St Kilda’s Paddy Ryder has waited 14 seasons for an AFL finals victory, but the magical moment was ripped from him in the closing minutes of Saturday’s elimination final against the Western Bulldogs.
As the Saints celebrated their first finals victory in 10 years, cameras remained focused on a disconsolate Ryder, who was seated on the bench.
The 32-year-old limped off the field late in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury, and watched on as his teammates secured a memorable victory.
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Ryder struggled to contain his emotions as the final siren sounded at the Gabba — he flung a towel over his head, and was later seen with tears in his eyes. Saints assistant Jarryd Roughead immediately went to console him.
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The ruckman has featured in 256 games — the second-most in AFL/VFL history before winning a finals match — and was heartbroken his first finals victory ended in such tragic circumstances.
After the match, Saints coach Brett Ratten said: “He’ll get a scan. It’s sort of high, so we will wait and see there. But if it is, he won’t play next week and then we have to keep winning.”
Ryder now seems destined to watch next weekend’s semi-final against the Richmond Tigers from the sidelines.
Unfortunately for Ryder the heartbreaking news was effectively confirmed that he would miss next Friday night’s semi-final against Richmond.
Herald Sun reported Jon Ralph noted the hamstring injury Ryder suffered was a “high-level hammy” that would even put the star ruckman in doubt if St Kilda were to make it through to the Grand Final.
Herald Sun reporter Glenn McFarlane tweeted: “Shattered for Paddy Ryder with confirmation of his hamstring injury. Was lucky enough to talk to him in the lead up to the game. He desperately wanted to taste a finals win for the 1st time. Did that in a dominant display, but he’ll be on the sidelines for Tigers game.”
The Advocate journalist Alex Fair tweeted: “Fingers crossed for Paddy Ryder. They didn’t look like tears of joy.”
Sydney Morning Herald sports reporter Andrew Wu posted: “Your football heart aches for Paddy Ryder. Lost time through the Essendon supplements scandal, switched clubs, switched again to revive his career, and now injured in dying minutes of his first finals win.”
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Ryder finished the match with nine disposals, two goals, 20 hitouts, three contested marks and seven score involvements. According to the Official AFL Player Ratings, he was the best player on the field.
Saints teammate Callum Wilkie told ABC Grandstand: “I think he’s (Paddy Ryder) hurt himself a little bit. I’m not sure how bad it is. I’m sure the docs and physios will assess him during the week. Hopefully it’s not too bad.”
St Kilda’s Dan Hannebery told Channel 7: “He had an unbelievable game and he was pretty animated in the last quarter directing the boys.
“Fingers crossed it’s nothing major, but he was unbelievable.”
A stunning resurgence from the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter left spectators at the edge of their seat in Brisbane — the Dogs kicked three unanswered goals in the closing 10 minutes to reduce the margin to just three points.
The final minutes were agonising for both clubs, but the Saints managed to hang on and win the nailbiting contest.
St Kilda will take on Richmond in next weekend’s semi-final — the two clubs have not met in a finals match since 1973.