AFL 2012: Rd 22 v GWS

St Kilda had to wait until the penultimate round of the 2012 season, well after all other clubs had done so, to welcome the Giants to the AFL. With an easy kill on offer and with the club set to miss the finals for just the second time since 2004, it was an opportunity to blood a number of younger players in the final home game of the season. This was evident at the selection table with the 797 career games of Justin Koschitzke, Jason Gram, Adam Schneider, Sam Fisher, and David Armitage replaced by the 36 games of Terry Millera, Jack Newnes, Arryn Siposs, Seb Ross and Tom Ledger.

While it paled in comparison to the number of inexperienced players in the opposition team, it meant the Saints took the field with 10 players with under 20 AFL games. Included in this number was future Trevor Barker Medal Winner Seb Ross, who made his debut on this day. It was a milestone day for another future Best & Fairest, with Jack Steven playing his 50th game for the club.

The last home game for the 2012 season, it became part of a ‘thank you’ round initiative by the club. The team wore a one-off jumper listing the names of more than 1200 members. The likes of Shane Warne, Aaron Hamill, Andrew Thompson and Brett Voss took part in a Legend’s Game before the main fixture. A wall of honour banner was erected inside Gate Six featuring the names of all 2012 members and 200 pre-selected fans participated in a walk of fame that included running through a special ‘thank-you’ banner. Special celebration was made for 50+ year members with their names shown on the big screen throughout the day.

The centrepiece of it all though was the jumper the team wore onto the ground for the game. The Red, White, and Black sections of the jersey made up of the names of 1267 members. The initiative saw long-term Saints members offered the chance to have their names printed on the jersey and to purchase their very own replica of the unique piece of St Kilda history.

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The match itself went pretty much to script with the Saints kicking their highest first-quarter score of the season to take control of the contest early. Ten consecutive goals in the second quarter, including the first Jack Newnes would kick and the last Jamie Cripps would kick for the club, had statisticians scurry for their record books. It would see the team reach triple figures by the main break for just the fifth time in their history and record their largest-ever half-time lead.

The break took the heat out of the Saints charge and they were unable to find the same impetus in the second half. It was still good enough for them to record the club’s third-largest winning margin and its greatest ever over a Kevin Sheedy coached team.

The exposure the contest offered the club’s younger players was the most important outcome of the match for St Kilda Coach Scott Watters. “I thought they sent a really strong internal message to our younger players that came in,” Watters said. “I think we had 10 players with under 20 games at this footy club and they weren’t hidden today. They were given some pretty big responsibilities. “We probably kept some of our more experienced players a little bit more on the periphery, so guys like Jack Newnes, Seb Ross when he came on at half-time, Jack Steven, Terry Milera … they got some quality game time today and we think they’re going to be very good players for us going forward.”

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