In the aftermath of a thrilling Round 11 encounter with the Demons in 2015, Saints fans were given an insight into the machinations of the club’s coaches box on game day. The video, shared on the club’s webpage in the week following, was illuminating in its raw coverage of conversation between coach and player. These insights were overshadowed in large part though by Alan Richardson’s emotional response to the game’s thrilling conclusion.
Having come off a wooden spoon finish in Richardson’s first year in charge, 2015 was a season of rebuilding for the Saints. Despite entering this encounter three & seven after 10 rounds, there was reason for the team to be confident. Considerably more competitive than they had been 12 months earlier, but having won their last 10 matches against Melbourne, they came up against a team they matched up well against.
For the Demons, who had also lost their previous 20 matches at Etihad Stadium, they saw the match as an intriguing measure of how far they had progressed under coach Paul Roos. “It’ll be interesting to gauge where we’re at,” Angus Brayshaw told the AFL Record. “Because we’re similar teams with young lists and I think it’s a great opportunity for our club,” he said.
Saints Coach Richardson spoke ahead of the match of the changing expectations around the club. “Clearly expectations have risen in our camp,” he told the AFL Record. “We haven’t been great all year, but we’ve been strong in periods of games. Sometimes we’ve ended up winning, sometimes that hasn’t happened,” he said but was keen to talk of the measurements that were important to his team. “We want to be aggressive in our attack on the opposition, aggressive in the way we use the footy, and that probably cost as times, but we’re going to keep playing that way.”
With this as his measurement, much of the second quarter would have been pleased the second-year coach. After an even first quarter, the Demons wilted under the Saints concerted pressure and effort. It meant that when Jack Lonie kicked his second goal of the match, at the 26th-minute mark of the quarter, it gave his team a 24-point lead and a stranglehold on the match. If only the siren could have blown at this stage to end proceedings for the half. Instead, in the space of three minutes, the lead was all but extinguished as the Demons slammed through three goals deep in time on.
When Melbourne kicked the first three goals after the break, a match that had once seemed in the Saints keeping was fast slipping from their grasp. Down but not out, they would lift themselves off the canvas, first through a fine individual goal from the well held Jack Steven and then through Nick Riewoldt with his fourth goal of the match. With scores level once again, as the players broke for the final interval of the match, the scene was set for an epic final quarter. It did not disappoint.
While the term would be dominated by the Saints, after Jeremy Howe opened the scoring for Melbourne with a behind early, they failed to land a killer blow. With the Demons grimly hanging on for dear life, for almost the entirety of the quarter the Saints seemed just one goal away from breaking the game open. David Armitage, Josh Bruce, Luke Dunstan, and Darren Minchington all had the chance to deliver this much needed major but each managed just a minor score for their efforts.
With the Saints failing to nail the door shut at one end, with what felt like their second forward entry of the quarter, Melbourne grabbed the lead through a Jeremy Howe goal with less than a minute to play. With Richardson in the coaches box contemplating the nature of the footballing gods, the atmosphere within Etihad Stadium similar in feeling to a deflated balloon, the players prepared for an all-or-nothing ball up for the Saints.
It would be Jack Steven, after having been well held by Jack Viney all afternoon, who would rise to the occasion for his team. Not only would he shark the hitout and drive the ball inside forward fifty, he would be on hand to receive a handball from Jack Lonie to have the chance to either blast away for the go ahead goal or deliver the ball deep to his waiting forwards. His decision to kick to advantage was rewarded when it was collected by a flying Leigh Montagna who ran into an open goal square to retake the lead with just 19 seconds to go.
To the great delight of Richardson, and the Saints fans in the ground, there wasn’t another twist left in the tale. A delighted coach spoke postmatch of his feelings of a match that was lost and won again in the final minute. “If you work that hard then the footy gods look after you, and Joey ends up getting on the end,” Richardson said. “When the game was up for grabs, scores were level, we were really, really strong. We just kept attacking.”
An remarkable afternoon and an unforgettable win was perhaps best summed up by the coach himself in the heat of the moment. “We’re through. We’re through! You f—ing beauty!”
AFL 2015 ROUND 11
St Kilda 3.5 9.6 11.9 12.13 (85)
Melbourne 3.4 8.6 11.9 12.11 (83)
BEST: St Kilda – Montagna, Riewoldt, Newnes, Armitage, Weller, Ross.
Melbourne – Hogan, Viney, Toumpas, Dunn, Jones, Vince, Cross.
GOALS: St Kilda – Riewoldt 4, Lonie 2, Membrey, Minchington, Ross,
Bruce, Steven, Montagna. Melbourne – Hogan 5, Toumpas 2, Brayshaw,
Viney, Garlett, McDonald, Howe.
Umpires: R. Chamberlain, C. Kamolins, B. Wallace.
Crowd: 25,217 at Etihad Stadium.