The same weekend of the passing of Ron Barassi, St Kilda lost champion Kevin Neale at the age of 78. A contemporary of Barassi, he was one of the heroes of their 1966 premiership, played 256 games and ranks eleventh on the Saints games list. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's for some years. After his retirement, he worked in the club's marketing department and waw president of the Past Players Association.
St Kilda Saints
An overcast spring day greeted the 68,465 supporters at the MCG. The Saints started the first quarter strong with an early mark at top of the goal square by Sharman and he made no mistake with the simple set shot. GWS were quick to respond with an entry to the forward 50. Hard running from Toby Greene saw them rewarded with a goal when he ran onto the ball just outside the goal square. A long ball inside 50 almost saw King with an easy roller off the ground for a goal, but the ball trickled away from his boot. Marshall had better luck though when he added the Saints second goal, able to mark the ball at the top of the square.
GWS again responded, this time through Hogan who marked in the pack seven meters out from goal. His kick around the corner was a goal. The Giants took the lead for the first time in the game when Toby Bedford kicked long and straight from 49 meters out. His goal was the first kicked for the day from any significant distance. Callum Brown and Daniels added goals to put the Giants three goal up just before quarter time. Sharman could have ended the quarter as he began it with a goal but his kick from the pocket went wide of the big sticks resulting in a behind to the Saints.
It couldn't have looked much worse for the West Coast Eagles. Last week the Eagles were smashed 205 points to 34 by the thirteenth placed Sydney Swans. The Eagles' reserves team mirroring their senior team by anchoring the ladder of the local competition, were yesterday thrashed by East Fremantle 215 to 31. Their best player Tim Kelly was ill and unable to play against the St Kilda Saints - and the Saints gunning for a percentage boost (percentage calculated by dividing points for by points against) to get them into the top four. The Saints had their first goal on the board after just fifteen seconds of play courtesy of youngster Mitch Owens. The script said the Saints would win convincingly but the problem was that the Eagles hadn't read the script.
The AFL held their annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony in late June. This year's inductees were South Australian player Michael Aish. James Bartel, Corey Enright, South Australian Tom Leahy, broadcaster Bruce McAvaney, Sam Mitchell, and Mark Williams. Bartel and Enright were inducted together due to their roles as teammates at Geelong during the Cats' dominant period\d and premiership success (see details below). Former St Kilda champ Nick Riewoldt was also a candidate this year, but will be inducted next year when he and his family return from living in the USA (his wife is an American from Texas). Players are eligible after five years of retirement. Coaches, umpires, administrators, and media representatives are eligible after retirement.
The day after Andrew Dillon was announced as the next league CEO, all 18 club presidents voted to approve the 19th AFL license for Tasmania. The Tasmanian government recently authorized funding for a new stadium in Hobart. With that in place, the focus can be on all the logistics of setting up the team. Tasmania has been pushing for a license for years. Hawthorn and the Kangaroos have played "home" games in Tasmania for many years and it has proved moderately successful with some ups and downs over the years.
The AFL will be holding their annual Life Membership and Jack Titus Award ceremony in early March. There are eight new inductees for their services to the game. Five inductees automatically qualified having reached 300 total AFL games: Trent Cotchin, Todd Goldstein, Josh J. Kennedy, Paddy Ryder and Steele Sidebottom. Lisa Hardeman, Bruce McAvaney and Eddie McGuire were awarded life membership for their ‘Special Services to the Game’. Peter Haby was awarded the Jack Titus Service Award for outstanding service to football as the Hawthorn Football Club Historian and Museum Curator. The AFL Commission confirmed their awards at a meeting late last year.
The Supplemental Signing Period (SSP) started several months ago and ended February 15. It allows clubs with available spots to sign players as rookies. Below are the clubs and the players they signed.
The Adelaide Crows had two spots open on their list with Fischer McAsey and Paul Seedsman both being placed on the inactive list for the 2023 season. They signed former Collingwood midfielder Tyler Brown as a rookie for this season. Brown has signed a one year deal. Brown is the son of former Magpie premiership player Gavin and played 27 games for Collingwood before being delisted at the end of 2022. He had battled illness and injury in stint with the Pies.
Just a few months after he signed a contract extension, Brett Ratten was dismissed as St Kilda senior coach. In a statement, the club said they "got it wrong". The Saints recently completed a thorough a review of their football operations, with the findings indicating a change of leadership and voice in the senior coach position was needed. Saints president Andrew Bassett and chief executive Simon Lethlean held a press conference in mid-October to explain their decision.
Bassat labelled it a “brutal process”, saying Ratten was “blindsided” by the club’s decision and had “no inkling” his position was under threat, “This has been a very tough few weeks and the decision ... has been a very painful one for the club and of course incredibly disappointing for Brett and his family ... our duty to members in the pursuit of success requires us to make the best decision for the club and for the members and not the individual ...".
The Saints mauled Hawthorn earlier in the season at the MCG as their midfield and forwards dominated the Hawks. Now late in the season the two teams are not so distant on the ladder at Round 20 and both were outside the top eight prior to this match. Early in the third quarter today the Saints looked poised to repeat the dose, but a late fightback by the Hawks saw them trail by just two goals at the final siren, but still enough to carry the Saints into the top eight.
Played under the closed roof at Marvel, the two teams took a good period to feel each other out. After seven and a half minutes the Saints put the first serious score on the board when Mason Wood outmarked Jiath in the forward pocket and converted the free kick into a goal. But they failed to capitalize on good work of the midfield as King, Membrey and Lienart all missed set shots.
Just ahead of Round 18, veteran St Kilda defender Jarryn Geary announced his immediate retirement. Kane Lambert joined him in retirement a week later. Geary was one of the last selections in the 2006 rookie draft and went on to play 207 games over 16 years and was appointed captain in 2017. His work ethic and determination saw him become one of the most selfless and respected players of the modern era. Geary, 34, has battled injury issues over the past two seasons, with an ongoing shoulder injury this season requiring a reconstruction soon. In 2019, he suffered a serious leg injury which required emergency surgery for compartment syndrome. He finishes his career as a life member and was named best clubman in 2016 and 2019.
Coach Brett Ratten said, “We would not be in the position we are today without Gears’ leadership, honesty and courage ... It’s always sad when one of your great warriors calls time, but you can’t help but feel immense pride for everything Jarryn has achieved ... He's never backed down or thrown in the towel, he's always fought hard and put his body on the line for his teammates, and his bravery is rivalled by very few. Above all, Jarryn is fiercely loyal, both to his football club and those around him. He’s led the club through some challenging times and pushed those around him to improve and bring a high standard consistently. As a leader, Jarryn has influenced so many people around him over his time. From the players, to the football department and the wider staff, we owe him a debt of gratitude for everything he has poured into this club, Jarryn has ... the entire club’s respect for the way he has conducted himself throughout his career.”