St Kilda coach Scott Watters blasted his players’ ball-winning weakness in their upset four-point loss to AFL battlers Port Adelaide on Sunday.
In his first AFL match as head coach, Watters was angered at surrendering pack dominance to Port, who prevailed 13.11 (89) to 13.7 (85) at AAMI Stadium.
“I’m not going to name players,” Watters said.
“But ultimately we need structures and players in particular that are prepared to go in there and win the footy.”
Watters was also bewildered by St Kilda’s lack of early spark, with Port kicking five goals inside 15 minutes in a stunning start to their season.
“When you’re playing away, it’s important to get a good start,” Watters said.
“So we put ourselves behind the eight ball.
“The players were good enough to work their way back into the game.
“But there are three fundamentals in football – contested possession, first-hands and hard-ball gets.
“And ultimately in a close contest, we were shaded in those areas.”
After their sluggish opening, the Saints kicked seven of the next 10 goals against Port, who won just three games last year in their worst AFL season.
With slippery Stephen Milne booting two and setting up Nick Dal Santo (28 disposals, two goals) for another, St Kilda took a three-point lead into halftime.
But the Power, driven by creative half-back Hamish Hartlett’s 26 possessions and five inside-50s, edged to a five-point buffer at the last break.
Port, in front of 21,179 spectators, stole a 17-point advantage 10 minutes into the last term when substitute David Rodan goaled.
But Saint stalwarts Dal Santo and Nick Riewoldt gave the visitors hope, with Riewoldt’s second goal about 28 minutes into the final term shrinking the margin to four points.
But Port players survived the frantic final minutes to delight their coach Matthew Primus.
“It is what we have spoken about over summer: being a team that can compete,” Primus said.
“And for one game of the year, we have done it.
“Now we need to try and produce that again.”
Port were well served by recruits Brad Ebert (21 touches, two goals, 11 tackles) and ex-Magpie John McCarthy (23 disposals) while hard-nut Matt Thomas helped nullify St Kilda’s midfield.
Port’s tall forwards Jay Schulz, Justin Westhoff and John Butcher each kicked two goals while Alipate Carlile and Troy Chaplin were pillars in their defensive posts.
The Saints, with captain Riewoldt contained, overly relied on Justin Koschitzke (three goals) for scoring power.
Milne booted two, while ruckman Ben McEvoy and utility Brendon Goddard (29 disposals) were influential.