According to legend Saint Patrick banished every snake from Ireland, and Sunday marks the anniversary of his death and the religious feast day held in his honour.
But the Irish patron saint would have been welcome at Noarlunga Oval in Adelaide’s south on Saturday, where a reptilian intruder stopped play during a trial football match.
South Adelaide Panthers were taking on North Adelaide Roosters in an SANFL pre-season game when the brown snake was spotted on the oval about 25 minutes into the second quarter.
“Someone yelled out ‘snake’ … I was talking to our players afterwards and one of them said he almost trod on it,” said Panthers CEO Neill Sharpe, who was watching from the boundary.
“There are famous incidents in football like a ‘pig at full-forward’, but I’ve never seen a snake on a footy ground.”
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South Adelaide’s football manager Warren Ploenges was watching from the coach’s box when the game came to a halt.
“All of a sudden play stopped, players looked confused,” he said.
“We didn’t realise that it was a reptile until all the players came back to take half-time.
“The snake seemed quite comfortable. I don’t know whether it wanted to hang around and play but it wasn’t going anywhere.
“The funny thing was, the North Adelaide player – they let him take his kick for goal, but he must have been a bit rattled because he sprayed it to the left and he was quite keen to get off.”
The game was halted, and half-time taken early, as the snake continued to slither across the ground from one of the southern pockets.
Players and snake avoid injury
A snake catcher was called and retrieved the creature, which had made its way off the oval.
“It would have been on the ground for about seven or eight minutes I reckon,” Mr Sharpe said.
Mr Sharpe had called the catcher a day earlier after spotting a snake at the ground, but said it had disappeared by the time help arrived.
He said it was “ironic” the game was against North Adelaide – the club that had an extra player on the ground in last year’s SANFL preliminary final.
“There was an extra something on the ground, but it wasn’t a player,” he joked.
“We shepherded the snake across the ground and we tried to slow it down somewhat. We didn’t want to lose it again.
“It didn’t divert from its course of where it wanted to go. It was quite oblivious to what was going on.”
Mr Sharpe said no one was injured, and the club remarked on Facebook that “no snakes were harmed during the completion of this game”.
Despite the scare, North Adelaide held its nerve to win 13.8 (86) to 11.7 (73).
“We’re wondering whether we should have a snake policy,” Mr Sharpe joked.
“I’m not sure exactly what we’ll do. If we see something during the week we might make sure it gets tracked down.
“We’re just grateful it all ended pretty well.”