The Good Dirt On Sturt
Updated: Mar 26
On Sunday afternoon during the footy, I was with a friend who knelt down to tie his shoelace. When he stood up he looked around and said, “wait, what… where did the season go? Sadly it’s stating the bleeding obvious that the likelihood is the 2020 season is over. It seemingly took forever to get here as the BigBash went on and on and then sadly it was over in the blink of an eye. As disappointing as it is it’s not the end of the world and if we keep things in perspective it’s hardly a tragedy. However, within the AFL context, in the microsecond of a season we experienced we secured a special highlight that will carry us through the down dark times of a footyless winter.
Knowingly going in to the already compromised season with reduced quarters and crowd lockouts, the experience expectation bar was set extremely low. However, as if who could further lower it the most was the season’s trophy, us Dockers were in premiership form from the first bounce. While the game ended in a more positive fashion, further devastation occurred in the form of the suspension of the 2020 season, this time though something outside our control.
It was an opening weekend where we had a feed of double disappointment and depressing burgers with a side of forlorn fries and we washed it down with a drink of dejection. It should come as no surprise to anyone a serious case of temporary buyer’s remorse ensued.
While such compounded adversity may have been overwhelming for some, us twenty five year Freo supporters are no strangers to momentary disenchantment. We know what it is to genuinely do it tough in an on field success starved context. We’ve built up a mental strength, we have the steely resolve and immunity from the long-term purple pain such detrimental Docker damage delivers. A copy of the Freo Supporter’s Biography cures any level of depression as it makes The Astonishing Tales of Costanza read like motivational literature.
It’s the wearing of the grief like a badge which enables us to continuously get up off the canvass and optimistically mistake the light at the end of the tunnel for the train that hits us head on.
With such instilled loyal values and unshakable resilience, it allows Fremantle fans to not only spot any hint of a prospect but cling to it for dear life, emphatically celebrate it, and use it for every last drop of hope.
So with Rona pretty much destroying everything around us, with the Freo guys seemingly practising social distancing in the midfield against Essendon, with all our built up hopes being dashed before our eyes, we were able to once again lean on our twenty five year supporter body of resilient work and spot a sparkle of light. We could see a calmness amongst the chaos, a diamond in the rough or more appropriately a Sturt on the Marvel Stadium dirt.
Sam Sturt, it sounds like a solo-artist musician or the name you’d come up with if you needed to lay low, sign in and pay cash for a room of a dodgy motel. Whatever and however it sounds, it’s a name we’re going to be hearing repetitively for the next decade…. most probably starting 2021.
The round one rising star nominee and now probably 2020 Young Star award winner’s performance in Saturday’s debut was something to behold. Apart from the obvious difficulties a debut entails for anyone, he had to endure the extraordinary circumstances of this current climate and that made his startling display ridiculously more impressive.
To take the field for the first time ever, the first game in a new season, play up forward and pick up ten possessions, take three big grabs, lay a couple of tackles and slot three goals, one from fifty out on the boundary and another after being crudely hit by Michael Hurley….. well those actions speak louder than any words anyone can tell you.
It was just a little bit exciting to see him confidently lead directly towards the ball carrying Darcy Tucker in the first quarter and be hit on the chest. He dropped his opponent off in a few strides and it set the tone for his day. Without hesitation he found Banfield with an advantageous pass across the corridor.
Four minutes into the second quarter he almost takes a high flying grab. While he spilt it on the way down he was still the first to recover and, with fortune favouring endeavour, he was caught high by Adam Saad and received a free kick for his troubles. Now you’d think as a debutant, being fifty out and virtually on the boundary, you’re putting it twenty five metres out in front of the goal face. Not flirty Sturty! He knew straight away it was within his capabilities. He casually and confidently went back, gestured to everyone to calm down and then sauntered in and potted it like it was second nature to him.
