Saint Nick’s retirement, a chance for St Kilda to bury its demons

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    St Kilda's lack of success will forever be a part of Nick Riewoldt's legacy. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

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    The response from Saints fans to their club’s recent tweet as to a suitable successor for recently retired great Nick Riewoldt’s no.12 was unsurprisingly emphatic.

    The idea of anyone being worthy of Riewoldt’s number is unthinkable for a fan-base that has enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the 336-game Saints idol since his debut in 2001.

    The headline-grabbing response was one fan’s call for the club to go a step further and bury Riewoldt’s jumper in the middle of the Saints’ spiritual home of Moorabbin.

    On the surface a one-off, light-hearted take. But on reflection, perhaps an insight into the collective subconscious of a tortured group of supporters who have endured one of the most traumatic 20-odd year periods in AFL/VFL history.

    So deep are their wounds that their icon’s jumper – and the desperately painful failings of their beloved club that it has come to represent – may have to be consigned to the earth rather than hung triumphantly from the rafters.

    After all, this is a club that hands out hurt with its official merchandise.

    The consecutive 2009 and 2010 grand final losses are the most recently inflicted – and still red raw – scars sported by Saints fans.

    2009 is often cited as the more painful of the two. The Saints were the form team and but for their profligacy in front of goal, Tom Hawkins’ outrageously allowed poster and Matthew Scarlett’s toe poke, the Saints win the flag.

    And yet what could be more painful than the sight of the ball bouncing away from Stephen Milne a year later. In that moment, an epic victory for the finals-hardened Saints was reduced to an ideal warm-up game for the superior – but relatively inexperienced – Pies ahead of the eventual grand final replay romp.

    Go back further to the 2004 preliminary final in Adelaide and Riewoldt’s first foray into the pointy end of the season. The Saints lose an epic clash against a notoriously finals-shy Port Power team and the chance to knock off a bleeding Brisbane Lions in the grand final. It wouldn’t have been the Saints if Brent Guerra hadn’t come within a whisker of equalising in the goal square in the dying stages.

    Throw in the cancelled Harvey-Burke-Loewe-Winmar coronation in 1997 after the Saints squandered a half-time grand final lead against the upstart Crows.

    Consider this heartbreak against the backdrop of a few booze-soaked social club highlights in the 1980s and a premiership drought going back to 1966, and you wonder how Saints fans manage to get out of bed each day.

    The great injustice is that, through a combination of talent and tenure, this misery has ultimately become Riewoldt’s cross to bear in spite of his storied playing career. If he isn’t defined by his club’s near misses, then they certainly form a large part of the Riewoldt narrative.

    Perhaps no better demonstration of this was the collective awkwardness felt when his younger cousin Jack won this year’s premiership with the Tigers.

    AFL Grand Final Richmond Tigers 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    The inverse is that Riewoldt – particularly as the club’s only real modern day figurehead – has come to cast a shadow of sorts over his beloved Saints.

    After all, it’s difficult to disassociate the current Saints outfit from previous tragic incarnations so long as Riewoldt is leading up a wing.

    Viewed through this lens, Riewoldt’s retirement represents a fascinating juncture for the Saints.

    Without its spiritual leader and largely shorn of veterans, the club’s stuttering rebuild has effectively lost its training wheels and will be squarely in the spotlight.

    Yet – whether ultimately successful or not – at least the next generation of Saints will enjoy relatively clean air. That’s thanks to Saint Nick taking his heavy cross into retirement and with it, his club’s demons he came so close to exorcising.

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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • November 13th 2017 @ 1:16pm
      Steve009 said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

      What a crock of……
      Not everyone or every team gets to experience the success of winning as premiership, but is it really the only measure of success we are going to gauge players careers by. Maybe to simpletons.

      There has been plenty of heartache for saints supporters over the last 20 years, but that pain has as almost all been at the pointy end of the season, where St Kilda found themselves year after year during Riewoldt’s lengthy prime years.

      Premiership aside Riewoldt’s time at St Kilda represents one of St Kilda greatest era’s of team success. Not the ultimate success of a premiership, but they challenged year after year.

      And in Riewoldt’s twilight years and on retirement where does the club find itself?

      For this young St Kilda team the Riewoldt’s years are something they should be aspiring to return to, not bury. and then just one step further

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 2:11pm
        Cat said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

        Perhaps he should be judged on how many scandals the club went through during his time as captain of the club?

        • November 13th 2017 @ 3:56pm
          Steve009 said | November 13th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

          I was focusing on the on field, not off field stuff. His playing career.
          I try not to think about those Zac Dawson photos.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 8:31am
          Luke said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

          @Cat – sure judge him on that. However, I judge the man on his ability to play 17 years over 300 games over 700 goals in the toughest position.
          I also judge him on his resilience and courage to comeback and captain a side a month after losing his sister.

