Does anybody think the game has been improved by the crackdown on holding the ball?
The matchup between the 3-3 Saints and the 0-6 Crows was never going to be in the conversation for ‘greatest game ever played’ but the officiating of it made it borderline unwatchable. In the best example yet of the lunacy in changing the interpretation of a rule midseason, the only consistency in the adjudication of holding the ball in this match was its inconsistency.
You need look no further than the decision to penalise Callum Wilkie in the second quarter. After Shane McAdam spilled the Sherrin after being tackled upon taking possession, Wilkie collected the loose ball and was similarly set upon immediately. Despite both instances happening within seconds of each other the umpire adjudicated them completely differently.
The bigger issue though is that the logic behind making the change is flawed. On what planet does it make sense that rewarding negative play would see more positive play? Why when you want to see the ball in motion would you increase the amount of times you reward the team that prevents it being in motion?
If you need any further proof, the biggest proponent of the change was Alastair Clarkson. How has his side gone now that the AFL have pulled the lever that he felt would open the game up? They’ve scored 49, 27, and 48, and average team scores have fallen from 63 points a game in Rounds 1-4, to 60 points in Rounds 5-7.
Still think that we open up the game by rewarding the players that close it down? Next you’ll tell me we’ll increase marking by giving a free kick to players that spoil the ball.
How the Game Was Won
Unbeaten against St Kilda for almost a decade, despite their 0-6 start to the season, the Crows came out full of confidence on Monday night. Even after conceding a goal in the opening minute, they went about their business with purpose and surety and had the game back on level terms deep in time on.
The visitors would make the most of the final two minutes of the quarter though. Taking advantage of their dominance in the middle of the ground, the Saints would kick two goals from two centre clearances to take the lead into the first break. In the end it would be this efficiency with their opportunities that would prove the difference.
With four goals to one to open the second quarter, and with the margin out to 26 points, it looked as though the Saints had blown the game wide open. Instead, the Crows lifted their work rate and started chipping away at the deficit. Unfortunately for them and the large partisan crowd in attendance, they were not able to make these efforts count.
Remarkably despite the Crows having 10 of the first 11 inside 50’s to start the third quarter, the Saints would kick the opening goal of the term with their second forward foray. In fact, it would remain the only goal of the term until the new ‘lucky dip’ approach to prior opportunity gave the Crows a shot for goal after the siren. After five successive behinds, Shane McAdam kicked truly and reduced the margin to 16 points.
The Saints would restore their pre-siren margin within the opening minute of the final term but the Crows would capitalise on a pair of free kicks to close within nine points after 11 minutes. Despite the benefit of their raucous home crowd, they were unable to get any closer.
Three goals in a row to Tim Membrey, Dean Kent and Jack Lonie, ending the contest and the Saints run of outs at the Adelaide Oval and against the Crows. While many will question the quality of the opposition, for a team with an abysmal road record, this win would have felt quite special for Brett Ratten and his team on their flight back to the Sunshine Coast.
What the Coaches Said
Matthew Nicks lamented his midfield’s inability to match it with their opposition. “Unfortunately their mids were able to get 300, 400 metres gained across the board which means they are moving the footy forward and unfortunately our mids are not having that same penetration out of the stoppage. So we will have a good look at that, what our mix is in there and what we can do to help us. It wasn’t just the way the ball was leaving the stoppage for us – we were beaten convincingly at the centre bounce … that’s not the first time that has happened to us.”
Brett Ratten admitted there was work to do but was happy with his team’s response to their Round Six fadeout against Fremantle. “It wasn’t perfect but it was very pleasing,” he said. “To win by four goals and the things we talked about this week as a team, we tried to make sure everyone was on the same page when we tried to slow things down.
“In that third quarter Adelaide owned us, they got the ball in there and then to build in the last and for the guys to take their chances … and really straight us up was fantastic. We want to play exciting footy but sometimes you can’t,” he said. “Sometimes the opposition doesn’t allow you so we have to find other ways to win and I thought today, it was the first sort of crowd that we have faced and to hear our supporters at the end of the game hearing our song … it’s a great result for our team.”
ADELAIDE 1.2 4.2 5.6 8.7 (55)ST KILDA 3.2 7.4 8.4 12.6 (78)
Adelaide: Walker 3,McAdam 2, Keays, Laird, Lynch
St Kilda: Butler 3, Kent 2, King 2, Gresham, Howard, Lonie, Membrey, Steele
Adelaide: Walker, Doedee, M.Crouch, Keays, Lynch
St Kilda: Steele, Butler, Jones, Coffield, Gresham, Clark
St Kilda: Battle (head)