Roll the tape to four minute mark of the third term and you’ll see a young Sammy Sturt collect the handpass on the wing and then let go with an impressive turn of foot. It was like he was pressing one of those nitro-thingy buttons in the cars on the Fast and the Furious movies. Instantly he put a shedload of daylight between him and his pursuers Dylan Shiel and Aaron Francis, who both aren’t slouches in the pace department. He then balanced up and put the ball deep forward to Taberner’s advantage and subsequently on his chest. It was just a small piece of play that might not have raised the roof, and not because the roof was open, but it just further put on display another asset this young kid can call on.
As good as his day had been it was probably his final quarter effort that would have made both his teammates and opponents put a stamp of approval on it.
With Freo on the comeback the mighty Mick Walters hit the debutant, who had made space for himself on the fifty metre line, with a pin point pass. Now I don’t want to tip a bucket on Michael Hurley by suggesting he was a tad late with his spoil, but Sammy had stopped, he’d had cup of tea and a biscuit, pulled his socks up and tied his shoelaces before Michael “Holiday” Hurley almost ensured Sturty’s head social-distanced from his body!
It was a crude hit that could and probably should have rattled the youngster, especially considering the couple of progress stifling concussions he suffered in 2019. However, he got up, made use of the 50 metre penalty he received and put Freo within 7 points with four minutes left in the game.
Michael Hurley might think twice next time he tries to put Sam Sturt to sleep because it obviously fired up our new great young purple hope further. A minute later in a one on one contest Sturty stepped up and didn’t just move the super experienced, talented and ample sized Hurley off the ball, he deadset rag-dolled him!
It was becoming a regular occurrence as Sammy Sturt went back and calmly split the middle to once again give his Freo teammates a chance at the upset.
The tension was at fever pitch as the place was abuzz with this performance. With two minutes left the loud calls from the crowd were “Give it to Sturty!” Yes sure, admittedly the crowd consisted entirely of Sturt’s family but no one is suggesting the calls didn’t have merit.
Sadly despite his herculean efforts, Sammy couldn’t drag his team across the line as they agonisingly fell a single kick short.
Speaking of the Sturt family, it appears from afar that Sammy has been the beneficiary of a good upbringing and the support of solid relationships around him. A seemingly respectful and modest clan, parents Tom and Melissa and siblings Archie and Daisy, were no doubt more thrilled on the inside than they outwardly displayed. It was nice to see as it as it appeared a concerted but also natural effort to ensure it was Sam’s day in every which way.
I do though have a bone to pick with a certain member of the Sam clan. I no doubt will to be on my own here but, as a traditionalist and conventionalist when it comes to the positioning of headwear, I can’t give young Archie Sturt a pass here. Archie, if you’re reading this, did the instructions not come with that hat? C’mon mate, cut out that backwards hat wearing nonsense and straighten up! I only hope you weren’t influenced by your big bro?
Anyway back to more pressing and important issues. Despite the result of Saturday’s game it was a win in a different context. Admittedly it was one single game and no doubt Sam Sturt, being on debut, wasn’t necessarily given the full respect from his opponents he obviously should have received. It’s a mistake the Bombers or any other team definitely won’t make in the future. That said, his battles with Michael Hurley showed that he’s comfortable and easily capable in traffic, in a physical contest or out on his own. Has Jake “the Package” Stringer lost his moniker?
So taking everything into account, yes we’re absolutely getting carried away with Sammy Sturt…. there are even whispers of the “juggernaut” term being rolled out. But for a more measured, common sense and rational approach and to not burden the young guy with unrealistic expectations and pressure, we probably want to keep the lid within reach…..(“ does anyone know where the lid is? It was just here a minute ago.”)
It was just simply a masterful display of speed, strength, agility and intelligence and the combination of those traits is usually the making of a very special player. Sure, again one game is a small sample size but signs were well and truly there and, more importantly, that nugget of hope is just what us Freo fans needed. We can dine out on that prospect until footy returns and no doubt many of us will soon be getting around in the Sturt Shirt!
Interestingly if the season happens to venture past winter to push into the warmer months and Sturty keeps taking scalps like he did on Saturday, it’s a real possibility that we may see our very own version of the Summer of Sam.