However for the bulk of the 8187 at Linton Street, this night was about the hope delivered by Ratten’s men.
They played boldly, sending through seven first-term majors. Off-season recruit Bradley Hill’s run was a highlight while Hunter Clark continued his form from the latter stages of 2019 with a silky showing.
The Hawks had few standouts although Isaac Smith was prominent and could have ended with a bag had he kicked straight.
Vying for an AFL lifeline with Hawthorn, former Saint and train-on Hawk Darren Minchington sat out the first half and didn’t have a huge impact when unleashed. However the untested Damon Greaves didn’t look out of place for Alastair Clarkson’s side.
THE KING AND I
It loomed as an intriguing match-up: Max King v Ben McEvoy. A young key forward in his first match against AFL opposition against a ruckman transformed into a tall defender deep into his career.
It didn’t last though. Only a couple of minutes into the game, McEvoy was hobbling, with King marking uncontested on the lead. Things looked bad for the former Saint when he was helped off the field but concerns were allayed when the Hawks said that McEvoy had merely copped a corked thigh.
The Saints forward line had a different look about it with the additions of Paddy Ryder, Dan Butler and King. But it was a couple of the longer-serving hands who did the damage with Jack Lonie proving a major handful at ground level and Tim Membrey outstanding in the air and clinical in front of goal. King brought the Saints fans to life when he slotted an early goal, but battled against the close-checking of James Frawley and Changkuoth Jiath.
The avenues around Linton Street were packed early with cars for what was a much-awaited return for big-time men’s footy at the Saints’ traditional home. By midway through the second quarter the match had been declared an official sellout. And there were plenty of famous faces watching on.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan mingled with punters while Saints great Nicky Winmar was back at the ground he lit up in the late 1980s and early 90s.Brownlow Medallist Neil Roberts was also there, while Saints fan and cricket star Glenn Maxwell kept his eyes on the proceedings after being pulled out of Australia’s tour of South Africa because of an elbow injury. And then there was Nick Riewoldt, working on the game for Fox Footy. There was however a snag: the beer supply at the ground ran out early in the third term and needed to be replenished.
7.2 9.2 13.6 17.9 (111)
5.3 8.8 10.10 13.12 (90)
St Kilda: Membrey 4, Lonie 4, Marshall 2, Butler, Clark, Gresham, Dunstan, Kent, King, Marsh. Hawthorn: Breust 3, Patton 3, Smith 2, Lewis 2, O’Brien, Puopolo, Scully.
St Kilda: Membrey, Lonie, Clark, Marshall, Dunstan, Butler, Steele.
Hawthorn: Smith, Mitchell, Greaves, Lewis, Henderson, Patton.
Hawthorn: McEvoy (cork).
Daniel is an Age sports reporter