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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    

ST KILDA
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

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 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

THE PROGNOSIS
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.

THE PREDICTION
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)
12. ST KILDA
13. WEST COAST
14. NORTH MELBOURNE
15. BRISBANE
16. CARLTON
17. FREMANTLE
18. GOLD COAST

6 Comments
  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.

  3. Typical journalist’s over reliance o stats. Yes they lost 1 more game i 2017 but with a much harder draw. The 100 point losses were reduced significantly. Kicked 1 less goal (in a harder draw) but kicked 63 more points – not good but they did create an extra 62 scoring opportunities. Better conversion would have resulted in at least 2 extra wins and in all probability they would have made the finals. It could actually be considered a overall improvement.I expect improvement from all the 22-25 year olds and from Carlisle as well. I think they will surprise this year.

  4. Spot on Saints4Premiers2018. I must also mention the mighty Jack Steven in the midfield, together with the highly skilled Hunter Clark, Armitage, Dunstan and Jack Steele. St Kilda has a very talented midfield and Billings and Gresham will also have a go in the midfield at some stage. There is also great outside runners in Savage, Gresham and Sinclair.

  5. Rohan,you forgot to mention that Riewoldt did not have much impact in 2017,so St Kilda will not miss him. Although Montagna played well in 2018,he was also past his best. Also, don’t forget that after Robert Harvey retired at the end of 2008, St Kilda almost won the flag the following year in 2009. Also, when Tony Lockett left St Kilda at the end of 1994, St Kilda played off in a Grand Final in 1997. Therefore, St Kilda no longer has an unhealthy reliance on any individual players. Their bottom six is now much better than in 2009 and 2010. Their depth and skill level has improved and their kicking for goal will improve under Ben Dixon. Longer and Hickey are very good ruckmen and will give Steven, Ross, Dunstan, Steele and Armitage first use of the ball. St Kilda tackle as well as Richmond and their ball use will improve as Alan Richardson will come up with a premiership winning game plan. Alan Richardson is a master coach and St Kilda did the right thing by poaching him from Port Adelaide, where he was the Director of Coaching. St Kilda are primed to deliver their 2nd flag in 2018. Thank you to Chris Pelchen for his help in compiling this great list.

  6. Rohan, the ugly Swans of 2005 weren’t skilled enough but won the flag that year. Yet everyone in that team played their role that year and on Grand Final day. You could also argue that St Kilda of 2009 weren’t skilled enough, but still won 19 in a row, and nearly the flag that year because of the brilliant game plan by Ross Lyon, and all the St Kilda players were on board with that game plan. Rohan, if you hadn’t noticed, the game has become more and more defensive over the last 10 years, hence Richmond winning the flag last year, due to manic pressure and tackling in their forward half. St Kilda will emulate Richmond’s game plan and take it to an even greater level. This is why more skilled teams like GWS, Geelong and Adelaide are yet to win a flag in the last 6 years. Skilled enough is not everything. It’s more important to tackle, keep the pressure up, maintain intensity and follow the game plan, where everyone in the team plays their role. St Kilda has this and will deliver a flag this year. St Kilda fans are offended that you have predicted them to finish 12th. A 12th placed finish is like a wooden spoon prior to 1987. St Kilda are no longer the laughing stock of the competition. They are now genuine premiership contenders who are well coached and who have a great Board and Administration. I now declare the St Kilda premiership window open and may we see the start of a wonderful St Kilda Football Club era unfold before us this year.

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