What to make of St Kilda’s 2012?

james rosewarne Roar Pro

By james rosewarne, james rosewarne is a Roar Pro

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    There’s been plenty to admire about St Kilda post-Ross Lyon.

    From the poaching of list manager Chris Pelchin from Hawthorn to the seemingly inspired appointment of rookie coach Scott Watters and finally to their most recent handling of Brendan Goddard whose huge contract demands they weren’t prepared to comply with.

    Brave choices by a club who scaled some serious heights over the last decade but who perhaps got caught napping by Lyon’s defection to Fremantle.

    Many in the football community indeed had already started writing the obituary for the Saints in the wake of Lyon leaving, citing an aging, top heavy list and a game plan soaked in conservatism.

    Yet more than twelve months on the Saints have many reasons to feel good about themselves even if Watters’ first season was only good enough for ninth place and in losing Goddard to free agency they lost one of their very best players of the past decade.

    Where Watters can hang his hat is a total reinvigoration of the game plan in addition to a serious injection of rejuvenation into the list.

    The Saints can enter 2013 confident that David Armitage and Jack Steven will be among their most important midfield cogs, while Ben McEvoy, if consistent, has shown he has what it takes to be one of the competition’s premier ruckmen.

    The moves last pre season for Ahmed Saad and Terry Milera proved inspired, with the pair combining for 47 goals, and adding the zip and defence not usually found in St Kilda’s forward line in recent times.

    And indeed it was in attack where the Saints showed most obvious improvement last season scoring a hefty 456 points more than they did in the final season of the Ross Lyon regime, with their 2,347 points scored in fact qualifying as the 5th most fertile season in St Kilda’s history.

    Not bad for a team deemed old, slow and incapable of making the scoreboard tick.

    Yet it’s in that vast offensive improvement where the Saints should perhaps be most concerned.

    Over the last 33 seasons dating back to 1980, there have been 27 cases of teams improving their offensive production by more than at least 400 points in a given season, with Melbourne’s 707 point improvement from 1999-2000 constituting the most vigorous leap.

    Yet of those previous 27 cases there’s been a marked rate of stagnation following that breakout year.

    In fact of those 27 teams, 15 actually went backwards (based on games won) with just nine teams actually improving, with three standing pat.

    How did Melbourne fair after that 707 point improvement? Well they went from 14 wins and a Grand Final appearance to 10 wins and 11th place on the ladder. Which (sad as seems) seems to be a familiar story among these break out candidates.

    Furthermore, of the nine that did improve, all were on the brink, (bar the early 1980s Demons), of seriously good times, which in the case of Adelaide, Port Adelaide, North Melbourne, West Coast and Geelong included premierships, and in the Bulldogs case, three straight years of preliminary finals.

    In short, of the teams that posted vast offensive improvements, only the really genuine were able to parlay those gains into meaningful runs.

    The rest, and 18 of 27 is undeniably quite striking, either fell away or at best stayed the same, unable to generate anything further.

    Which brings us right back to the Saints.

    Was their break-out, 456-point addition a sign of a serious, durable change bought about through some of the excellent list management decisions of the past 12 months, coupled with a highly effective game plan conjured by Scott Watters and his coaching crew?

    Or rather was St Kilda’s 2012 big offensive ‘hello’ simply a statistical glitch, assisted greatly by the advent of expansion teams and by a group of players feeling the breeze of new management sweeping the team?

    Whatever the case, 2013 shapes as a really intriguing season for St Kilda in their post Ross Lyon era and their attempt at forging a new and hopefully enduring identify under Scott Watters.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • Roar Pro

      December 11th 2012 @ 10:17am
      NeeDeep said | December 11th 2012 @ 10:17am | ! Report

      This will be a very interesting year for the Saints – definately. As you point out James, last year was Scotty Watters first year in charge and the players certianly relished being let off the chain, after Uncle Ross’s yawn fest. They really looked like they wanted to take the game on and play attacking footy.

