After the Saints 39-point defeat at the hands of Melbourne on Sunday, they are again left to rue the cost of missed opportunities. In a far too familiar tale, an inability to consistently hit forward targets, and a far from acceptable conversion rate in front of goal, cost the team any chance of putting any scoreboard pressure on their opponent. A fact highlighted when the Saints trailed by 25-points midway through the second quarter despite having had the same number of scoring shots.
As a result, the season is effectively over before it even really began. With Fremantle away, Richmond, West Coast away and Sydney to play in the next four weeks, the sad reality is that things might even get worse before they get better.
Living up to their pregame standing as the least efficient team for goals per possessions, inside 50’s and scoring shots, the Saints won more of the ball, overused it, and were almost comically incapable in front of goal. Their goal kicking woes were highlighted by Rowan Marshall’s miss in the last quarter that was a contender to overtake Tim Membrey’s miss of the year from last week. To be fair to the poor 22-year-old he showed some really promising signs when thrown forward after Paddy McCartin’s afternoon came to an end after a heavy bump in the second half.
Tom Hickey, the man Marshall was brought into the side to help out in the ruck, had another strong performance. Despite being opposed to Max Gawn, and being on the end of a couple of extremely soft early ‘ruck-lotto’ free-kick decisions, Hickey was impressive against his more fancied opponent. Busy around the ground he won nine contested possessions and kicked a goal in his successful efforts to take it right up against the Dees All-Australian ruck.
Ben Long was busy up forward as was Jade Gresham, unfortunately, it appears that the former has suffered a long term injury and the latter was wayward again kicking just 1.3 for the day. Seb Ross similarly struggled to hit the scoreboard despite his best efforts and thirty-five disposals. Jack Steven played like a man possesed, applying frantic pressure in defence but calm with the ball in hand. Credited with three goal assists it could have been more if not for the wastefullness of others in the forward fifty.
Two defensive efforts in the second quarter summed up the opposite directions a pair of young guns appear to be headed. Saints Summary has devoted much column space to how important the sublimely skilled Jack Billings could be to the team. Seemingly on the verge of a breakout season at the end of 2017, he has been disapointing this year. Camped under the ball, deep in defence, Billings had an opportunity to take a relieving mark, yet spilled the chance in a terrible effort from an AFL player. Jimmy Webster, on almost the exact patch of grass, running with the flight of the ball completed a brave spoil minutes later to further highlight the inadequate attempt of Billings. The number three draft pick looks bereft of confidence, further illustrated when he failed to even make the distance from a snap shot 30-metres out. There is no question in our mind that he has the ability but it might be time that he rediscovers it in Sandringham colours over the next few weeks.
Webster on the other hand, probably a fringe member of the Saints best 22, was one of the teams best against the Dees. Seven intercept possessions he valiantly attempted to turn defence into attack for the Saints all afternoon. His team though couldn’t make the most of their chances though. Handballing themselves into trouble, they could not match the fluidity of their opponent, and despite strong tackling numbers, they were unable to compete in the air or in the contested ball.
As frustrating as it might be that pride is all that is left to play for in 2018, it does present the opportunity for a few brave selection decisions. With 15 games to play, it is now imperative that the club discovers what the players on the list have to offer. Players like Marshall, who looked dangerous up forward in the last quarter, need to be given the chance to shine. While it may not improve things in the short-term, it is the fast track to the future.
Given what our best-laid plans have produced so far, what do we have to lose?
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ST KILDA 2.5 3.8 7.10 9.13 (67)
MELBOURNE 5.1 8.6 13.10 16.10 (106)
St Kilda: Membrey 2,Long 2,Armitage 2, Gresham, Dunstan, Hickey
Melbourne: Hogan 3, T.McDonald 2, Weideman 2, Spargo, Gawn, Petracca, Jones, Tyson, Harmes, Brayshaw, Oliver, Neal-Bullen
St Kilda: Ross, Webster, Steven, Newnes
Melbourne: Oliver, Hogan, Brayshaw, Tyson, Lewis, Hibberd
St Kilda: McCartin (head), Gilbert (leg), Savage (ribs)
Melbourne: Jetta (head)
Umpires: Foot, Fisher, McInerney
Official crowd: 25,496 at Etihad Stadium