After three weeks to forget, St Kilda produced a much-improved performance that saw them nearly pull off the upset of the 2018 season so far. Despite falling three goals down in the last quarter against the ladder leading GWS Giants, the Saints refused to yield and even had a last gasp chance to steal a famous win before the final siren saw the premiership points shared with both teams level on 73 points apiece.
Alan Richardson needs to show the football world that he can correct that (forward setup) structurally, otherwise it will be a long, long day at the office for Alan today and this becomes career threatening for him.
David King – Fox Footy Pregame
King’s commitment to hyperbole must be commended, especially after his prediction that St Kilda wouldn’t win a game in 2015 survived all of two rounds. Even by his standards though, raising serious question marks about a coach after just four rounds and two losses to top four sides seemed to be a surprising take even before the events of Saturday afternoon. He wasn’t on his own though, social media has been awash in recent weeks with frustrated Saints fans jumping all over the beleaguered coach and questioning whether he is the right man for the coaching hot seat at Moorabbin. Not content to simply express their frustrations in the cyber world Saints fans expressed it with their feet too leaving Etihad Stadium a cavernous ghost town with just 14,956 in attendance.
Despite the empty stands, the Saints hit the contest full of vigour, effort and dare with their tackling pressure and willingness to play on at all costs seeing them take it right up to the more fancied Giants. Ben Long was prominent in the First Term, in just his ninth game he was a live-wire for the Saints playing a key role in Jade Gresham’s goal that opened the scoring for the afternoon. A little more polish in attack from GWS however, meant that the Saints trailed by three points at the first break. Despite being outscored, Alan Richardson’s men were noticeably buoyed by their first 30-minutes against the competition leaders.
The confidence gained from the early skirmishes were on full show in the second term with the Saints beginning to take control of the contest. With Paddy McCartin bursting to life with two goals in two minutes and a tremendous finish from Luke Dunstan from a seemingly impossible angle the men from Moorabbin grabbed a 10-point lead. Blake Acres was supreme during this period too. The 22-year-old from Western Australia winning seven contested possessions he helped his side take control in this area of the game and with six score involvements, he had a massive impact on the low scoring contest.
It was a dominant last ten minutes of the quarter for the men in red, black and white as they generated 10 of the last 11 Inside 50’s for the Quarter and spent 79% of the period inside their forward half. Unfortunately, the sum result for this dominance saw the Saints only outscore the Giants 1.2 to 1.0 in the period and it was perhaps the inability to take advantage of this ascendancy that may well have cost the team an upset victory when the final siren rang an hour later.
Having failed to put a space between them and the opponents in the second stanza, the Saints watched their lead evaporate as the Giants lifted their efforts after the main break. By the 14th minute of the third term, a Dylan Shiel goal saw the Saints fall 15-points behind and the contest looked to be slipping from their grasp. Enter Jack Steven. The three-time Barker Medallist was best on ground when the two sides last met and was causing GWS similar headaches again on this afternoon. Not surprisingly, with his team needing him at this moment he found a way to snap a much-needed goal which brought the margin back to nine points and gave them hope going into the last break.
In continuing with their efforts to make life difficult for themselves, the Saints conceded early to begin the final term. They refused to be beaten though, Tom Hickey laid a vital shepherd to allow Sam Gilbert to drive the ball inside forward 50 in the lead up to a Jack Billings goal to again close to within two kicks. It was just one of many telling involvements that the ruckman had on the match that saw him gather a team-high seven clearances. After his disappointing 2017 season, Hickey channeled his 2016 form as he staked a strong claim to maintain the number one ruck position that he lost to Billy Longer last year.
An answering goal from Brett Deledio and a string of behinds saw the Giants out to a three goal lead after 15-minutes, and with the Saints butchering the ball with a disposal efficiency of just 47-percent in the last quarter, it seemed to be a match-winning advantage. Seemingly out on their feet, the Saints refused to fold and redoubled their efforts to claim an unlikely victory.
A goal to Mav Weller saw the Saints again within two kicks before Ben Long set the crowd alight with another goal for his burgeoning highlight reel that brought the contest back with a kick. Lining up for goal at the intersection of the 50-metre and boundary lines, Long baulked the man on the mark before snapping truly from the city-side flank. It was an exclamation mark on a performance that may well have been the best of his early career. Game on!
It was another young gun that was responsible for the Saints drawing within one point four minutes later. Much like Coach Alan Richardson, Paddy McCartin has been the subject of much media and fan ire in the early weeks of 2018. While he may not have torn the game apart, the bustling 22-year-old’s performance was telling. The most used target for the Saints inside forward 50, McCartin presented all day and appeared dangerous throughout the four quarters. With time running down on the match, and the margin at seven points, McCartin found himself on the end of a Sam Gilbert inside 50 and marked strongly to have the chance to kick the most important goal of his career to date. Calmly as you like, he unleashed from the 50-metre arc and split the middle to cut the margin to one with three minutes to play.
With two of the club’s young guns standing tall to bring the game within touching distance the Saints had two more chances to take all four points. The first saw Jade Gresham miss to the left on the run from forty metres before, in the dying seconds two of the Saints had one last roll of the dice with the ball in the hands of two of their most reliable players.
Fittingly, Jack Steven had the chance to be the hero when the ball found its way to him for the 29th time with time nearly expired. The little champ took two bounces and looked up to see the owner of the team’s most reliable hands, Jake Carlisle, in space up forward and he drove the ball long towards him. With the best player kicking to the club’s most reliable mark, as hail mary’s go it was the best possible scenario for the Saints. Unfortunately, it was not to be, with the teams’ 67th Inside Fifty ultimately slipping through Carlisle’s grasp and with it any hope of a last-gasp victory.
While there is still much to work on in the weeks to come, the effort of the team against the Giants could not be faulted. A key measure of this is the tackle inside fifty stat, in which the Saints led 12-1 late in the last quarter. It was proof that after finding it nearly impossible to find avenues to goal last week against the Cats, the Saints were able to not just drive the ball forward this week but also set up camp there too as a result of their effort and determination. It is the kind of performance upon which a season can turn and if they can find a way to replicate it consistently there are better results ahead of the team in coming weeks.
ST KILDA 2.2 5.8 6.12 10.13 (73)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 2.5 4.9 7.15 9.19 (73)
St Kilda: McCartin 3, Steven, Gresham, Dunstan, Clark, Billings, Long, Weller
Greater Western Sydney: Deledio 2, Cameron 2, Griffen 2, Greene, Shiel, Patton
St Kilda: Ross, Sinclair, Steven, Acres, Long, Hickey
Greater Western Sydney: Deledio, Coniglio, Ward, Shiel, Davis, Whitfield
St Kilda: Newnes (concussion)
Greater Western Sydney: Haynes (knee)
Umpires: Harris, McInerney, Wallace
Official crowd: 14,956 at Etihad Stadium