St Kilda surprised many when they selected Brian Wilson, Melbourne’s 1982 Brownlow Medallist, with the 72nd selection in the 1990 Draft. Having struggled to rediscover the heights of the early 1980s, the 29-year-old had retired at the end of the 1990 season after 202 career games but was persuaded by Ken Sheldon to join the Rising Saints for their 1991 campaign. While the gamble would not ultimately pay off for Wilson or the club, he would run out in just seven games despite playing the first four games of the season, he did produce a performance to remember when he squared off against his old team in Round Three.
The Saints entered their match up with the Demons 1-1 after splitting their opening two games against Richmond (win) & Geelong (loss). Their hosts were also 1-1 but, after a 131-point demolition of Brisbane the week before, were considered warm favourites. Despite the Saints off-season bolstering of their list, Melbourne were seen as a much safer bet after four consecutive deep finals runs.
The match looked set to follow this script when their skipper Greg Healy contracted leather poisoning in the first quarter to help the Dees to a 10 point quarter time lead. Nobody told Wilson, Frank Coghlan, Robert Harvey or Jayson Daniels though and the match was turned on its head in the second quarter. The Saints superior run and spread on full show as they piled on nine goals to two and take a stranglehold on the contest at half time.
Wilson wasn’t the only former Demon in Saints colours this day, Stephen Newport continued his strong start to life at Moorabbin with 22 possessions in the midfield. The same couldn’t be said for Rod Owen, the man traded to Melbourne for Newport. Despite kicking an early goal, Owen’s day ended early due to injury in one of just nine games he would play for Melbourne. The crowd of 27,266 at the MCG were only interested in one player in new colours though, and that man Wilson gave them plenty to stew on.
As both sides combined for a mind blowing 45 goals, Wilson slotted six for the Saints including the sealer deep in time on of the last quarter. Upon threading the set shot, after celebrating with his team mates, he signalled his feelings to the Melbourne fans in the crowd who had no doubt given him a hard time throughout his ‘homecoming’. In the end the Saints would record a nine point victory 24. 10 (154) to 21. 19 (145). Melbourne’s score of 145 is the highest conceded in a Saints victory and the game total of 299 the 10th highest in club history.
While Wilson’s performance would be a bright spot in a brief cameo in Saints history, the same could not be said of the three players who earned the game’s Brownlow votes. Frank Coghlan (three votes, 29 touches and a goal), Robert Harvey (two votes, 32 touches and two goals) and Jayson Daniels (one vote, 27 touches and a goal) all played over 100 games for the club with Harvey and Daniels both playing a key role in the Saints charge to the 1997 Grand Final.