The big semi-trailer is panting steam in the cold morning air as it waits outside the Saints’ old spiritual home - The Junction Oval, St.Kilda. One by one the Sainter warriors emerge from their warm, new vehicles, only to be herded up the ramps of the semi. 25 of them squashed together, preparing for their gruesome drive up the Hume and Pacific Highways to The Gabbotoir, in central Brisbane.

As they pass Seymour, young rookee Sam Dunell asks his skipper Nick Riewoldt to tell him about what’s happened to Sainter braves there in the past.

“They got me good one day back in 2005.” Nick said. “Some of the most horrible henchmen the AFL has ever seen - including the Sadistic Scott brothers. After Mal Michael had wrecked my shoulder, the bruvvers crashed into it, again and again. I ended up in tears on the boundary line. Imagine if ‘Chicken Wing’ Judd had been playing for them that day instead of the Eagles - he would have ripped my arm right off and they’d have roasted it for a snack at 3/4 time.”

Nick stopped and looked at young Sam. Sam was a whiter shade of pale.

“I want to go home . . .” whimpered Sam.

“Harden up, Sam!” yelled hard man Lenny Hayes. “One of the Sadistic Scotts broke my arm on the fence there one year, and I didn’t even blink. The trainers had to hog tie me to get me off the ground.”

Other Saints told of their torture at The Gabbotoir, but as the miles passed by, the grievances gradually turned to joking, so by the time they reached the outskirts of Brisbane, our Sainter braves were ready for action.

“They’d want to use a stun gun on us before we run out, or we’ll pulverise the bastards!” yelled new hard nut Tom Simpkin. Tom’s played 10 games, and has come off the ground with a huge head bandage in 9 of them.

Two days later the jubilant Saints are on their way home, but with a slight feeling of déja vu. Clint Jones was nursing a sore arm, after being thrown into the fence Lenny Hayes-style, and brave skipper Nick nearly had his back broken by the behemoth that is Daniel Merrett. (No doubt taught the dark arts by his elder Brisbane namesake Roger Merrett.)

Cheyenne Autumn