Saturday night will be a great many things for those who live and breathe red, white and black.
The Marvel Stadium aisles will once again be lined by the faithful for the first time in almost 600 days; the opening home game of the year, for many, marking a long-awaited return to age-old traditions and sacred ways of life.
But most poignantly, tomorrow evening marks an opportunity to pay tribute to one of our club's true champions.
Spud's Game: Time 2 Talk will not only be a chance to honour the late Danny Frawley, but enshrine his enduring legacy through a cause so close to his heart.
When St Kilda and Melbourne meet under the roof, emotions will be running high.
But just like the Saints did back in the famous 1992 elimination final against Collingwood when Spud went down, they will do it for Danny.
Spud's Game: Time 2 Talk | 2021
St Kilda v Melbourne
Saturday 27 March
Marvel Stadium, 7:20pm
Broadcast live and free on Channel 7
GAME DAY GUIDE: Important information ahead of Spud's Game
The key storylines
1. For Spud
Tomorrow's match will undoubtedly come with its rollercoaster of emotions, but Spud will be front of mind all throughout the night.
A champion taken far too soon, but a legacy which will continue to live on forever through the game named in his honour.
An official tribute to Spud, featuring some of St Kilda's greatest players as well as Danny’s family and friends, will begin at 7.00pm sharp.
2. Getting off to a flyer
St Kilda and Melbourne will each be presented with an opportunity to gain an early leg-up on the competition and improve its ledger to 2-0 on Saturday night.
The Saints have only begun its season undefeated after the first two rounds twice over the past decade (2014, 2019), while the Dees have only done so three times since the turn of the century (2002, 2005, 2017).
A win will be even more crucial with both sides entering a tough run of matches over the next month. Last year's Grand Finalists Richmond and Geelong are each on the agenda, while Brett Ratten's men will also come up against West Coast in Round 4.
3. Return of the King
St Kilda's absentee list received an unexpected addition last fortnight after key forward Max King was struck in the head with a golf ball and subsequently ruled out of Round 1 with concussion.
After spending a mandatory 12 days on the sidelines, the 20-year-old is set to rejoin Tim Membrey in the attacking half and strengthen his side's two-pronged offensive.
King finished second in the club's goalkicking (22 goals) behind Dan Butler last season, but took out top billing for marks inside-50, contested marks and surprisingly, forward-50 ground-ball gets.
St Kilda has brought in two of its big guns for Saturday night, with Zak Jones and Max King rejoining the ranks ahead of Saturday's significant match.
A hamstring strain and subsequent corkie saw the Saints take a cautious route with Jones leading into Round 1, while King was forced out of the starting 22 with concussion.
Jack Bytel and Daniel McKenzie come out for the returning pair, with both named as emergencies for Spud's Game.
Melbourne will gain vice-captain Jack Viney at the expense of James Harmes, who goes out with a wrist injury.
IN: Jones, King
OUT: Bytel (omitted), McKenzie (omitted)
Where the match is won
Beating the Dees at their pressure game. Melbourne unveiled a strongly defence-based gameplan against Fremantle in Round 1, generating an impressive 18 shots at goal from forcing turnovers in their front half.
The two highest forward-half "pressure factor" numbers in Round 1 – calculated according to the pressure they apply on opposition disposals – belonged to St Kilda and Melbourne at 1.86 each, well above the league average of 1.69.
Like they did against the Dockers, Melbourne will attempt to pin the St Kilda in its defensive half and place continual pressure on the ball-carrier.
GWS enacted a similar plan against Brett Ratten’s side in the third quarter last week, however the Saints were able to persevere through the hard press, securing three end-to-end goals that quarter to get back on the road to victory.
Digging through the record books…
After winning 14 matches in a row against Melbourne through the Leigh Montagna era (2007-2016), games against the Demons have been hard-fought spectacles for the past few years.
In 2020, the Saints suffered a narrow loss in Alice Springs, a game in which they dominated inside-50s 46-30 but failed to capitalise on their wealth of opportunities.
|Recent Encounters v Melbourne|
|Round 14, 2020||Melbourne 8.4 (52) def. St Kilda 7.7 (49)|
|Round 19, 2019||St Kilda 15.14 (104) def. Melbourne 13.7 (85)|
|Round 5, 2019||Melbourne 7.13 (55) def. by St Kilda 15.5 (95)|
|Round 15, 2018||Melbourne 18.9 (117) def. by St Kilda 18.11 (119)|
On the radar…
Melbourne's midfield boasts numerous contested ball specialists, but Christian Petracca stands as the most explosive – and damaging – of the lot.
The podium-finisher at last year's Brownlow Medal (equal with Jack Steele) booted a match-winning four goals last time the Saints and Demons met, also polling the three Brownlow votes for his unstoppable rampage.
Petracca was one of the Dees' most influential players last week against Fremantle, collecting 24 disposals and two goals to show his destructive tendencies from last season haven't waned heading into the new year.
The 25-year-old is highly likely to find himself on the Saints' radar throughout the night, with Seb Ross or Jack Steele potential contenders to put some attention into the All-Australian.
Others to watch: May, Gawn, Oliver, Brayshaw, McDonald, Viney
Keep an eye on…
As is the case every week, Dougal Howard is shaping as a prominent figure for St Kilda's upcoming battle under the roof.
The vice-captain was in brilliant form against GWS in Round 1, accruing 17 disposals, 14 spoils and 543 metres gained in the miserable conditions at GIANTS Stadium.
The backbone of the Saints' defensive end is likely to grapple with Tom McDonald, but will be fighting another battle up the other end of the ground against Demons full-back Steven May.
Both key defenders have proven themselves as core components to their side's success through their robust plays and ability to launch the Sherrin into attack, with their excellent form rewarded last season with top-three finishes in their respective Best & Fairest awards.
Last time we met…
St Kilda's first game for Premiership Points in Alice Springs saw the tight tussle fall in favour of the Demons, largely driven by masterful performances from Christian Petracca and Steven May.
Jack Steele was one of St Kilda's most prolific in the muggy conditions, and while a final quarter charge spearheaded by Bradley Hill (12 disposals) challenged, it wasn't enough to pinch victory from the jaws of defeat.
MELBOURNE 4.0 5.1 7.3 8.4 (52)
ST KILDA 1.3 4.5 6.6 7.7 (49)
Melbourne: Petracca 4, Weideman 2, Brown, Gawn
St Kilda: Battle, King, Marshall, Membrey, Phillips, Ryder, Steele
Melbourne: May, Petracca, Oliver, Langdon, Viney, Gawn
St Kilda: Steele, Hill, Sinclair, Wilkie, Ross, Coffield, Geary
Petracca (3), May (2), Steele (1)
Moment of the match
With a two-goal deficit starting down the Saints heading into the major break, a brace of goals from Jack Steele and Rowan Marshall in the final 30 seconds pegged the advantage back in the visitors' favour.
Steele converted duly from a set shot to draw closer to Christian Petracca's forward impact, while a crisp clearance from Jack Sinclair handed Marshall his all-important goal from 20 metres out.