On February night in East Fremantle, the 1995 Ansett Cup opened with the Dockers squaring off with the Saints in their first-ever competitive match. A crowd of 10,028 were on hand to see St Kilda big men Stewart Loewe and Lazar Vidovic issue the new boys, wildly different but equally, unforgettable welcomes to the big time.
Loewe was unstoppable up foward, in the Saints first match of the post-Lockett era, after the spearhead’s offseason trade to Sydney. The Dockers simply had no answer for the 26-year-old marking machine and he finished the match with nine goals to his name. If not for a final term in which he kicked just one goal, he might have broken the night series record of 10 goals that had stood at that time for 36 years.
Vidovic’s welcome was a little more brutal with the ruckman making his frustration at the form of Matthew ‘Spider’ Burton known in no uncertain terms. “I got out onto the ground and next minute this (Matthew) Spider Burton, he’s about seven foot and I’m looking up at him and he’s taken about eight grabs and I go this is Fremantle, they’re not supposed to be this good, we are AFL players.” Vidovic told SEN in 2016.
Not surprisingly, his actions prompted a swift response from the Dockers who rushed to remonstrate with the Saints big man. “I just gave him a little crow peck on the back of the head, next minute I’ve got all these players running from 45-degree angles and I just threw a right, which I’d never thrown in my life and connected with his eye socket- eight stitches”
While today it would prompt considerable condemnation, back in the mid-1990s there would be many who’d have argued it was just part of the game. As a 14-year-old at the time watching on the television from the other side of the country, I have to admit a sense of excitement as it was replayed again and again. The tribunal were a little less enthused by the incident.
“I got six weeks, you would probably get life these days,” Vidovic recalled 20 years later.
A nine-goal to three second-half saw St Kilda run out comfortable winners. Thanks to a late Aussie Jones goal, they would record a thrilling 1-point victory over Carlton in the next round to advance to the Semi-Finals. Eventual Night Premiers North Melbourne would end the Saints charge there. The young Saints would ultimately struggle in the home and away season finishing 14th but would remarkably record victories over the top three teams – Carlton, Geelong, and Richmond.
1995 Ansett Cup – First Round
|Q1||Q2||Q3||Q4||Score||Date / Result||Ground||Crowd|
|Fremantle||2.3||10.4||11.6||13.8||86||Fri 24-Feb-1995 4:00 pm||East Fremantle Oval||10,028|
|St. Kilda||8.2||10.6||12.7||19.7||121||St. Kilda won by 35 points|