John Hamilton hadn’t even stepped off the boat from Scotland when he was converted into a St Kilda supporter for life by his Melbourne-based cousins who grasped the opportunity to anoint him as one of their own.
Little did he know in that moment, that his life trajectory had just been altered, with the next 49 years to be spent following his beloved Saints throughout all the ups and downs that come with supporting a football team in our land.
On Wednesday afternoon, as the lucky Day 3 winner of St Kilda’s Be Merry – 12 Days of Christmas campaign, John got to dine with the Saints leadership group, receiving an inner sanctum experience that very few do.
Accompanying John in this exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how an AFL club works during the week was his long-time friend, Fred Rullan, who was visiting from San Francisco.
On previous journeys down under, Fred has attended games with John and been converted into a St Kilda supporter. Today, Fred departed Linen House Centre as a paid up member, optimistic of the season ahead for his Saints.
After watching the Saints gruelling training session on the track ahead of the players’ four-day break, John and Fred tucked into some steak sandwiches with CEO Matt Finnis, Senior Coach Alan Richardson and the club’s leadership group, who discussed a range of topics centring on St Kilda’s plan for rising back up the ladder in pursuit of a second premiership.
For John, who grew up on the outer at Moorabbin watching ‘Cowboy’ Neale and Trevor Barker in full flight, this once-in-a-lifetime experience was made all the more enjoyable by the inclusiveness of all involved.
“Both Matt and Alan, and all the boys, were so open with what they told us. It was so revealing to hear about who was putting the work in on the track and who was blazing a path towards a big year in 2016,” he said.
“The experience has brought me even closer to my beloved Saints and given me an insight into their world.”