Sunday 22 March has been a date pencilled into my calendar for several months now.
The build-up is like the countdown to Christmas – the buzz cumulating with each passing day, bubbling away towards that all-important first bounce.
But it’s fair to say over the last few days, events have panned out in an almost incomprehensible way.
Not being able to wave that red, white and black flag, don that facepaint or wear those colours proudly will be foreign for a lot of us, as will the unsettling feeling of not being present through the rollercoaster of emotions that is game-day.
We've lost a few things by not being able to get to the game.
Some of us have lost quality family time, the wind taken out of their sails after thinking this was finally the year, or years-long traditions uprooted.
For me, I've been questioning my worth as a Saints fan.
What good am I if I can't - for reasons well beyond anyone's control - be there on Sunday to cheer on my side?
Who is going to hear me yelling at my TV? Who is going to see me in my beanie and scarf? Who is going to feel the emotion alongside me?
But then it clicked. The one word that defines all of us.
Yes, it’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, and in many instances, is cheapened.
But we all know it’s more than just an idealistic word. It runs far deeper and holds a special meaning for all those who bleed red, white and black.
While we won’t be able to cheer on our Saints in the flesh when they march onto Marvel Stadium, the weight of the occasion won’t be lost to us.
Because together is when we’re strongest.
We wish that you could be there on Sunday, but know that wherever you're watching from, you’re behind us.— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) March 20, 2020
Comment below with your message of support for the boys, then we’ll print them out + place them on the wall of our change rooms for them to read before they run out. pic.twitter.com/qn8POBePjv
We're still going to cheer at our TVs like we would at the game because we are loyal.
We're still going to wear our colours even though no-one will see us because we are loyal.
And we are going to feel that sense of pride of being a Saint and be touched by that indescribable emotion of being part of something greater because we are loyal.
It’s impossible to join forces from a physical perspective during these times, our unified thoughts, beliefs and mindsets will make us the very definition of what our resilient club stands for.
The manifestation of these ideas from one Sainter is amazing. But from all of us, it’s a force that will be felt far and wide.
Just think of it.
Even though our boys will only hear eerie silence heading up the race instead of our cacophonous roar, they will know that the faithful will be cheering just as loud from afar.
We’ll ride the waves, just in a completely different way.
We’ll still feel every hit as Zak Jones careens into packs, and we’ll all look at each other in disbelief and say ‘this guy is an absolute jet’ when Bradley Hill’s kick lands squarely on Tim Membrey’s chest.
We’ll roar just as loud when Max King slots his first, and leap off of our couches when a thumping Dougal Howard fist stops a certain North Melbourne goal.
We’ll watch in awe as Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall fly in the ruck, and relish the small forward partnership of Dan Butler and Jack Lonie around goal.
We’ll earmark Hunter Clark as a future star for the hundredth time when he dashes off half-back, and the corner of our mouths will turn ever-so-slightly upward when Callum Wilkie dishes a perfect ball out of defence.
We’ll be astonished by Ben Long’s zip, floored by Jack Billings’ class, amazed by Jarryn Geary and Dylan Roberton’s courage, and be sure to offer our advice to the player that decides to take on a Jack Steele tackle.
Sure, it’s a disjointed celebration of a new-era St Kilda, and not one we would have liked, particularly in light of our long-anticipated rise.
But together, our cheers will be heard.
Together, our cries of ‘ball’, our wild eruptions of energy and passionate celebrations will be felt.
It’s a new landscape for us all.
It may not be the Round 1 we envisaged some months ago, but through unprecedented times come unprecedented ways for us to rally together.
As a club, we’ve been through thick and thin, but through the lean years we’ve never wavered.
We’ve remained loyal to the crest, the colours and the belief that our strength comes through our loyalty.
We’ve endured for 147 years: through world wars and the reality of financial collapse, to victory-starved eras and the losses of our golden sons.
But we always find a way.
As long as we’re together, the Saints’ heart still beats.
Because we all make up the fabric that is St Kilda.
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