There is no substitute for experience.
The storylines for both teams coming into this match couldn’t have been more different. The young, brash Saints had risen to second on the back of exciting ball movement and forward pressure. Their opponents Geelong, full of class and experience had split their last four matches including a difficult stretch in Perth.
With the football world expecting a genuine test for both teams, Geelong proved once again that there is no substitute for experience. They feasted on the Saints young and inexperienced onballers to completely dominate this contest.
A quick look at the best for both teams illustrating the gulf perfectly. Not one of the Cats five best – Menegola, Hawkins, Dangerfield, Rohan and Duncan – is under 28. Of the Saints best five – Steele, Battle, Long, Phillips and Bytel – Steele, at 24, is the only one older than 22. While the Cats best each have an average of 189 games of experience, the Saints best has 170 games between them.
How the Game Was Won
The Cats strategy was on full show early in this one with their high price on retaining possession reflected in them taking the first 12 marks of the match and having 24 of the first 26 disposals. Only briefly, when the battle in the middle turned the Saints way, were they interrupted in this approach. Simplistically, for the rest of the match they denied their opponents any access to the ball.
This translated into a 100-51 advantage in marks and a 205-152 advantage in uncontested possessions. Against a team that has feasted on front half turnovers, they refused to give them this opportunity. This cautious approach was also reflected in their efficiency numbers going forward.
It took the Cats eight possessions per forward entry on Monday night, which is up on the competition average of seven and the Saints rate of six. But it was a cautiousness that paid off handsomely with a score 65% of the time. To put this in perspective the competition average is just 37%.
The quality of entry such that they took 14 marks inside 50, which was only three less than the total number of times St Kilda were able to rebound out. This wasn’t just a story of execution though, with the Cats rolling their sleeves up and getting dirty too. If they didn’t mark it, with 12 tackles inside 50, they were just as likely to lay a tackle to lock it in.
It took until the shadows of half time for the scoreboard to reflect what was happening but once the dam wall broke it was one way traffic. In the end the Cats kicked the last nine goals of the game to run out 10 goal winners and to announce themselves once again as a team to be reckoned with in 2020.
What the Coaches Said
Brett Ratten acknowledged a difference in quality on the night. “I think a lot of our game fell away in the second half. The first half we were doing well in clearances, contested ball was good, inside 50s for and against but they scored in the first half nearly every time they went in,” he said.
“We couldn’t but then after that, the stats and numbers say they got a lot more uncontested possessions but the quality they got versus ours. We won some possession but it was in tight, we didn’t get any flow and their ability to get flow and really get going was the difference between the two sides. They defended really well and we defended really poorly.”
Chris Scott was understandably pleased with the result. “It wasn’t our intention to play the game in our back half but the upside for us was that we were able to make it hard for them to score and to get the ground looking quite well set defensively,” he said. “Then the other way, we just looked like we were going to score most times we went in. Only 18 inside 50s in the first half is not a great result but we had 12 shots so we were always confident if we could get some ascendancy through the midfield we had some dangerous players.”
ST KILDA 2.1 4.6 4.8 4.10 (34)
GEELONG 2.4 7.5 11.7 14.9 (93)
St Kilda: Phillips 2, Battle, Billings
Geelong: Hawkins 5, Rohan 4, Menegola 2, Dangerfield, Duncan, Tuohy
St Kilda: Steele, Sinclair, Long, Phillips, Bytel.
Geelong: Menegola, Hawkins, Dangerfield, Rohan, Duncan.
St Kilda: Ryder (replaced in selected side by Phillips)