We'll put on a show, says AFL star
He's known in Melbourne as St Nick and the AFL's answer to Dan Carter certainly gave a polished performance in front of the cameras yesterday.
St Kilda's captain, and one of the code's glamour boys, Nick Riewoldt, was flanked by towering ruckman Ben McEvoy and Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown at Te Papa as he shared his enthusiasm for next year's historic Anzac Day game against the Sydney Swans at Westpac Stadium.
Riewoldt was quizzed on all manner of issues, from explaining the rules, the short shorts, and whether the AFL's first steps towards international expansion would prove a novelty factor or fair dinkum.
"I'm sure we'll come over here next year and put on a great show and hopefully in the meantime, between now and then, you can scrub up on the rules and have a good understanding of the game," said the blond 29-year-old, who has kicked 520 goals in 238 games since being picked at No 1 by the Saints in the 2000 AFL draft.
"As far as a spectacle goes, I think it's one of the best sports in the world. We're just super-excited about coming over and the first game in 140 years, for premiership points outside of Australia, I don't think you can undersell that and how big a moment this is for the competition. The AFL is a billion-dollar industry, this is pretty major."
The Saints entourage, which included president Greg Westaway, chief executive Michael Nettlefold and general manager new business Anthony Moore, also enjoyed a tour of their new home away from home at Westpac Stadium yesterday.
McEvoy confessed he was not a big fan of the wind, but everything else passed muster.
"The surface is great, we met the curator there and he's doing a fantastic job. They're gutting the changing rooms in there, so they'll be brand spanking new, it'll be sensational. Everything stacks up, it's world class," McEvoy said.
Foundation club St Kilda have a rather tortured 139-year history, winning just one VFL premiership, a one-point thriller way back in 1966.
They also boast a league-high 26 wooden spoons, although tellingly their last was the year before Riewoldt made his debut.
Since then the Saints have been more than competitive, losing grand finalists in 2009 and 2010, which was rated one of the greatest AFL deciders of all-time.
St Kilda and Collingwood drew 68-68 in front of 100,000 transfixed punters at the MCG, with Collingwood then easily winning the rematch a week later.
Under new coach Scott Watters, the Saints finished ninth of 18 teams this year. "Playing in the draw was just bizarre really," Riewoldt said.
"But history will show that we played in one of the greatest grand finals of all time and we just weren't on the right side of it. The club's in a really exciting position, we've missed out on the finals this year which is disappointing, albeit it only just.
"But what bodes well for us is we've got a really exciting young list, coupled with some pretty seasoned and experienced veterans."