After a promising fortnight in which the Saints proved too strong for 2018 finalists Hawthorn and Melbourne, it was an expectant supporter group that turned out at Marvel Stadium for the clash with the Crows. Despite an opening quarter in which the club’s trademark pressure and intensity were on display, by afternoon’s end, they found themselves on the wrong end of a 29-point margin.
The afternoon started well for the Saints, the game was being played on their terms with their pressure forcing Adelaide into consistent error. By the midway point of the quarter, they had a mortgage on territory with the ball at their end 71% of the time and they appeared irrepressible.
Unfortunately, the wheel would quickly turn and the Saints lack of poise in front of goal during their dominance would bite them when the Crows took flight.
More painful than the Saints having just a six-point quarter time lead to show for their advantage at quarter time, was the loss of Jack Lonie to a serious knee injury. Rory Laird has since apologised for his role in Lonie’s injury but, his justification that he was simply trying to jar the ball free, and the umpire’s decision not to award a 50-metre penalty was concerning. Thankfully the Saints goal sneak appears likely to be out for just four-six weeks, rather than the season, but the incident should call into question the practise of players on the ground pushing those in the air.
Though the Saints led a quarter time, the tide had already started to turn. Unable to make an impact in clearances or contest ball, the structures that had worked so well in recent weeks began to break down. Having been so successful at transitioning from defence to attack against Melbourne, the Saints struggled against the Crows methods designed to disrupt this method.
With Adelaide’s talls causing headaches at both ends of the ground, St Kilda’s efforts to create and thwart scoring opportunities were proving futile. As frustration grew amongst the supporters in the stands, a strong position had been squandered in the wake of an eight-goal to two Adelaide burst.
The team’s self-proclaimed fitness looked like a decisive factor when they began to make inroads in the third quarter. It meant that even the most pessimistic supporters, like The Animal Enclosure, began to believe another Hawthorn style comeback was on the cards as the Saints began to win the possession and territory battle again. At the centre of this renewed optimism was the performance of excitement machine that is Matthew Parker.
As unabashed Matty Parker fans, his performance against the Crows was a highpoint in a day that finished so disappointingly. Not only did he produce the spectacular with a couple of high flying moment, one garnering a mark of the year nomination, and three goals, also on his display were his defence efforts. His relentless attack on the ball and his opponent illustrated with a whopping 21 pressure acts. We have without question got ourselves a good one in the 23-year-old from South Fremantle.
Our rampant and vocal optimism that prevailed during the third quarter, and no question frustrated all those sitting around us, was snuffed out early in the final term. Despite the best efforts of the likes of Callum Wilkie who claimed a number of intercept possessions to break up Adelaide attacks, the defence was placed under overwhelming pressure. The Crows were unstoppable at the centre bounce and were finally able to break down the dam wall with five unanswered goals.
The scoreboard was made a little more flattering with two late goals to Tim Membrey and Jade Gresham but it could not mask the overwhelming nature of the defeat. Despite this there is still cause for optimism for this team and what they are trying to build. The next three weeks will be instructive, with clashes against GWS, Collingwood and West Coast sure to give everyone a much better idea about where exactly they stand. Everything about this group suggests they wont be overawed and will give themselves every chance in each contest.
AFL ROUND SIX
ST KILDA 3.6 5.6 8.7 10.8 (68)
ADELAIDE 3.0 8.1 10.6 15.7 (97)
St Kilda: Parker 3, Membrey 2, Steven, Paton, Long, Kent, Gresham
Adelaide: Walker 4, Murphy 3, Himmelberg 2, Betts 2, Gallucci, Greenwood, Knight, Lynch
St Kilda: Steven, Parker, Ross, Savage, Steele, McKenzie
Adelaide: Keath, Walker, B Crouch, M Crouch, Laird, Greenwood, Atkins
St Kilda: Marshall (ill) replaced in selected side by Longer, Lonie (right knee)
Adelaide: Gibbs (gastro) replaced in selected side by Gallucci
Umpires: Gavine, Howorth, McInerney
Official crowd: 28,404 at Marvel Stadium