          Don’t be a hater

          • November 14th 2017 @ 2:36pm
            Harsh Truth Harry said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

            Well said Luke. A really low comment from Cat (Jean/Gene/Samantha)

            • November 14th 2017 @ 3:02pm
              Mattyb said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

              Well said Luke,that comment was nothing short of disgraceful and your response fitting.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 10:56am
                Hungry Jack said | November 15th 2017 @ 10:56am | ! Report

                Tongue in cheek? Lost on you, Mattyb? Not dry enough?

        • November 15th 2017 @ 11:36am
          Barbara Gaskin said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:36am | ! Report

          Why should he be judged by the number of scandals, they were out of his control, to suggest this is ridiculous and total rubbish, why don’t we count all other clubs scandals while we are at it, we know the press sensationalise anything St Kilda related, did anyone notice how long it took to name the Richmond player involved in the naked woman picture, I was beginning to wonder if we would ever find out, nothing has been heard since, if it was St Kilda they would still have it as front page news

    • November 13th 2017 @ 1:50pm
      Hungry Jack said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

      Rose colored glasses or what, Steve? ‘ . . . but they challenged year after year.’ He had a 17 year career, many of those years the Saints were cellar dwellers or not a factor! Champion player who unfortunately played for a deadset ordinary team!

      • November 13th 2017 @ 6:03pm
        Steve009 said | November 13th 2017 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

        I did say in his prime years, but I’m going have to retract the lengthy part, on checking on Nick’s last 6 years the best the Saints have managed are 2 9th place finishes.

        In Riewoldt’s 4th season however the Saints finihed 3rd at the end of the regular season.

        From that 2004 season through to 2011 the Saints only missed the finals once (9th), finished the regular season in the top 4 5 times and played in 2 grand finals that they lost by the narrowest of margins. Nick Riewoldt turned 22 in 2004 and 29 in 2011.

        I wasn’t around in 66, I was born in 74 The most successful St Kilda era I have seen are those 8 years, Riewoldts prime playing years. I can’t understand why St Kilda would want to bury and forget it.

        I am not a Saints supporter.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 8:57am
      Harsh Truth Harry said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      Oh yes, rewatched the 2009 GF the other night and the Saints should have won it. Then, Milne had Ben Johnson totally done in the dying seconds of 2010 but instead of charging at the ball, he hesitated. I use Milne’s hesitation in the 2010 first GF in coaching junior footy as a reason to never hesitate for a moment. In that second he made a decision to wait and it will ever live with him as the reason St Kilda missed the flag in 2010.

      • November 14th 2017 @ 10:18am
        Hungry Jack said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

        You use that thought during circle work, Harry. Lol. Dinosaur!

        • November 14th 2017 @ 11:15am
          Harsh Truth Harry said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

          Not in training Hungry Jack, but before finals games. He who hesitates is lost. I also have a big poster of Milne stalling before the bouncing ball in the change rooms before finals with huge red letters across reading “Do not hesitate for a second!” …..three flags in the past 6 years, thanks for asking.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 12:06pm
            Hungry Jack said | November 14th 2017 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

            Wasn’t asking! Just referring to your penchant for ‘circle work’ as a bona fide training technique in the 21st century. Bag o’ wind and a braggard, Harry. You got it all covered, dude. Hope you use Essendon as an example of what not to put in your body!

            • November 14th 2017 @ 12:10pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | November 14th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

              HJ, I know I have you beat when you revert to the tragic persecution of our club by the AFL which by the way is over and passed. The fact remains HJ how many flags have the Swans won in the ridiculous ten year Buddy deal again? oh yes, it is zero my young burger eating fella. As for the Bombers, flag favs in 2018!

              • November 14th 2017 @ 2:02pm
                Hungry Jack said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

                No they’re not, dude! But why let facts get in the way of HTH’s personal agenda.

            • November 14th 2017 @ 2:40pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

              HJ, if you had been involved in circle work which I did use for the Under 12’s you would realise it is a great starting point for training juniors who have modified rules (not the same as the AFL). It is also a useful tool for getting kids who haven’t got the most natural talent involved in training.

              • November 14th 2017 @ 3:11pm
                Hungry Jack said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

                Circle work!!!??? You are kidding aren’t you? Haven’t done any coaching courses, have you Harry? Circle work! LOL. You now have zero cred, dude!

      • Roar Guru

        November 14th 2017 @ 10:50am
        Paul D said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        This milne line gets trotted out so often but I do wonder how many people actually have re-watched the clip before rubbishing him. I certainly wouldn’t assume blowhardharry has.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbafkVRO41E

        I remain convinced even if Milne had sprinted – and bear in mind this was deep in the 4th quarter of an exceptionally physical game he wouldn’t have made it to that ball. And you insisting he charge in fails to account for the fact you and he didn’t know which way the ball was going to go. If it shot back at him at full sprint and he shelled it you’d have been into him for been too keen.

        on the whole it’s just lazy analysis where apparently a 50 year premiership drought can be distilled down to a split second decision on the part of a player no-one outside of Saints fans liked very much. But then again I’d expect that from HydraHarry, who, in between lying about going on safari and coaching junior footy spends his time constructing sky castles on the internet

