This pre-match appraisal from Richo is about as bullish as I can remember the coach being in his six years in charge at Moorabbin. Not only were Jake Carlisle and Dan Hannebery to return from injury but they were expected to be important members in a team ready to make a statement against a team in the top eight. The man set to join Grant Thomas as the second longest serving coach in the club’s history was signalling that there was to be no more small target strategy, the Saints were ready to perform.
It meant that, when combined with the news that Jack Billings had re-signed for two more years, that Saints fans were about as excited as they had been ahead of a match for quite some time. Sure, Brisbane were not a team to be taken lightly but this match loomed as the payoff for the effort up to this point in the face of a lengthy injury list. For a team that had tested the patience of its supporter base for so long, this was to be their statement match. This was to be the day that they announced to the football world that they were a genuine finals threat.
Signs that this was a false reading of what was to follow were apparent early when the Lions set up camp in the Saints forward line in the first quarter. That the visitors were unable to capitalise was the only positive from an opening 10 minutes spent almost entirely in the Saints defensive third.
Nick Hind, in only his second game played a big part in a Saints revival with two goals that saw them draw within nine points at quarter time. Dan Hannebery was influential in his first game for the club too, with 11 first quarter disposals. Despite these efforts, there were alarming signals in Charlie Cameron’s three first quarter goals and the Lions leading the inside 50 tackle count 7-0. These signs would ultimately prove more real than the unusually high efficiency inside forward fifty that had seen the Saints remain in the contest at the first break.
Ofcourse this is easy to identify in hindsight. When the Saints surged within a point in the second quarter on the back of a dominance in one on one contests and in the centre square, these ominous portents would have been the furthest thing from most fans minds. Despite the Saints misuse of the ball, their dominance of the one one contests and clearance battle had this supporter confident of what might follow in the quarters ahead.
Unfortunately, this mood would turn and turn fast.
With the battle in the middle turning their way, the Lions punished a series of diabolical St Kilda errors to quickly extend their lead to 20 points on the back of three quick goals. Despite having spent more than half the term in their defensive third, the Lions had managed to both weather the Saints best shot and take a stranglehold on the match.
It’s always dangerous in the immediate aftermath of a let-down to overstate the level of disappointment felt in response but the third quarter in this match is without question one of the worst of the Richardson era. Nick Hind’s third goal the only interruption to a 13 goal Brisbane procession from the mid way point of the second term through until they had taken a 76-point final quarter lead. Completely incapable of competing for the contested ball or to retain possession when they did, the Saints were rendered nothing more than non-paying spectators to a Marvel Stadium horror show.
In the carnage the Saints conceded their highest score and fell to their largest losing margin against the Lions in Melbourne. A 100-point defeat looked all but guaranteed until late goals to Jade Gresham, Josh Bruce and Matthew Parker saw the visitors attentions turn towards escaping the game unscathed rather than inflicting any more pain on a badly defeated opponent. Sometimes you have to be thankful for small mercies.
AFL ROUND 14
ST KILDA 3.3 4.6 5.7 8.11 (59)
BRISBANE 4.6 7.8 16.11 17.13 (115)
St Kilda: Hind 3, Bruce 2, Membrey, Parker, Gresham
Brisbane: Cameron 5, Lyons 2, Christensen 2, McLuggage 2, Hipwood, Zorko, McStay, Rich, McCarthy, Robinson
St Kilda: Ross, Hannebery, Hind, Marshall
Brisbane: Cameron, McLuggage, Martin, Lyons, Zorko, Rich, Neale
St Kilda: Nil
Umpires: Brown, Fleer, Mitchell, Wallace
Official crowd: 22,885 at Marvel Stadium