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Holmes AFL debut match report

  • Monday, August 24 2015 @ 11:24 am ACST
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Jason Holmes made his transition from US college basketballer to AFL footballer on Saturday night official. In a match that ended in a draw against Geelong, St Kilda’s newest player not only looked at home in the ruck but looked something special.
Make no mistake holding down a position in the VFL as a ruckman is no easy task for those that have grown up with the game, let alone one starting out in a new foreign sport in a foreign land. If he never made it to play a match in the AFL it would still be a remarkable effort. 
But through a combination of his natural physical attributes, his athletic ability and his mental capacity to make it happen, Holmes has earned his promotion to the St Kilda team and to become the first born and raised American, the first code crossing American, the first player in the world to first play Aussie rules outside Australia and then make it to the AFL.
His arrival on the scene was well covered in all the Melbourne TV, radio and print media in the build up to Saturday night.  Footy shows on Thursday night  were all giving his debut special mention, radio stations interviewing his parents and social media heralding his arrival. 
Prior to the team running out Twitter showed Holmes being hugged by St Kilda captain Nick Reiwoldt and well wishes from the US Consulate in Melbourne and US Embassy in Canberra. As the team ran through the banner he was just one of the team. After a quick warmup and while the captain went over for the coin toss his team mates gathered around Holmes with last minute words of encouragement, pats on the back and on the head.
The siren sounded and it was on, inside the centre circle he went up and lost the first contest, or at least didn’t win it. As both teams scrambled for the loose ball Holmes managed a scrubbed handball out of the pack which had formed almost at half back registering the first possession of the match. The Saints kick the first goal.
Holmes’ second crack at the centre bounce is much more convincing, leaping high and drawing cheers from the crowd (possibly some bipartisan support) as he wins the tap. The crowd around me all seem to know of “Holmesy” regardless of the team they follow. Michington kicks a second for the Saints.
Third time and Holmes again leaps high to win the tap and the crowd is buzzing at his impressive leap. The Saints kick a third and again Holmes win the tap. This must seem easy with his team winning and rucking well. He has been pushing hard back in defence and then following the ball forward. Seven and a half minutes into the quarter he comes to the bench for a well earned breather.
After 5 minutes on the bench he comes back on and back into the ruck. Geelong have fought back kicking a couple. Holmes picks up another stat, this time after losing the centre square ruck contest he scrambles on the ground and gets a clear handball out. 
Later in the quarter he has a stint up forward. Twice St Kilda bring the ball to the wing in a few minutes and look up for an option, Holmes is there but probably outnumbered so they go laterally and turn the ball over. Would have been nice to back him in a try to hit him with a long ball. When they do work it forward he has a chance to mark on the line but the ball is spoiled by the Cats over the line. 
Late in the quarter he goes back in the ruck and when the siren sounds for quarter time the Saints are up by 3 points and he has played all but 5 minutes of the 32 minutes in that first stanza. He would be relieved that first quarter is out of the way but with little time to reflect as he is to start in the ruck again for the second quarter.
His ruck opponents in Blicavs and Vardy are no mugs by the way. Blicavs having a great season for the Cats and Vardy highly capable is just returning from a long term injury but looks to have returned in great shape. Following the play up and down the ground he is running plenty of K’s or should that be miles. As in the first quarter he gets a rest after 7 minutes and is back on after another 4 minutes. The rest of the game he will either be in the ruck or on the bench.
He is winning his share of boundary throw ins as well. But he is not really getting into general play, more hanging on the peripherary, mostly on the defensive side of packs. One high bouncing ball on the wing sees him attack and jump taking the ball but is tackled before he can land, he manages to dish off a handball though. 
The Saints have stretched the lead to 11 points at the 27 minute mark when Holme’s comes to the bench again where he remains until half time. Geelong are up by 1 point at Half time. Holmes has had 2 handballs and 21 hitouts.
Holmes starts the third term in the ruck again. He gets a huge cheer when awarded a free kick or a run down tackle and dishes off a handball. This time he runs in the ruck for the first 11 minutes and rests on the bench for 5 minutes. The Saints are now trailing by 13 points.
Brodie Murdoch is substituted for Josh Saunders for the Saints, this means Holmes will be running out the full match.
Back in the ruck he is still jumping high, battling at the boundary throw in he roves his own contest and gets a quick kick from the wing down the line but the ball comes off a defenders hand and deflects toward the boundary.   Shortly afterward another huge cheer for Holmes who marks the ball on the opposite wing. With no good handball option he sends a long to half forward.  
At three quarter time the Cats lead by just 7 points. Holmes was looking tired late in that third quarter as he has carried most of the ruck load and been working hard up and down the ground all night. His stats at ¾ time are 28 hitouts, 4 handballs, 2 kicks, 1 mark and 2 tackles.
In the final quarter Holmes’ continues in the ruck he gets a rest 6 minutes in this time as the Saints claw their way back into the match. In some ruck contests he now is rucking against both Vardy and Blicavs at the same time. He manages to lay a good tackle as the game tightens up with results in a ball up. 
With 29 minutes gone the Saints trail by a point. NZ born Shane Savage gathers the ball for the Saints in the forward pocket and snaps a behind to level the scores. With just 14 seconds on the clock there is no time for further scores and the game ends in a draw.
You would have to say a great debut from Holmes. Given a heavy ruckwork schooling in two seasons in the VFL it should really be no surprise he came ready for this and his leap impressed the crowd and his tap work was also solid, he finished with 34 hit-outs as well as seven disposals. 
On that performance you would expect him to get a game again next week, this time with his parents at the game (they couldn’t arrange to be here in time for this game) and going up against Canadian ruckman for Sydney Mike Pyke.

ST KILDA   5.4   8.7   11.9   14.13 (97)
GEELONG   5.1   9.2   13.4    15.7 (97) 

St Kilda: Bruce 3, Minchington 3, Hickey 2, Gilbert 2, Membrey, Savage, Riewoldt, Newnes
Geelong: Johnson 4, Hawkins 3, Vardy 2, Mackie, Taylor, Gregson, Guthrie, Motlop

St Kilda: Steven, Riewoldt, Gilbert, Newnes, Ross, Bruce, Minchington, Fisher
Geelong: Motlop, Johnson, Guthrie, Hawkins, Enright, Taylor 

St Kilda: Nil
Geelong: Josh Caddy (knee) 

St Kilda: Josh Saunders replaced by Brodie Murdoch in the third quarter
Geelong: Josh Caddy (knee) replaced by Nakia Cockatoo at half-time 

Reports: Nil 

Umpires: Farmer, Mollison, Wallace 

Official crowd: 25,245 at Etihad Stadium