With victories few and far between in the 22 years of visiting Adelaide’s answer to Waverley Park, there wouldn’t have been too many Saints fans unhappy to see the end of Football Park as an AFL Venue in 2013. Despite that, there were some famous nights out at West Lakes in that time and that is why we give to you our top five St Kilda wins at Football Park.
5. v Adelaide, Rd 22, 1991.
When the Saints travelled to Adelaide in 1991 for their Round 22 encounter with the Crows they did so on the brink of a return to September action for the first time in almost two decades. With three rounds to play in the season, it loomed as an important contest with just ten points separating the then sixth-placed Saints and the ninth-placed Crows in the race for a place in the Final Six.
In front of their home fans, unlike the previous meeting between the teams when they suffered a 133-point hiding at Moorabbin, the Crows took it right up to the Saints. Yet when Tony Lockett brought up his century from a Danny Craven daisy-cutter pass, the lead was out to 20-points early in the second quarter. Unlike when Fraser Gehrig brought up his century at the same ground 13-years-later, there was no ground invasion to accompany Lockett’s goalkicking feat.
With the lead out to 26-points by three-quarter time the only interest in the final quarter was whether Lockett could kick his fifth bag of ten for the season. Despite his and his teammates best efforts, it took to the games dying moments to get him across the line. A free kick to Stewart Loewe with 14 seconds to play gave him one last chance. Loewe quickly moved the ball to Paul Harding who bombed the ball long to Lockett who marked over a tired Rodney Maynard moments before the final siren sounded. Having already missed one chance moments earlier, he would make no such mistake with this chance. To the great delight of his team, and the Saints fans in the crowd, with his 10th goal, he put the exclamation mark on a wonderful night for the club.
4. v Port Adelaide, Round Five, 2009.
The Saints were only four wins into their record breaking start to the 2009 season when they travelled to Adelaide to take on Port Adelaide in Round Five. With the Power sitting fourth it was the most highly anticipated match of the round, and seen as an early test for the ladder leading Saints.
A devastating first quarter by the men in red, black, and white, ended all hopes for a gripping contest. A six goal to one opening term reducing the match to little more than a record-breaking exercise for the Saints. With the margin out to 59-points by half-time, it wasn’t until the third quarter that Port was able to mount any kind of resistance.
With Lenny Hayes best on ground in the middle and Nick Riewoldt and Stephen Milne kicking seven between them up forward, the Saints ran out comfortable 66-point winners. In doing so, having already beaten the Crows at Footy Park in 2009, they recorded the club’s first-ever Adelaide double. The margin represented the Saints biggest ever at the venue and a then record winning margin over Port Adelaide.
A red-letter night for the club was also a memorable one for future skipper Jarryn Geary. The 20-year-old’s first quarter goal, the fourth time in as many weeks that he kicked a major. Now only venturing forward as a defensive option, it is a career-high he is unlikely to better. Oh, and Stephen Milne did Stephen Milne things to with his dribbling goal from the boundary a highlight of the big win.
3. v Adelaide, Round Four 2004.
The Saints and Crows entered their Round Four clash in 2004 with wildly different form lines. Adelaide sat near the bottom of the ladder without a win whereas the high flying Saints were on top of the table and, after claiming the night premiership, had yet to taste defeat of any kind. Chasing just their third victory at the venue, and first since securing the 1997 Minor Premiership, it loomed as a danger game for the ladder leaders.
In a see-sawing contest, Lenny Hayes was influential with 31 touches, six clearances and his trademark six tackles. Robert Harvey, Nick Dal Santo, Luke Ball, and Aussie Jones were also prolific as the Saints midfield once again provided their forwards with silver service. As important as these high profile players were, a number of lesser lights also shone brightly.
Trent Knobel, although arguably bettered in the Ruck by future Saint Matthew Clarke, was busy around the ground. He would finish the night with 17 touches, six clearances and a big goal in the second quarter that helped put the Saints in front. Luke Penny kept Wayne Carey to just one goal down back but his efforts were overshadowed by fellow defender Matt Maguire. The 19-year-old was outstanding down back in a performance that hinted at just how good he could have been had injuries not cruelled his career in the years to come.
Brent Guerra enjoyed a fruitful return to Footy Park, after joining St Kilda from Port Adelaide in the off season, and kicked four goals. It would be Fraser Gehrig who would prove decisive in this contest though. The big forward would finish the night with six goals, kicking three in the last quarter to secure the 14-point win in the face of a dogged Adelaide fightback.
2. v Port Adelaide, Rd 22, 1997.
In the 176th and final game of the 1997 Home and Away season, St Kilda and Port Adelaide met at Football Park with big rewards on offer for the victor. For Port, in their first season in the AFL, victory would see them qualify for a fairytale finals appearance. Meanwhile for the Saints, with top spot on the ladder up for grabs, victory over the desperate Power would see them claim their first minor premiership in 32-years.
Port were willing early but faded in the face of St Kilda’s midfield depth, led by Robert Harvey who secured his first Brownlow Medal on the back of his performance on this night. There was no stopping the 26-year-old who gathered 40-possessions. With 13 coming in the final quarter alone, he well and truly finished the home and away season. Full of running.
So too did the Saints. Jason Heatley and Nicky Winmar going bonkers up forward to share eight goals and helping their team to a 33-point victory. The Saints seventh consecutive win was soured somewhat though by the news that Lazar Vidovic had suffered a season, and career, ending ACL injury. As well known as his importance to the team was, it would become even more apparent through his absence over the next month.
On this night though, Saints fans dared to dream of what might be as their young team prepared to take on the finals from pole position, and as the form team in the competition.
1. v Adelaide, Qualifying Final, 2005.
In the twilight of a storied career, Robert Harvey produced a masterclass in the 2005 Qualifying Final against Adelaide to turn that season’s finals series on its head. Playing his 316th game, he was clearly best on ground collecting 31-possessions and kicking three goals.
The 34-year-old opened the scoring on a slippery night in Adelaide before the home team answered strongly. Seemingly unaffected by the conditions, or missing star Mark Ricciuto, the Crows were too slick in the first quarter with three Ken McGregor goals helping them to a 15-point lead into the first break.
Led by Harvey the Saints turned things around in the second term. With Nick Dal Santo and Lenny Hayes lending the veteran a helping hand, the visitors took control of the clearance battle. With Fraser Gehrig and Aaron Hamill tightly held, 22-year-old skipper Nick Riewoldt stood tall. His two goals for the term among five in a row the Saints kicked to have the game on their terms at the long break.
Second gamer James Gwilt left his mark on the contest in the third quarter after Adelaide challenged early. Composed and measured with the ball, his long passing was a feature. More tellingly he was able to hit the scoreboard too with two majors, these and a time on goal to Jason Blake saw the margin out to 20-points at three-quarter time.
The minor premiers weren’t going to let the Saints earn a Preliminary Final berth that easily though and, with the support of an impassioned home crowd, they willed themselves back into the contest. With three unanswered goals, the Crows had the game on level terms again just 12-minutes into the term. Fittingly, it would be Harvey who would stall the home teams charge.
With 19 minutes on the clock, he marked a Dal Santo kick deep in the right forward pocket. The resultant goal from a difficult angle, and two more behinds, gave the Saints an eight-point lead which they never relinquished, and hosting rights for a Preliminary Final in two weeks time.
For those Saints fans lucky enough to be at the ground this night, the moments spent at the ground after the final siren will no doubt live long in their memories. I know this is true for this particular Saints fan with these moments some of the most cherished memories of my time supporting the club.