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Footyology countdown: Are the Saints skilled enough?

Rising St Kilda star Jade Gresham was ninth in last year’s best and fairest. But the Saints need to find a bit more class besides in 2018. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Footyology countdown: Are the Saints skilled enough?

Rohan Connolly    

2017 record: 11 wins, 11 losses (11th)
List age ranking (oldest to youngest): 15th
List experience ranking (most to fewest games): 17th
Footyology draw ranking (easiest to hardest): 15th

Logan Austin (Port Adelaide), Hunter Clark (Dandenong Stingrays), Nick Coffield (Northern Knights), Oscar Clavarino (Dandenong Stingrays), Ben Paton (Murray Bushrangers), Doulton Langlands (Murray Bushrangers)

Nick Riewoldt (retired), Leigh Montagna (retired), Sean Dempster (retired), Nick Coughlan (delisted), Joe Baker-Thomas (delisted), Jason Holmes (delisted), Nick O’Kearney (delisted)

B: Jimmy Webster, Nathan Brown, Sam Gilbert
HB: Jarryn Geary, Jake Carlisle, Dylan Roberton
C: Seb Ross, Jack Steven, Jack Newnes
HF: Jack Billings, Josh Bruce, Maverick Weller
F: Tim Membrey, Paddy McCartin, Jade Gresham
Foll: Billy Longer, Jack Steele, Koby Stevens
Inter: David Armitage, Luke Dunstan, Jack Sinclair, Blake Acres
Emerg: Hugh Goddard, Shane Savage, Jack Lonie

St Kilda began last year rated alongside Melbourne the team most likely to force its way into the final eight. Both ended up missing out, the Saints winning 11 games, just one less than their rival, yet headed into 2018, expectations over the two teams have parted ways.

Most pundits (including me) are a lot more bullish about the Demons now than St Kilda. Is that fair given their respective records? Perhaps not, but perception in football is a powerful thing, and right now, it’s that the Saints have a lot more work to do to get there.

St Kilda had two standout performances in 2017, the round 16 obliteration of eventual premier Richmond, and an early season home win over GWS, but they proved more the exception than the rule. The Saints won only three of 11 games against top eight teams and lost six games by 40 points or more, often looking pedestrian midfield, stretched down back as a result, and not nearly as potent up forward.

There’s been an enormous loss of experience over the off-season, too, via the retirements of Nick Riewoldt, Leigh Montagna and Sean Dempster, making St Kilda now the second least-experienced team in the competition. Can that be replaced overnight?

There were gains, nonetheless, Seb Ross outstanding and a deserved best and fairest winner, ditto Dylan Roberton, Jake Carlisle and Nathan Brown proving valuable key defenders, and more improvement from Jack Billings, Jimmy Webster and Jade Gresham.

But there’s going to have to be more go right besides if St Kilda is to continue its gradual developmental curve under coach Alan Richardson.

The Saints had their share of stoppage wins last season, but couldn’t do enough with them, ranking mid-table or worse on the differentials for disposals, contested and uncontested ball and inside 50 entries.

A forward set-up which had functioned well previously with Riewoldt, Josh Bruce and Tim Membrey seemed to go backwards, and with Riewoldt now gone there’s more pressure than ever on the injury-plagued Paddy McCartin to step into the breech.

They’ll need decent supply, though, which means St Kilda is going to need more out of midfield imports Jack Steele and Koby Stevens, a full season out of David Armitage, whom groin injuries restricted to just two games in 2017, and a bit then from top 10 draft pair Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield.

That will certainly relieve some of the pressure on Jack Steven, whom oppositions have recently had the relative luxury of concentrating all their attentions upon with the desired results.

Even then the Saints still need the likes of Billings, Gresham, Luke Dunstan, Jack Sinclair and Blake Acres to continue to improve if this generation is going to find the requisite class to match it with the really good sides.

There’s a toughish draw, too, Footyology’s draw analysis placing St Kilda’s fixture in terms of difficulty better only than grand finalists Richmond and Adelaide and another finalist in West Coast. Whatever progress the Saints do make in 2018 certainly isn’t going to be gifted to them.

12th. St Kilda’s absolute best is very capable, but how often are teams these days allowed to produce that level? Need a raft of players to jump to higher levels of output.

THE LADDER SO FAR (click on team to read)

  1. Very harsh analysis Rohan. A very good game plan like in 2009, where St Kilda won 19 in a row, is all that’s required for St Kilda to be premiers in 2018. St Kilda has enough talent in Ross, Billings, Carlisle and McCartin, with Membrey and Gresham not far behind. They may be an inexperienced list but not in terms of games played for the best 22. By the way Rohan, where did you have Richmond at the start of 2017?

  2. Rohan,you predicted that Richmond would finish 15th in 2017. Therefore, St Kilda will be Premiers in 2018. Carm The Mighty Saints.

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