After a tumultuous week off the field, the Saints seemed to relish the opportunity to get on the park as they dismantled the Western Bulldogs to record their seventh win of 2019. Despite falling behind by a goal before some patrons had even found their seats, the 27-point victory set up by a six-goal to one opening quarter onslaught led by Jack Lonie.
The 22-year-old’s absence had been keenly felt but, in his second game back from injury, Lonie seemed hell bent on underlining his value to the team. With the team camped in their attacking half, the live wire forward took advantage of the opportunities this dominance delivered to kick three first quarter goals. He would finish the day with four goals from seven shots. his conversion being the only knock on an otherwise in an otherwise outstanding performance.
It was perhaps apt that one of the key contributors to the victory had a few difficulties in front of goal, given how it has been a constant theme throughout the Saints performances in recent years. So much so that former Coach Alan Richardson was compelled to refer to the problem a number of times in his farewell press conference.
It was something that sprang to mind when, in a social media post, Doulton Langlands required a second shot at goal to kick his way into the senior team mid-week and when the team took full toll of it’s opportunities in the second quarter to kick six goals one for the term. The 19-year-old debutant one of the goal kickers not having required a second chance this time around. The reaction from his team mates perhaps the highlight of the day, with them swarming from all parts of the ground to celebrate the moment with him. He would finish the day with 12 disposals in a solid first outing, displaying a cool head and good decision making.
Another of the second quarter goal kickers was Hunter Clark who continued his late season bloom. The Number Seven Draft Pick in 2017 has strung together a series of career best performances and was on fire in the first half against the Bulldogs. He went to the long break with a game high 18 possessions, five marks and two goals to hint at just what Saints fans have to look forward to from the boy from Mount Martha.
Given Nick Coffield shares a house with both Clark and Langlands, it was only fitting that he too had a performance to boast about too around the breakfast table. Creative and clean across half back, Coffield displayed why the club was so keen to nab him with the eighth pick in 2017. While the shimmy he executed in heavy traffic was memorable, after 14 losses from his 14 previous games, he will probably remember most fondly his first chance to sing the club song post match.
The efforts of his fellow defenders also deserve special acknowledgement. Despite the Bulldogs having 54 forward entries, they were held to just 14 goals for the afternoon. After five games back from a serious back injury, Jake Carlisle began to look like the player we know he can be. Nathan Brown was impressive, as too was Callum Wilkie, who once again showed why he might well be the best recruit in the AFL this year.
Rowan Marshall continued his sensational rise from bit part player to upper echelon of the games big men. He was too much to handle for the Bulldogs ruckmen as he continually gave his team mates an opportunity to take first possession of the ball. He would have been considered an unlikely winner of the Trevor Barker Award at the start of the season but would be short priced favourite at the stage of the year.
Luke Dunstan was one player who did his best to prosper from Marshall’s ruckwork, winning a team high seven clearances. Jack Billings too, was important in the middle of the ground. Perhaps the cleanest user of the ball in the team, he accumulated 27 disposals to go with four clearances and two goals.
Despite the 43-point half-time margin, the Bulldogs were never going to go down without a fight. In the third quarter they lifted their intensity with this onslaught seeing them score six goals from turnovers in the third quarter.
In the face of this Bulldogs surge the Saints goal kicking yips, that seemed in hand at half time, reared their ugly ahead again. While their opposition kicked 10 straight after half time, the Saints hacked their way to 5.7 as the margin closed to 20-points in time on of the final term.
Despite this, the Saints continued to take the game on and were finally rewarded when Tim Membrey iced the game with his fourth goal in the late stages of the game. It was a fitting reward for both the key forward and the team as a whole who had worked tirelessly for their chance to end a sorry week on a high note.
AFL 2019 ROUND 18
ST KILDA 6.5 11.6 13.9 17.14 (116)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.0 4.5 10.5 14.5 (89)
St Kilda: Lonie 4, Membrey 4, Clark 2, Billings 2, Parker, Newnes, Gresham, Langlands, Bruce
Western Bulldogs: Dale 5, Dickson 4, Lloyd 2, Schache, English, R.Smith
St Kilda: Billings, Clark, Marshall, Dunstan, Lonie, Paton, Gresham
Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Macrae, Dale, English, Wood, Dickson
St Kilda: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Schache (concussion)
Umpires: Ryan, Heffernan, Mollison
Official crowd: 21,705 at Marvel Stadium