Why the Saints are missing Dawson
Zac Dawson is a player that fans love to hate. As a young boy at Hawthorn he was much maligned by fans as a player that would never make it.
The pummelling he took at the hands of Anthony Rocca in round two of 2006 will be forever talked about and remembered by footy fans.
When Dawson moved to St Kilda, he was chastised again, not to the same extent but the crowd held its breath every time Dawson took possession of the ball, waiting for a mistake that could result in a goal.
Ironically, Dawson’s performances in the grand finals of 2009 and 2010 were some of his best, where the congestion suited the gangly defender, who played very tight to his opponent, and spoiled the ball into dead territory.
Indeed, only people within the inner sanctum of the St Kilda football club truly understood the value of Dawson and the importance he had to their back line. As a key defender Dawson allowed Fisher or Goddard to play as a rolling off loose defender, generating a lot of drive for the Saints.
He also took the best or second best forward, allowing Sean Dempster, Jason Blake and Raphael Clarke to play on small forwards and third talls, while James Gwilt took the other key position forward.
In 2011 the Saints had 100 points scored against them only three times for the year, in 2010 only four times and in 2009 only once.
Their defense in this period was regarded as one of the best in the competition, which strangled opposition teams out of the contest. Dawson was a pivotal part of this defense, and his defection to the Dockers at the end of 2011 weakened it considerably.
St Kilda have leaked over 100 points on six occasions in 2012, nearly every second game. Although there is no doubt that the injuries to Gwilt, Fisher McEvoy and Stanley, which lead to Blake’s injection into the ruck has severely impacted on its defense, Dawson would have been very valuable to the Saints this season.
The Saints have been monstered by key forwards this year, which continued against the Kangaroos on Sunday afternoon with Drew Petrie kicking four. Four players have kicked five or more goals against the Saints in 2012, one in every three and a half games.
Kurt Tippett (Adelaide) kicked five against the Saints in round 12, Jack Riewoldt (Richmond) kicked eight in round 10, Dean Cox (WCE) kicked five in round eight and Buddy Franklin (Hawthorn) kicked five in round six.
This undersized St Kilda defence could greatly use the help of Dawson, whose Dockers under new coach Ross Lyon have only conceded more than 100 points on four occasions in 2012. Only Michael Hurley of Essendon has kicked a bag of five or more goals (6) against Fremantle this season, a game in which Dawson was out injured.
Dawson’s departure from St Kilda may have appeared initially as one which could have been easily covered, but in a game of inches, the Saints appear to have given a couple of hundred metres when letting Dawson walk free. This, combined with injuries to key players, has seen their defense become a shadow of its former self.