A disappointing crowd of 19,866 was left to question their life choices on Sunday, after being treated to a contest that mattered little and delivered even less. St Kilda’s last game of 2018 played out a little like a microcosm of the season as a whole. Starting poorly, the Saints showed signs of life in the second and third quarters before it all ended without much to show for their efforts. After spooking a Hawthorn team playing for a top four berth a week earlier, the Saints failed to seriously challenge an inferior opponent in North Melbourne who had nothing at all on the line.
With the margin out to 30-points by the 15 minute mark of the second quarter what little interest there had been in the contest had all but evaporated. As a result most attention turned to whether North’s Ben Brown’s Coleman charge could be thwarted and how many times St Kilda fans could boo Majak Daw for his crude bump on Jack Lonie in the first quarter. With greater resources turned to curbing Brown’s effectiveness in the second half, the novelty of both quickly waned.
That the game never really hit any true high note was not for the lack of trying by Jack Steven and Jack Steele. A fortnight after being singled out by his coach for ‘trying too hard’, an undeterred Steven was conspicuous in his efforts against the Kangaroos. A part of everything, Steven ran himself into the ground collecting 34 possessions, nine clearances and 12 inside 50’s. His relentless running also saw him hit the scoreboard with two goals team lifting goals in the third quarter which saw the Saints briefly within striking distance, having reduced the margin to 16-points.
While Steele’s work may not have been as immediately apparent as his namesake’s, he was equally impressive at the coalface for the Saints. Despite persistent rumours that he was unhappy and wanted out of Moorabbin, Steele’s back half of the season has been outstanding. Gaining recognition for his shut down jobs on the likes of Clayton Oliver and Ollie Wines, he has since gone on a ball winning binge. His 35 touches against the Kangaroos seeing him average 29 a game for the last month of the season. As for those rumours? Nothing to see hear Saints fans, he is happily tied to the club until at least the end of the 2019 season.
There has been plenty of speculation about the future of club stalwart, and last man standing from the 2009-2010 Grand Finals, Sam Gilbert. The response among the playing group to his first quarter goal, with him being absolutely swarmed by teammates, may well have been a hint at what the future holds for the versatile backman. The 32-year-old from Southport is a much maligned character among St Kilda supporters but has been a great servant of the club and will be missed if this was indeed the last time we see him play.
At the final siren the margin was 23-points, like much of the season the team had stemmed the early bleeding but were never really in the match. After a decade, The Etihad Stadium era ended with a whimper. Just two wins at the venue in 2018 belies the fact that it was once our fortress. In our last match before it becomes an advertisement for a media empire instead of an airline, the sound of North fans was far more prominent than that of Saints fans. Where our fans once swarmed and our team dominated, there is now a palpable sense of resignation in the air. With Marvel intending to turn the ground into the home of superheroes and villains next year, which role will the Saints make their own?
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ST KILDA 3.3 6.4 11.6 14.10 (94)
NORTH MELBOURNE 6.7 11.9 14.11 17.15 (117)
St Kilda: Steven 2, Steele 2, Membrey 2, Gilbert, Lonie, Geary, Marshall, Billings, Paton, Sinclair, Newnes
North Melbourne: Ziebell 3, Brown 3, Waite 3, Goldstein 2, Wood, Simpkin, Higgins, Daw, Dumont, Hrovat
St Kilda: Steven, Steele, Carlisle, Ross, Webster, Austin
North Melbourne: Dumont, Cunnington, Ziebell, Higgins, Goldstein, Wright
St Kilda: Nil
North Melbourne: Davies-Uniacke (hamstring) replaced in selection side by Ahern, Wood (left hamstring)
Reports: Scott Thompson reported for striking Jack Steele in the first quarter
Umpires: Deboy, Whetton, McInerney
Official crowd: 19,866 at Etihad Stadium