Despite being added together as the final two teams for the breakaway VFL’s inaugural season in 1897, St Kilda and Carlton have never been the best of terms with one another. Tepid or otherwise, the relationship between the two clubs hasn’t prevented the movement of players between the beaches of Bayside Melbourne and the leafy surrounds of inner-city Carlton. Never was the path between the clubs more well-traveled than during the 1980s. Never was it more on display than it was in Round Two 1987.
Celebrated at the time as Trevor Barker’s 200th VFL game, the Saints game with Fitzroy at Princes Park was also a remarkable homecoming for six of his teammates. Former Blues – Warren Jones, Peter McConville, Alex Marcou, Ken Sheldon, Spiro Kourkemelis and Ricky Nixon – all lined up alongside Barker for the Saints against the Lions. Despite having a combined 563 games between them at Carlton, incredibly this was the first time the six had played in a senior game together.
Up against a Fitzroy team looking to build upon their 1986 finals campaign, it would not prove to be a happy celebration for Barker and the sextet of former Blues. With future Saint Tim Pekin playing a starring role, the Lions kicked nine goals in the first quarter to take a stranglehold in the match.
Stewart Loewe was one of the leading lights for the Saints, like would be the case for much of the next 14- years, his marking a highlight up forward. Tony Lockett, who was on his way to his Brownlow & Coleman Medal double, kicked five goals in a dominant performance. His goal kicking feat all the more impressive as he had to spend considerable time in the ruck to cover for Wow Jones who left the field injured.
Of the former Blues, Marcou and Sheldon were among the Saints best with 26 and 18 disposals respectively. McConville kicked two goals, Kourkemelis and Nixon were solid while Jones’ output was limited by injury. Their experience invaluable though for a group of young players and a club that had won the previous four wooden spoons.
While unsuccessful on this particular day, the 1987 season would be a renaissance of sorts for the club. Having won just 10 games across the previous three seasons, the Saints would claim nine victories in 1987. The building blocks for the long-awaited return to the finals in 1991 were beginning to be put in place.
Warren Jones’ time at Moorabbin would come to an end in 1988 after 31 games for the club, hamstring and calf injuries would see Alex Marcou call time the same year having played 24 games. Peter McConville would retire a year later having played 54 games, Spiro Kourkemelis in 1990 after 35 games. While Ricky Nixon would go on and be part of the Saints 1991 Finals campaign, it would be Ken Sheldon would have the most last impact of the former Blues.
Retiring at the end of 1989, the three-time Carlton Premiership Player, would become the Saints coach ahead of the 1990 season. The high-point of his four-year tenure in charge of the club was unquestionably in 1991 and 1992 when he took the club to their first finals series in 18 years and their first final victory in 19.
With another former Blue in charge of the Saints again in 2020 in Brett Ratten, will the well-worn path between the two clubs once again be responsible for the end of a long September absence for St Kilda?
VFL 1987 ROUND TWO
Fitzroy 9.4 14.8 18.15 23.21 (159)
St. Kilda 2.2 8.5 11.8 17.13 (115)
Fitzroy — R. Osborne, Barwick, Rendell, Keane, Pekin, Lokan, Conlan.
St. Kilda — Loewe, Lockett, Marcou, Owen, Coghlan, Sheldon.
Fitzroy — Barwick 5, Osborne 5, Conlan 3, Keane 3, Stephens 2, Armstrong, Hinchen, Mclvor, Blakey, Harris.
St. Kilda — Lockett 5, Loewe 3, McConville 2, Owen 2, Kourkoumelis 2, Winmar, Jones, Grant.
Umpires: Sneddon, McDonald.
Crowd: 11,348 at Princes Park.