St. Kilda win by 17 points
Knowing that Melbourne had to play the unbeaten Collingwood a week later, St Kilda's six point deficit in fourth place would be all but wiped out if they could beat the Redlegs on their own turf - and in front of a huge crowd Melbourne kicked themselves out of the match when they had the use of the breeze in the first quarter and never recovered. Melbourne had rushed their attacks, and at least half of the behinds in the first quarter should have been goals. Robert C Johnson had kicked two majors in the first quarter but he also missed three times.
St Kilda entered the game in red-hot form, having kicked 41 goals in its previous two engagements, but Melbourne had the first opportunity to use the breeze to rack up a winning score. On a soft ground from rain the previous day, the Fuschias were 14 points up at the first change, but only converted two goals from 10 scoring opportunities.
The Seasiders made positional changes at quarter time, and like Melbourne they quickly got on top but wasted good chances. It took seven minutes for them to register the first goal before a sustained period of pressure from the visitors. St Kilda withstood the pressure for six minutes then counter-attacked and scored at the other end. Johnson's third goal shortly before the half cut the margin back to four points. While they held the home side from running away when they had use of the wind Melbourne had been unable to break through St Kilda's defence.
With the scores close at half time it might have been different for the visitors if they hadn't played the rest of the game a man short after Francis Vine suffered a serious thigh injury immediately after the resumption of play. They had already lost Richard Taylor before the game for the first time in almost 130 matches due to injuries suffered in the brutal match against Footscray on the previous Saturday. Stan Wittman was another important player missing through injury. Vine returned for the last quarter but was forced to hobble around for the rest of the game. Despite Melbourne's injury woes they game was played at a fast pace. There were isolated incidents of violence and attempted violence, but the game was generally played in the right spirit.
Vine had been one of his side's best, so in his absence his side came to a standstill. Twice their defenders kicked into the man on the mark and eventually St Kilda extended their lead. Another shocking miss by Davidson, shortly after he'd kicked a goal, levelled the scores before they took the lead again through a snap by Deane. St Kilda, though, got a late goal and went into the last quarter in front and with the use of the wind.
The injured Vine returned to the fray, but with coach Warne-Smith playing him up the ground he was more of a hindrance than a help. At one point he ran for a mark and fell over because he was so badly hurt. St Kilda quickly kicked two goals and it was all over, leaving Melbourne needing a miracle in the last round to make the finals or for St Kilda to lose at mid-table Footscray.
McDonald, Corbett and Deane were best.
Melbourne 15.7.97 d. St Kilda 4.13.37
Goals - Unknown
Best - Driver, Findlay, Keyhoe
Countryman gives the crowd as 35,000, Football Record as 37,000, Sporting Globe says 40,000.