As Grand Final day approaches, there have been plenty of mentions of the fact that Geelong hasn’t lost a game since that night in May at Marvel Stadium when the Saints triumphed over them.
That blistering five-goal burst in 10 minutes of the third term, including the classic Paddy Ryder tap that led to a Jack Billings goal, is fresh in our minds. Since then, the Cats have racked up 15 wins on the trot, and by Saturday night we may be able to gain some small satisfaction in the fact that we notched a win over the premiers.
Down through the years, the glorious uncertainty of St Kilda teams has produced wins against the odds and contrary to expectations. When we delve into the past, we find that Saints teams have had an unusually high rate of success against clubs who would subsequently go on to ultimate glory later in the year.
Who can forget that St Kilda avalanche against Richmond in 2017? The half time score of 14.8 to 1.4 left everyone gasping as midfielders Seb Ross, Jack Steven and Joey Montagna went on a rampage and Tim Membrey bagged five goals. The Tigers won nine of their next 10 to take out the flag.
In a surprisingly high 18 seasons, St Kilda has knocked off the eventual premier, often in bizarre circumstances - none more so than back on the opening day of 1900.
St Kilda hadn’t won a game in our first three seasons of VFL football, but years of monotonous reverses had not dimmed the Saints’ spirit, and they began the season with their first win after losing their first 48 VFL games. It did not come easily as they had to lodge a protest against a point wrongly secured by Wardill who marked the ball after the three-quarter time bell and was wrongly credited with kicking a behind. The protest was upheld the following Friday night and the game was awarded to St Kilda.
It was hardly an indicator of what would come as St Kilda lost every other game and Melbourne snared the 1900 premiership.
St Kilda had a good team in 1918 which made the finals, but mid-season the Saints shocked the all-conquering South side with a five-point win. It would be South’s only loss for the year, but we may have benefitted from the Southerners having overindulged beforehand. In Jim Main’s book In the Blood, South star Mark Tandy explained years later that the match was played on the King’s Birthday Monday holiday after the South players had spent the previous two days enjoying the hospitality of a club patron at his holiday home in the Dandenongs.
St Kilda began the 1954 campaign with a win over Footscray at the Western Oval, but in an echo of the 1900 season it would be Footscray who went on to an initial premiership and the Saints who collected the wooden spoon.
In more recent times, St Kilda rolled the Carlton 1995 team which dominated the season. On a wintry day at Waverley, St Kilda’s ruthless approach was soon evident. Rod Keogh set the tone in the opening minutes by inflicting bone rattling bumps on Mil Hanna and Adrian Whitehead. The carnage stunned Carlton who remained goalless for nearly three quarters while St Kilda ran rampant. Nathan Burke was too strong for Fraser Brown in the midfield, Dean Anderson accounted for the flu-stricken Craig Bradley and Stephen Sziller broke even with Scott Camporeale. Stewart Loewe’s marking proved too strong for the Blues backline and he found an ally in Glen Coghlan.
Eight decades earlier, St Kilda had knocked off Carlton on opening day in 1907. That Blues side was in the midst of a triple premiership era. The Saints also came out on top of the Carlton side that went on to take the 1914 flag. St Kilda bowled over eventual premiers Fitzroy in 1904, 1913 and 1944, Melbourne in 1964 and Hawthorn in 1961, 1976 and 1978. There was also a tense five point over Brisbane in 2003 at Docklands. And in 2010 we beat Collingwood early in the season.
In 1998 we gained a small measure of revenge over Adelaide in the rematch of the 1997 Grand Final.
Back in 1963, St Kilda humbled Geelong late in the year at the Junction. Old timers remember how star Geelong forwards Doug Wade and Fred Wooller were both dragged by coach Bob Davis late in the game after being outpointed by an unrelenting St Kilda defence. After that day, the Cats were undefeated for the rest of the year.
In 2009 there was the epic clash between the Saints and Cats where both teams entered the game undefeated on 14 wins apiece. The famous soaring Michael Gardiner mark produced the winning goal. In a similarly titanic Grand Final we went down narrowly.
This year we may be about to see an addition to an unusual history sidebar.