St Kilda and Fremantle hold claim to one of the more controversial moments in AFL history.
In Round 5, 2006, Fremantle travelled the longest road trip in football to face the club most likely of any Victorian team to secure the premiership since 2000.
York Park was about to host a classic for the wrong reasons.
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The Dockers and Saints had just begun what would be finals campaigns but it was Fremantle who jumped out of the blocks.
In front by 15, 22 and 16 points at each of the three breaks, Chris Connolly’s men were in control.
But the Saints weren’t done with yet and worked within seven points with less than a minute to play.
Fremantle defender Daniel Gilmore had the ball at full-back but was unsure who to deliver too. Surely enough, his kick to the outer back flank was cut off by a steaming Lenny Hayes who sidestepped a Dockers opponent before handballing to a fleet-footed Leigh Montgna.
The result was a goal and the margin a solitary point.
“There’s no surprised that Lenny was the one who stood up,” St Kilda tagger Steven Baker told Aflplayers.com.au.
“Lenny always stood up when we needed him most.”
The Saints were pressing but it was scrappy stuff. They worked the ball slightly inside the their forward line before a stoppage occurred with eight seconds remaining, meaning a minor miracle would be needed for Grant Thomas’ men to snatch victory.
This is where it gets messy.
The clock reaches zero as the ball bounces around the congestion but there’s no siren.
The Fremantle players know it has or should have blown and were frantically appealing with the umpire. But play continues.
The ball comes out and Baker is on the end of a St Kilda handball. He kicks towards goal and misses to the left – scores are level.
Baker was, illegally, pushed as he kicked, according to the umpire which resulted in another shot at goal.
“I was petrified of kicking it out on the full and lose the game but there was also a hurricane wind that was pushing to the left,” Baker said.
“I hung the ball out too far right and it missed which meant it was a draw. I was shattered, that was my chance to live every boy’s dream.”
The umpires, also unsure what was happening out on the ground, called time and walked from the field.
But how could they not hear the siren? Baker said it might’ve been because of crowd noise, which was unusually loud for a match that had only 15,000 in attendance.
“The crowd was so loud when we were coming back into the contest late in the game. It was actually quite hard to hear someone five or 10 metres away.
“The crowd were getting right into it and it was an awesome atmosphere. The finish was one of the best I’ve been involved in despite the fact that I couldn’t convert the goal.”
The scenes at York park that day were as rare as they come on a footy field.
Umpires were debating, Fremantle players arguing with them and Connolly ran onto the ground to remonstrate before being told in no uncertain terms by St Kilda legend Lenny Hayes to leave the field of play.
The problem was they simply didn’t hear the siren.
“I don’t think anyone actually heard the siren but they have the timer on the bench which allows the runner to come out and tell you how long is left in the game,” Baker added.
“Freo’s timer would’ve known the siren should’ve gone but I don’t think any of the players heard it.
“There was so much confusion. There were blokes yelling everywhere and we had no idea what was going on.”
Leaving the ground, St Kilda thought the game was a draw but the AFL would change the result days later, giving the four points to Fremantle – only the second time in VFL/AFL history that a result has been changed on protest.
“I can’t say we were surprised,” Baker said.
“Once we found out that the siren was supposed to have gone, it was no surprise to us that we had actually lost the game.”