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‘I didn’t enjoy playing against St Kilda’

Ahead of his first match against Hawthorn, I sympathise with Jordan Lewis.

Without putting words into Jordan’s mouth, I don’t think he’d get much enjoyment out of seeing his old side go through what they’re going through at the moment but unfortunately for him, his job is to beat them this weekend.

He’s professional enough and has been around long enough to know that he’s got a job to do and the Demons are fighting for a top eight position, so that’s his primary role and responsibility, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

When I played the Saints for the first time in 2014, it was in Tassie so it was a blessing in disguise that it wasn’t at Etihad and it was a home game for the Kangaroos.

However, it was the game that I hated the most throughout my career.

The feeling leading into it wasn’t one of excitement about playing footy, it was one where I was conscious of playing against guys I played with for so long and I was still best mates with.

I got no enjoyment in playing against them.

We ended winning by about 60 points and I remember walking off the ground and was thankful those two hours were over. The Saints didn’t kick very well for goal and should’ve been a bit closer.

They were the guys I basically grew up with. I went to St Kilda when I was 17 and we went through a lot together over 12 years and to turn around a few months later and try and play against them, I just didn’t enjoy that at all.

I’m still really close with Nick Riewoldt, Leigh Montagna and Lenny Hayes, so I was hoping to play against someone who was a bit younger and didn’t have such a good relationship with or someone new to the club. Thankfully, I lined up on Shane Savage who came from Hawthorn after I left.

That was the only thing that made me feel a little more comfortable.

Throughout my career, I was always pretty quiet on the ground, so there was a little bit of banter before the game but definitely not during the match.

I left on pretty good terms at the Saints so there was no mouthing off between myself and my former teammates. For me, it was all about getting the win for the Kangaroos and shaking hands after the game.

It got easier to play against them after each match and maybe that was because the team kept changing from year to year due to their list rebuild.

The other bit that I really appreciated was the reaction from the Saints supporters. I never got any abuse from over the fence or on social media, which probably made me feel a little bit better, and I’ve since gone back now to do a little bit of work with the Saints.

I’m sure Hawks fans will celebrate the champion that Jordan Lewis was for them, and all the success they achieved together.

Although we never won a premiership during my time at St Kilda, we had a good era of more than competitive footy and I was pleased that I wasn’t booed and there was no hatred directed at me.

I was definitely emotional after the game, I didn’t cry — I think I even made a joke afterwards about Brendon Goddard when he played St Kilda for the first time — but footy is an emotional game and BJ is an emotional bloke.

He was the second out of our group after Luke Ball to leave and it might’ve been the realisation that it wasn’t going to last forever. BJ came up against the Saints earlier in the footy season, whereas I played them in Round 17 and firmly had my head around the fact that I wasn’t at the Saints anymore.

I got emotional when I left and Brendon obviously showed his emotion post-game, but everyone deals with this thing in their own way. I was shaking hands and hugging the guys I spent a decade or so with, it’s just the way it goes.

When the game is over on Sunday, I’m sure Jordan will shake hands and be composed when the siren sounds. I’ll be an interested onlooker.