The Analyser – Round 20 St Kilda vs Fremantle
In a big clash on Friday night at Etihad Stadium, the Saints took on the Dockers in a chance for both sides to boost their chances for finals.
After being challenged for 3 quarters, the Saints kicked 6 unanswered goals in the last quarter and ended up recording a comfortable 41 point win.
This week’s edition of The Analyser will focus on the some key players finding form, a glimpse of our future leadership, our amazing taggers and much more.
The much-maligned Saints big man has been in solid form over the past few weeks. What is pleasing to see is that he is having a big impact on matches.
Koschitzke had arguably his best game for the club this year recording 17 possessions, 9 marks, 4 tackles, 21 hitouts and 2 goals.
He looks to fitter and more mobile than he has been in years. That was shown by many examples of him pushing forward into space and providing an option.
Whilst he did go stat-less in the 3rd quarter, this was mostly due to the fact he spent the majority of the quarter deep in the forward line. He still had an impact in the 3rd quarter when he expertly won a ruck contest down to Milne deep inside 50, who was subsequently tripped and kicked a crucial goal.
Having a fit and in-form Justin Koschitzke could be an important wildcard for the Saints come finals time.
After nearly winning a Norm Smith Medal in 2009, Jason Gram has struggled for form due to various injuries and off-field distractions.
When he was dropped to the VFL early this year, Gram’s career was at the crossroads. But in the past few weeks, his performances have been a key in the improvement in the teams’ performances.
Seeing Jason Gram sidestepping opposition players and taking on the game is a joy to see. This is what we witnessed him do against the Dockers.
Whilst rediscovering his attacking flair (had a game-high 12 score involvements), he also did a superb shut down role on Nat Fyfe. The Dockers young gun had 20 touches but didn’t exert any influence over the game.
Having Gram attacking from half-back will be a major factor in whether the Saints can overcome Collingwood’s press and put pressure on their defence.
Dean Polo has been a feature of my writing over the past few weeks and because of his good form, Ross gave him a chance to start in the centre bounces in a negating role against Michael Barlow.
When I was watching the match again, it really stood out how loose Polo was on Barlow in the pack situations. It seemed like he was too keen to just win a contested possession himself rather than shut down Barlow as well.
As the ball was bounced, he always had touch-and-feel of where Barlow was, but when the ball spilled from the ruck contest, he lost Barlow when he was watching the footy. The Dockers midfielder finished with 17 touches in only the first half.
I hope this is a reminder to Dean of his role and that he needs to hold his form to guarantee a finals spot. This assessment may be harsh but he has set high standards with his negating roles in the past few weeks.
FLYING THE FLAG
One of the best things I thought came out of this match was the team spirit shown by the boys when Adam McPhee elbowed Sam Gilbert in the face.
Straight after the incident, a huge group of Saints players remonstrated with McPhee. Brendon Goddard led the group of players letting McPhee know that his actions were not good enough.
I think one of the most important factors was that David Armitage, Jack Steven and Ben McEvoy were all part of the remonstration group. These players have all been mentioned as future leaders of the club and I believe it’s a glimpse of the future leadership we will hopefully see from these players.
Some people may think that that instigating a melee is undisciplined but I think it’s a sign of unity within the club and this bodes very well with finals fast approaching.
SEAN DEMPSTER/CLINTON JONES
What an effort by the best lock-down duo in the competition. Their performances are that good at the moment that 201 game veteran Steven Baker can’t get back into the side despite great VFL form.
Sean Dempster kept Dockers livewire Hayden Ballantyne to only 11 touches, including a stat-less first quarter. He had absolutely no impact on the match and his only shot on goal did not even score. Such as Ballantyne’s form this season, Tony Shaw has stated he is the barometer of the Dockers. It’s probably no coincidence that Dempster has Ballantyne’s scalp in both the Saints comfortable wins against the Dockers.
Clinton Jones again destroyed Stephen Hill limiting him to only 12 disposals. The beauty of Jones performance is that whilst destroying Hill, he helped himself to 29 possessions and had a profound impact on the result.
It will be interesting to see what jobs our lock-down duo are given against the Magpies this week.
NICK DAL SANTO
Nick earns another mention in my blog after another superb performance against the Dockers. He gathered 25 touches, 4 clearances and 8 tackles.
14 of his 25 possessions were contested and his tackle count was an equal game-high. The extraordinary statistic, in my opinion, was the fact he had 38 pressure acts. Jack Steven had the next best club figure of 20 whilst Fremantle’s top pressure applier was Nick Lower with 26.
It again disproves the myth that Dal Santo is a one-way player and is an added edge to his already accomplished attacking game.
His two goals were expertly finished in high pressure situations and I would love Dal Santo to have the ball in his hands at any time during a close final.
LOOKING TOWARD THE COLLINGWOOD GAME
The Saints have won nine of their past eleven games and one of those losses was to the team they are facing on Friday night at Etihad Stadium.
Zac Dawson will return from suspension but who comes out of the side is a mystery that we won’t know until Thursday night.
In the best players from Sandringham’s hit-out against Casey were; Tom Simpkin, Steven Baker, Will Johnson, Tom Lynch and Tommy Walsh. If there is any extra additions to the Saints side, it will most likely come from this list of players.
It remains to be seen whether there is any injuries from the Fremantle game that will keep players out for a week.
David Armitage picked up a heavy concussion but returned to finish the game.
Dean Polo dislocated his thumb in the second quarter but also finished the game after reportedly having painkillers.
Ryan Gamble was substituted at half time with an ankle injury and he looks to be the most likely omission from the side.
THE FINAL WORD
Any questions, opinions, comments can be directed underneath this piece or to @kieran_francis and email@example.com.
All feedback and improvement suggestions are welcome.
The Collingwood game will provide a true test to Saints and serve as marker of where they sit in regard to the best teams in the competition. We will know a lot more about our boys at the end of Friday night.