With Adelaide in the middle of it’s biggest heatwave since 1940, the 2008 NAB Cup Grand Final was played in sweltering conditions. As part of Coach Ross Lyon’s auditioning process to determine the club’s captain for the season proper, Justin Koschitzke captained the Saints on this night. The first goal of the contest did not come until late in the first term, with the Crows Kurt Tippett breaking the string of traded behinds between the two teams. It would be the only major of the term, with Koschitzke, Harvey, and Hayes all missing gilt edged chances for the Saints.
Nick Riewoldt would kick St Kilda’s first goal early in the second term after a trademark stab pass from Robert Harvey. It was an early statement from the dual Brownlow Medallist who had been the subject of criticism from Grant Thomas and Dermott Brereton throughout the week, both questioning whether the Saints champ had played on a season too long. Richard Douglas would extend the Crows lead to eight points with a cool snap before Adam Schneider and Stephen Milne combined to see the latter calmly slot a major from forty out.
A bit of fortune was at play when Adam Schneider kicked a nine-pointer to help the Saints take the lead before half-time. The Crows paid a heavy price for their ill-discipline marching the Saints down the field with Nathan van Berlo, followed by Scott Thompson giving away fifty metres to Jason Blake and Schneider. The second seeing the Saint advanced from the centre square to well within range of the goals, the rules of the competition as they were at the time meant his resulting goal was worth nine points rather than six.
Brett Burton was lively for the Crows up forward and grabbed the lead for the home team with the first goal of the third term. Riewoldt answered for the Saints after Harvey swooped on a loose ball opportunity caused by a strong Luke Ball tackle. As he had done for the likes of Tony Lockett and Stewart Loewe before him, the veteran Saint deftly delivered the ball to the leading Riewoldt. The run of Jason Gram would be utilised for the next goal, with the former Lion ultimately scoring nine points with a long-range effort that made up for its lack of beauty with its effectiveness. When the Saints scored next through a quick Xavier Clarke snap, the lead was out to 20-points.
They wouldn’t be in a position to savour their hard-won advantage long though, with Kurt Tippett and Simon Goodwin kicking three goals between them to close the margin to three points at the final change. The Crows skipper benefiting from a free-kick to score one, while Tippett prospered in the absence of Max Hudghton to kick two either side of him. It set the scene for a gripping final term, that Adelaide fans felt was delayed by a late returning Saints team. Not realising that the teams were afforded longer breaks due to the extreme heat, and despite being the lowest attendance to a night premiership decider since 1987, the 26,823 strong crowd made their displeasure known to the visitors as they made their way out onto the ground.
Nathan van Berlo gave them another reason to raise their voices when the young Crow gave his team the lead early in the final quarter. His sharp chance was quickly answered though by Milne, when the Saints goal sneak was left all alone at the back of a contest close to goal. A captain’s goal from Justin Koschitzke gave the Saints a vital advantage but it too looked to have been erased when Sam Gilbert made a late challenge just outside Adelaide’s attacking fifty.
The resulting down the ground free kick was gratefully accepted by Kurt Tippett who appeared to have evened the scores when the goal umpire signalled a super goal and nine points to the Crows. Unfortunately for the young Queenslander and his team, before the next bounce the officials’ error was corrected and just six points added to their score. While a fifty metre penalty would see the shot at goal following score nine points, as had been the case with Schneider earlier in the match, the same was not true for a down the field free kick.
Robert Harvey and Stephen Milne would combine shortly after to rub salt into the wound of the Crows and their fans. For the third time in the match a Saints goal would be as a result of pinpoint Harvey pass, this time Milne was the recipient and his major all but wrapped up the contest. Brett Burton would kick one last goal for the home team, but with the final siren sounding as the ball left his foot, all it could do was change the final margin, not the result itself.
Jason Gram would join Nicky Winmar and Robert Harvey as the third Saint to win the Michael Tuck Medal as Best on Ground in the decider. A deserving winner, 18 months later he went perilously close to adding a Norm Smith Medal to his collection with a countback required to separate him and Paul Chapman after the 2009 AFL Grand Final. On this night though, he and his team were on the right side of the result and were able to celebrate the end to another successful Night Premiership campaign.