The photo of Bradley Hill being chaired off the ground in his 200th game by his Brothers Paddy Ryder and Ben Long, Aboriginal flag draped proudly around his shoulders, will long be remembered as one of the most powerful and moving photographs to come out of St Kilda this century. It was an image that was so close to never being taken, however.
Unlike the photograph of Hill that eventuated post-game, St Kilda’s performance was far from inspiring for the better part of three quarters. Poor turnovers, squandered opportunities and a lopsided free kick count were the main talking points prior to the final stanza, with Adelaide firming towards a victory after piling on almost double the amount of scoring shots (19) to St Kilda by three-quarter time.
Fast-forward 45 minutes and the Saints’ energy in the rooms is infectious. A final-quarter resurgence interstate has delivered a crucial four points, along with memories and photographs which will last a lifetime.
Baby Harriet Hill is nestled in her dad’s arms in the post-game meeting as Brett Ratten prepares to deliver his address, eyes wide open as she stares in fascination at ‘uncle’ Jade Gresham to her right.
“It’s great to win milestone games and to get that picture… we don’t win, you don’t get that picture of you on top of Longy and Paddy with the flag and we miss out on that opportunity,” Ratten said to the playing group post-match.
“For you to be able to tell Harriet and for her to see that she was there on this special day for you, they’re the photos that you’ll have forever.
“No one can take that away from you which is brilliant.”
Before long, John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads is blaring through the rooms as the boys ice up, collect their post-game Grill'd meal and begin to pile into the bus for the trip back to the team hotel to have a couple of quiet beers in celebration of Hill's milestone.
While there are a few boys in the camp who aren’t the biggest fans of country music, it’s a sound which is far better than the uncomfortable silence which follows a loss.
It’s crystal clear that the Saints were far from playing their best footy on the day, but the satisfaction has come from that very fact: a win was procured while being far from the top-shelf form they’ve proven capable of this year.
Triumphs against Hawthorn showed the power and class when firing on all cylinders, Fremantle, Richmond and Geelong the determination to fight and claw their way back in, and this match just gone how proof of the ability respond when backs were against the ropes.
“It is a great win because in a season of footy you can’t play your best footy each week,” Ratten said in closing.
“To still get that W is what’s important, and that’s the pleasing part of it… we found a way.
“Yep, we didn’t play our best and we’re not going to play our best all the time, but it doesn’t mean that we have to lose a game of footy.
“We didn’t play well, but we got another four points and we keep everything moving forward.”