2018 in a Nutshell
After a pair of seasons in which the Saints were in the hunt for September action until late in the season, 2018 was an abject disaster for the club. Having overcome the Lions in a lacklustre first round encounter, St Kilda had to wait until June and Round 13 before they tasted victory again.
Despite being competitive in contested ball, clearances and inside fifties, slow and sloppy ball movement hurt badly in key moments, as did a continued lack of precision in front of goal. While Jade Gresham’s star continued to rise and Ben Long hinted at the excitement machine he could become, the hole left behind by the absence of Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna was too much for the Saints young brigade to fill.
Playing List 2019
1. Nick Coffield, 2. Jake Carlisle, 3. Jack Steven, 4. Jade Gresham, 5. Shane Savage, 6. Seb Ross, 7. Luke Dunstan, 8. Blake Acres, 9. Jack Steele, 10. Dan Hannebery, 11. Hunter Clark, 12. Max King, 13. Jack Lonie, 14. Jarryn Geary, 15. Jack Billings, 16, Jack Newnes, 17. Dylan Roberton, 18. Billy Longer, 19. Rowan Marshal, 20. David Armitage, 21. Ben Long, 22. Nathan Brown, 23. Jack Bytel, 24. Logan Austin, 25. Dean Kent, 26. Josh Battle, 27. Josh Bruce, 28. Tim Membrey, 29. Jimmy Webster, 30. Ed Phillips, 31. Brandon White, 32. Paddy McCartin, 33. Ben Paton, 34. Matthew Parker, 35. Jack Sinclair, 36. Daniel McKenzie, 37. Bailey Rice, 38. Oscar Clavarino, 39. Darragh Joyce (Rookie), 40. Nick Hind, 41. Robbie Young, 42. Lewis Pierce (Rookie), 44. Callum Wilkie (Rookie), 46. Doulton Langlands (Rookie).
Ins: Dan Hannebery (Sydney), Dean Kent (Melbourne), Max King (Sandringham Dragons), Jack Bytel (Calder Cannons), Matthew Parker (South Fremantle), Nick Hind (Essendon VFL), Robert Young (North Adelaide), Callum Wilkie (North Adelaide).
Outs: Ray Connellen, Nathan Freeman, Sam Gilbert, Hugh Goddard, Darren Minchington, Mav Weller, Nathan Wright, Koby Stevens.
Having been dealt the most difficult fixture, or somewhere near it in recent seasons, the 2019 is a positively friendly proposition by comparison. That said, the sweetener of follow up games against three of 2018’s bottom four, it still holds a few challenges to the club’s stated aim of rising up the table.
The season opens with a winnable clash with the Suns at home but, Rounds Two to Nine will have no doubt kept Alan Richardson up at night since the fixture was released in October. During this period they will face Essendon, travel to both Perth and Canberra, take on five of the last six teams standing in 2018 – including both Grand Finalists in consecutive weeks and confront Adelaide who they haven’t beaten since 2011. Unless they improve markedly on their 2018 form, this is a stretch that could see the Saints season end before it even begins.
Despite the club’s best efforts to make the best of ‘Sundays with the Saints’, and the fact there is just one Sunday twilight game, it isn’t the most Saints fan friendly fixture. The Saints play Carlton in Melbourne on May 26th then do not play in their home state again until June 22nd. The AFL in their wisdom deciding to schedule the team in China and Townsville either side of the bye, in a move that denies home fans a chance to see the team for nearly a month, and goes a long way to eradicating the benefit of the mid-season bye.
Five Fearless Predictions
St Kilda will be more exciting to watch
The Saints off-season recruiting looked to be a genuine flagging of their intent for season 2019. The additions of Matthew Parker, Nick Hind, Dean Kent and Callum Wilkie all quick, line breaking, hard running, relentless pressurising and tackling players suggest a more up tempo style of play.
After the last few seasons of a stunted, chip kicking approach, this would no doubt be universally welcomed by Saints fans, and the three tall forwards prowling the forward fifty.
McCartin to fire with 40+ goals
The 2014 Number One Draft Pick has had a frustrating and injury interrupted beginning to his AFL career. Concussion has been a recurring problem as he has struggled to find his way at the top level. Despite seemingly on the verge of a breakout performance a number of times, he has been written off by many as a bust. Despite this his 34 goals from 35 games actually lines up well with other tall forwards after the same number of games.
Having completed a full pre-season the 22-year-old looks in the best shape of his career in readiness for the season ahead. Despite the difficulties he has had to overcome in getting here, 2019 shapes as the year that McCartin announces himself at AFL level.
Matt Parker to become a fast fan favourite
Given the Western Australian’s performances in the JLT Series this may no longer be a prediction but a statement of fact. A little more than two years ago, the 22-year-old was plying his trade in C-Grade in WA Amateur Football but now looms as an influential addition to the St Kilda squad. It might be a high level of expectation for a player yet to make his AFL debut but given his 2018 WAFL season, he may well exceed them.
Hannebery criticism to continue
It’s not too often that a bottom four club adding a three-time All-Australian, vice-captain and respected member of one of the competitions leading clubs garners as much criticism as St Kilda’s recruitment of Dan Hannebery. While not completely on his own, Damien Barrett seems to have made it his mission to talk down the recruitment as loudly and as often as is humanly possible.
As is often the case with Barrett and those of his ilk, tabloid style gossip and speculation has seemingly trumped serious thought and consideration. Where most reasoned people would acknowledge that even the 2018 version of Dan Hannebery improves the Saints midfield, Barrett and co seem more fixated on talking down his ability of rediscover his 2016 form.
Take it as written, that whenever the former Swan has a quiet or poor game, there will be copious and intense commentary on the idiocy of the Saints decision to recruit him.
Jungle drums to beat loudly if Saints start poorly
If it bleeds, it leads, is an often quoted albeit cynical proverb about news reporting. In football nothing proves this truism more than the media’s fixation with the future of a football coach. We have seen this in recent season with the relentless speculation surrounding the likes of Nathan Buckley and Damien Hardwick.
Despite St Kilda’s strong and consistent position that he will see out the season no matter what, this season the coach in the media cross-hairs is Alan Richardson. Be prepared for their jungle drums to hit fever pitch if the Saints lose in Round One, or they don’t survive or thrive through their difficult stretch of matches between Round Two and Nine.
Where will they finish?
Was 2018 a blip or was it a true indication of the capabilities of this list and/or their Coach Alan Richardson? Unless you can answer this question with 100% certainty, the Saints are perhaps the most difficult side to predict in season 2019. It is hard to see a club that won just four games in 2018 to make a genuine finals charge but they should record genuine improvement.
St Kilda to finish between 10th and 14th.