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Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: St Kilda


Jade Gresham celebrates one of his three goals during St Kilda’s round seven win over GWS. The 20-year-old has a bright future. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: St Kilda

Ronny Lerner    

ST KILDA
2017 record: 11 wins, 11 losses (11th)

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

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

THE STRENGTHS
Jack Steven is an elite midfielder and Seb Ross isn’t far off after capping off a brilliant 2017 season with his first best-and-fairest. Jack Billings and Jade Gresham have the makings of a very dangerous small forward combo and there is plenty of potential in the key forward troika of Josh Bruce, Paddy McCartin and Tim Membrey. McCartin spoke recently of his excitement at the prospect of filling the retired Nick Riewoldt’s massive shoes, and if his concussion issues are in the past, then 2018 is the time for him to deliver. Jake Carlisle and Nathan Brown formed an effective key defensive duo last year, while Dylan Roberton had a career-best season which saw him named in the All-Australian squad. While the Saints would have been bitterly disappointed at finishing a game outside the top eight, they now have the fourth-youngest list in the competition, so it would appear as though they are on the right path. They were ranked first for tackles and third for clearances on differentials in 2017, so there is a sound foundation to build on in 2018 and beyond. Impressive wins over Richmond and GWS showed they can mix it with the big boys.

THE WEAKNESSES
The man who held the club together for the better part of a decade is no longer there to serve as the team’s “Mr Fix-It”. With Riewoldt now retired, the enormous responsibility he carried on his shoulders must now somehow be dispersed among the playing group. Such were his freakish talents, he could be called upon to play in virtually any position to help out his side where it needed him most. In truth, it’s going to take more than one man to fill the massive void left by one of the club’s all-time greats. The Saints copped seven losses by six goals or more in 2017 – six of which were against finalists. That’s just not good enough and is perhaps the best indication of how far off the pace they are at the moment. The most disappointing defeat was to Essendon – against whom when the season was on the line in round 17, they crumbled to lose by 61 points. Last season on differentials, the Saints were ranked 13th for effective kicking percentage, 12th for percentage of goals per inside 50, 10th for inside 50s and ninth for contested possessions. That’s certainly not a recipe for success. The on-ball division is probably still in development mode and is short an A-grader or two.

ONE TO WATCH
Jade Gresham is an incredibly impressive young footballer. He’s talented, swift on his feet and can kick goals from just about any angle. After showing promise in his debut 2016 season, he took it up another notch in 2017 with 30 goals – only Membrey and Bruce booted more for the Saints. The 20-year-old has a bright future.

UNDER THE PUMP
Tom Hickey might have two years to run on his contract, but as we saw with Matt Priddis, Andrew Swallow and Lindsay Thomas, a footballer’s time at a club can come a lot earlier than what the paperwork might indicate. After a great 2016, the former Sun fell horribly out of favour in 2017, managing just five games as Billy Longer zoomed past him in the ruck pecking order. If Hickey fails to achieve regular game time next season, it could be his last with the Saints.

RONNY LERNER’S BEST 22
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

David Armitage is a welcome return to the senior line-up after just two games in 2017 due to a groin injury. When fully fit, Hugh Goddard will be in the Saints’ best 22, but for now he’s an emergency as two injury-riddled seasons have restricted him to just nine career games.

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