        • November 14th 2017 @ 12:15pm
          Harsh Truth Harry said | November 14th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

          oh dear Paul D, you clearly haven’t played the game. Oh yes, I was at the G that day and at the pointy end watching Milne and Johnson from 20 metres away. The gap was not big when he stopped, maybe 2 metres. I have also watched that clip and used it in motivational videos for my young fellas for many years now. He stops, balances his weight before deciding which way to go. If he had have had no hesitation he would have been able to cut off the right angle of the bouncing ball and still have tome regather and goal. Oh yes it was so late it IS the difference between St Kilda and Collingwood winning that premiership, I have no doubt that moment decided the draw instead of a St Kilda win. By the way, why would I lie about going on a safari or coaching junior footy? I don’t understand what advantage that would get me in lying?

          • November 14th 2017 @ 2:05pm
            Hungry Jack said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

            It doesn’t stop you from saying the Bombers are flag favourites in 2018! The Truth is not your cup of tea, Harry. Stick with circle work oh great blustery one!

          • Roar Guru

            November 14th 2017 @ 2:08pm
            Paul D said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

            Actually I have.

            he slows and hops in the air as the ball is about to bounce in front of him, and immediately makes the correct decision it’s bounced at right angles sharply towards goal and he can’t make it.

            You’re criticising him for not being able to see into the future. Thoroughly unreasonable. But that’s you to a T. I pity your coaching pupils.

            How did an Essendon diehard get tickets to a Saints Geelong GF 20m from the pointy end in members only territory anyway?

            • November 14th 2017 @ 2:50pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

              .if you really played footy at any decent level Paul you would know predicting the bounce of the ball is a learned skill…my best young players do it all the time…watching the drop of the ball in the air you totally CAN predict the future…you look at which way the ball is falling and you know which way it will bounce….well, the best readers of the ball do and …say what you like about Milne off the field, the bloke could read the ball…..I have seen the past 17 GF’s at the G young Paul. I have coached footy for going on 30 years, coached at senior division one level and now happy coaching under 17’s. We taste a lot of success young fella. You are wrong. You sit at your keyboard analysing U tube videos and think you’re an expert because you have been here long enough for them to call you “guru”…

              • November 14th 2017 @ 5:01pm
                Hungry Jack said | November 14th 2017 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

                Time you did some coaching courses, Harry. Circle work?! Ahhhhhhhh-ha-ha-ha-ha!
                And bragging about your coaching record! Ahhhhhhh-ha-ha-ha. Classic. You’re hardly a humble know-all! Your wind really stinks up the joint, Harry.

            • November 14th 2017 @ 3:07pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

              .if you really played footy at any decent level Paul you would know predicting the bounce of the ball is a learned skill…my best young players do it all the time…watching the drop of the ball in the air you totally CAN predict the future…you look at which way the ball is falling and you know which way it will bounce….well, the best readers of the ball do and …say what you like about Milne off the field, the bloke could read the ball….

            • November 14th 2017 @ 3:49pm
              Hungry Jack said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

              Easy answer. He didn’t.

              • November 14th 2017 @ 4:08pm
                Mattyb said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

                Paul,you’ll find with the MCG monopoly on the VFL GF that many people apart from the competing clubs get tickets to the championship game.
                You’ll find supporters of any club can easily obtain tickets if they are members of the Cricket Club or are willing to forgo thousands of dollars to obtain a corporate ticket. Tickets are extremely easy to obtain for the right people or the right price unfortunately.

            • November 14th 2017 @ 3:53pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

              The best junior players…and the best in the AFL can all read the downward flight of the ball as it is about to bounce. They do predict the future. You can predict the future. I can do it too even at 67. You closely watch the ball as it drops and you can tell which way it will bounce. Milne had skills, he could do that in his sleep, he chose not too.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 11:05am
                Hungry Jack said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

                If your junior club allows you to do circle work with the kids I’d be flabbergasted. I’m calling you fraudulent, Harry! The ‘best’ junior players would be removed from your harsh truth very, very quickly. Dinosaurs have no place in educating young footballers and are weeded out accordingly! Your views reflect your lack of ‘modern’ knowledge within the footy world. All you’ve got is ‘Pace,pace, pace.’ Without a game plan and players to execute pace will get you nowhere. Get off the bandwagon and get out of junior footy. Your ignorance is dangerous!

    • Roar Rookie

      November 14th 2017 @ 1:17pm
      WCE said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

      Riewoldt was one of the greats to play the game. I don’t recall seeing him dirty of create issues like some morons on the field do. Be nice to see him in commentary to replace a few of the bias one eyed Victorian fools currently on the mic.

      • November 14th 2017 @ 2:52pm
        Harsh Truth Harry said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

        WCE I support the mighty Bombers and have never looked more forward to a season than we have coming up where I fully expect us to be top 4 and am about 80% sure we will win the whole thing if we get a decent run with injuries. Riewoldt was a champion, end of story and would have been a champion in any team.

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