St Kilda Saints
The AFL's answer to Homer Simpson
As Pat Rafter said after being named Australian of the Year, "Australians must love a loser". Indeed, a sense of endearment to the hopeless cases is the only way to explain why a club like St Kilda is one of the AFL's more popular clubs despite boasting a Homer Simpson style history.
Although their name suggests an association with a higher power, St Kilda has always been entrenched at the bottom of the ladder. The club began its life by losing its first 48 matches; a sequence of failure which remains unparalleled to this day. From round one 1897 to round five 1903 the club's record was 2 wins - 101 losses - 1 draw. The Saints hold the record for the lowest score in a VFL/AFL match (1point) and with 26 wooden spoons, they hold the record for finishing last on most occasions. The Saints have only one premiership which took a VFL record of 67 years to achieve.
With such an impressive record of underachievement, it is understandable that the Saints came to believe that winning isn't everything. In 1894, the Australiasian wrote of the club:
Despite the lack of success, the club became tremendously popular. The correlation between on-field failure and off-field popularity was first noted in the 1920s when "St Kilda fluctuated between mediocrity and abject incompetence, a mix which paradoxically seemed to endear them to the public. "
With little success on the field, St Kilda footballers decided to savour the other joys of being part of a football club. Specifically, heavy drinking. As a consequence, Saints players often found themselves spending the night in a prison cell or turning up to training thinking the winter sun was far too bright. On once ocassion, the Saints had to forfeit a game as the players took themselves off to the racetrack instead.
Just as winning games was not really a serious pastime for the club, neither was developing a club identity. It has to be said that Saint Kilda Saints was not really the most imaginative of names. Admittedly, the club made a few meek attempts for something less obvious. In the 1930s, it went for Seagulls, in the 1940s it tried Panthers and in the 1950s it tried Penguins. None gained any traction.
Like its name, the club victory theme song was on the unimaginative side. It was simply an unchanged version of When the Saints Go Marching in. Perhaps the song was chosen because the Saints losing culture made it seem like it would never need one. Alternatively, perhaps a commonly known song would offer the best chance of the players knowing the words if a victory did come by chance. Admittedly, St Kila had made one brief attempt for a song of its own. The song started off singing about being by the sea, then predicted that St Kilda would be premiers, only to then say that there was a chance that St Kilda would be premiers and then it finished with with a few lines about being beside the sea. These final lines almost seemed like they have been written by a drunkard sailor or old wino.
Homer sings the St Kilda victory song
Just as the Saint’s marketing has been a bit of an enigma, so has been its supporter base. Football is a pastime that doesn't usually appeal to artists, outcasts, homosexuals, losers, troublemakers, hippys, goths and all manner of people with social problems. For some reason; however, such people seem to find St Kilda's image attractive. Some high profile examples include entertainers Molly Meldrum, Elton John and Graham Kennedy, broadcaster Francis Leach, comedians Matthew Hardy and John Safran, actors like Eric Bana and finally, and text-sex addicts like Shane Warne.
There is no doubt that St Kilda fans like to win, but although they take winning seriously, they don't take themselves seriously. By joking about their mediocrity football remains a fun pastime - even when their Saints are losing. This is somewhat of a contrast to Tiger fans where sustained failure is somewhat of a balding experience.
With losing as entrenched in St Kilda’s culture as firmly as VB is entrenched in Victorian culture, the club has been a revolving line of spaced out ideas aimed at solving the problem. In the last 30 odd years, the board has appointed 15 or so different coaches and implemented some bizarre philosophies to compliment them.
In recent times, some of the more bizarre philosophies were implemented by ex-President Ron Butterss – a man who was an enigma in himself. Butterss sported a designer three-day growth on his face. Presumably, the facial hair aimed to cultivate a laid-back larrikin type demeanour. In contradiction to the demeanour; however, was his obsessive compulsive disorder in regards to side-burns. While his face escaped the razors edge each morning, his sideburns definitely did not. The result was a kind of fashion statement that even Hawthorn would be ashamed of.
Butterss’ enigmatic attitude to hair was metaphoric of the way he ran the football club. Initially, he recruited Malcolm Blight as coach- a legend of the game. Mid-way into Blight’s first season, Butterss had Blight sacked and replaced with fellow board member Grant Thomas, a man whose previous coaching gig involved under 19s in a country town.
Coach and board then decided that the way to the top would be to bottom out. In theory, by finishing at the bottom of the ladder, more spoons could be acquired, and with them, prized draft picks. Ironically, the St Kilda fan’s tolerance of failure allowed the board to pursue the policy. Unlike Richmond fans who can not stand losing, St Kilda fans were comfortable in their lowly position and so continued to support the club through its dark years.
While a loser culture was been useful in attaining draft selections, the club found it difficult to subsequently transform a losing culture into a winning culture. In both 2004 and 2005, St Kilda had what was arguably the best list in the AFL; yet in neither season did the club make the Grand Final. Some commentators noted that, in keeping with their tradition, the lack of success didn't seem to be of particular concern to supporters:
As well as finding it impossible to shed its losing culture, the Saints have also struggled to shed a party culture that has had them being seen as anything but Saints. In the naughties, the club made headlines after some players found themselves being investigated for rape, one for being put on trial for rape and one for being found guilty of stalking. The club made even more headlines when naked photos of the players started appearing in the Facebook timeline of a 16-year-old school girl who seemed to have become embedded in the club. One of the photos showed the captain, Saint Nick Riewolt, with as much pubic hair as Bart Simpson. In their defence, the players stated that they had posed naked for their team-mates and that they had been stolen off the computer by the school girl. The school girl maintained that she had taken them herself.
Make me proud... or at least less ashamed.
Roy Morgan research on St Kild Fans
2001 - compared to other Australians
2004 - compared to other AFL supporters
2006 when compared to other AFL supporters
As St Kilda has always been hopeless, they have lacked the opportunities to get some rivalries going. However in 1997 they made the Grand Final and felt confident they may finally win that elusive second flag. As the Saint's opponent was Adelaide from the City of Churches, fate seemed to be smiling their way. Unfortunately, the Saints lost the game and with it, their best chance of making an enemy.
St Kilda jokes
A primary teacher explains to her class that she is a St Kilda fan. She asks her students to raise their hands if they, too, are St Kilda fans. Everyone in the class raises their hand except one little girl. The teacher looks at the girl with surprise and says, "Mary, why didn't you raise your hand?"
"Because I'm not a St Kilda fan," she replied. The teacher, still shocked, asked, "Well, if you are not a St Kilda fan, then who are you a fan of?" "I am a Essendon fan, and proud of it," Mary replied.
The teacher could not believe her ears. "Mary, why, pray tell, are you an Essendon fan?" "Because my Mum is a Essendon fan, and my Dad is an Essendon fan, so I'm an Essendon fan too!" "Well," said the teacher in a obviously annoyed tone, "that is no reason for you to be a Essendon fan. You don't have to be just like your parents all of the time. What if your mum was a prostitute and your dad was a drug addict, what would you be then?" "Then," Mary smiled, "I'd be a St Kilda fan."
|Was this more interesting than a news update of players in a recovery session standing around in the ocean looking cold or of a team 'training without incident'?|