An unfortunately too familiar woe came back to haunt the Saints in their Round 19 trip to Spotless Stadium. Unfazed by the prospect of squaring off against one of the competition’s form teams they dominated possession and territory early in the contest, to such an extent, that a match winning lead was there for the taking if not for waywardness in front of goal.
An often maligned figure was a lively presence up forward for the Saints. Jack Lonie, a player who has been in and out of the side for much of his career to date, may well have announced himself as an AFL player against the Giants. Keeping his opponent busy all game long, the 21-year-old had 21 touches, the exact same number of pressure acts and had eight score involvements that included two goals and a searing pass to to Jade Gresham for a goal assist in the first quarter.
Despite having the ball almost exclusively in their attacking half in the first quarter, the Saints could manage just one goal from seven scoring shots and trailed at the long break despite having 22 more inside 50’s and 13 scoring shots to seven. After the Saints wayward first half, the second played out with the painful inevitability of a Shakespearean tragedy. With a more even share of the ball, the Saints found it impossible to contain the Giant surge. With Harry Himmelberg standing tall up forward, GWS kicked away with a six goal third quarter.
Jack Steele continued his impressive run of form going head to head with Giants skipper Callum Ward. The Backpack, as Steele has come to be known, blanketed his former captain to add his name to the list of prime movers he has brought down in recent weeks alongside the likes of Clayton Oliver, David Swallow and Ollie Wines. His efforts were not lost on the coach who singled Steele out for praise in the post game. “That young man is heading the right way really quickly,” Richardson said. “He’s selfless, he’s playing for the team and he’s earning a lot of respect.”
Nathan Brown, Jake Carlisle and Jarryn Geary battled determinedly down back and their intercept abilities played a key role in repelling many of the Giants forward thrusts. It was also pleasing to see Nick Coffield back in the senior team for the first time since Round 12. While the number eight draft pick in last years draft spent a lot of time on the pine, he did have enough game time to show the poise and decision making that saw him such a highly sought after commodity at last years draft.
Blake Acres was another Saint to play his first senior game for some time having worked his way back from groin injury. Like Coffield, his game time was managed and while he might like some of his disposals back his effort couldn’t be faulted. One of the leaders in pressure acts, Acres was a team leader in tackles along with Sam Gilbert and Daniel McKenzie.
Although the forward line struggled to convert their opportunities into scoreboard pressure the same could not be said for the physical pressure they put their opponents under. They laid a total of 15 tackles inside forward 50, a number above the competition average and their pressure act numbers were sky high with Lonie, Acres, Mav Weller, Jack Billings and Josh Battle among seven Saints in the top ten across both sides for the match.
As good as any of these players, or the big ball winners Seb Ross and Jack Steven, the most exciting aspect of the game from a St Kilda standpoint was undoubtedly the continued breakout of Jade Gresham. Without question the feel good story from the season from hell, Gresham has been a shining light for a supporter base screaming out for a star. The stats, although impressive, don’t tell the story of the x-factor that the 20-year-old already brings and the spell he seems set to cast over the competition in years to come.
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GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 2.0 5.2 11.5 13.8 (86)
ST KILDA 1.6 3.10 6.11 8.13 (61)
Greater Western Sydney: Himmelberg 4, Daniels 2, Langdon 2, Lobb 2, Greene 2, Deledio
St Kilda: Gresham 2, Lonie 2, Membrey 2, Steven, Battle
Greater Western Sydney: Whitfield, Himmelberg, Kelly, Haynes, Shaw, Davis
St Kilda: Gresham, Steven, Geary, Carlisle, Steele, Hickey
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
St Kilda: Nil
Umpires: Donlon, Brown, Fleer
Official crowd: 12,014 at Spotless Stadium