at Adelaide Oval