      In the end, 9th place, with 5 losses during the season by single figure margins. Win 3 of those and they probably would have finished 6th, or thereabouts, which would have been in line with the last season under Lyon. So, to my way of thinking I don’t believe we’ve lost anything in the coaching side of things, by Lyon departing. If anything, we’ve also got rid off the boring tag, which has to be a plus.

      The knock on the Saints though, is their inability to beat teams above them. We belted Gold Coast by 15 & 16 goals, twice last year and hammered the Giants by 20 goals. That certainly helps the percentage and again, was a massive plus if we could have grabbed 2 or 3 more wins. However, the only side we beat all year that finished in the 8, was Sydney, in round 9. As they go, not a bad scalp. But we need to see the players believe they have what it takes to win games against the likes of Collingwood & Geelong, Hawthorn, etc. Even in the years the Saints made the GF’s, they struggled with these teams, along with their bogey team, Essendon – glad we finally sorted them out last year.

      The opening round loss to Port by 4 points in Adelaide, Freo by a couple of goals a few weeks later, then the Crows back in Adelaide by 4 points again, as well as the Richmond shoot-out by 8 points, were all bad losses. However, late in the year, with the finals beckoning, we lose a heart breaker against the Pies by a kick and then it would have seemed the white flag went up against Geeleong a couple of weeks later.

      The 2013 fuixtures give the Saints an opportunity for a fast start, with away games against Gold Coast & the Giants, either side of a home fixture to Richmond (at the MCG?) followed by this years AFL deemed grudge match with the Bombers at the Docklands. I think the Saints have to set themselves to win those first 4 games and make that the cornerstone of their season.

      Personally I think we’ll have a pretty good line on the Saints, fairly early in the season. The second bracket of 4 games against the Swans, Collingwood, Carlton and then the Crows in Adelaide, will be 4 tough gigs and if they drop 2 or more of their first 4 games, then it’ll be same old, same old and around 9th or 10th. Win the first 4 games and 5th or 6th is very reachable.

      • Roar Guru

        December 11th 2012 @ 11:02am
        TomC said | December 11th 2012 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        I probably should have rea this post first. Says some similar stuff to what I’ve said below.

    • Roar Guru

      December 11th 2012 @ 10:49am
      TomC said | December 11th 2012 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      I think a large chunk of the Saints’ offensive improvement can be chalked up to the merciless thumpings of the Giants and the Suns in 2012. In their one game against Gold Coast in 2011 they didn’t cash in to anywhere near the same extent.

      But I agree that the transition away from Ross Lyon’s frugal gameplan has been a big factor.

      It’s very hard to gauge exactly where the Saints are at. At the start of 2012 I was a lot more confident about their finals’ chances than most people seemed to be, and I felt vindicated when they upset Carlton and Sydney in the space of two weeks, but close losses in the middle of the season hurt them. 12 wins and a percentage of 120+ would get you into the top eight in most years.

      However, I think they’ll take a step backward in 2013. Without Goddard and Gram they will rely even more heavily on Hayes, Dal Santo and Montagna, and their off-season recruiting hasn’t really solved their KPP issues. Steven’s a good young midfielder, but apart from that I don’t see a lot of young players who are likely to step up and shoulder more of the burden in the short term. A lot of their young players (Stanley, Saad, Milera, Siposs, Simpkin, Dunell, Ledger) seem more likely to be role players than superstars.

      So I’d expect a strategic retreat in 2013. I’m sure Riewoldt and their handful of elite midfielders can lift them up for a few good wins, but I can’t see them finishing above eleventh or twelfth. Teams like Richmond, Carlton and Essendon have more going for them right now.

    • December 11th 2012 @ 3:28pm
      TW said | December 11th 2012 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

      Our family is a long time supporter of Scotty Waters . We are not related and have never met him.
      We watched him come through from South Fremantle to Eagles to Subi in the WAFL and latterly with the Saints. He has always handled everything with ease and is very relaxed.
      He is now in the real big time in Melbourne where pressures are very high. This is a big test for Scotty and his footy philiosphies.
      He inherited a team on the way down with all the challenges that go with it but he has had sucess at the lower levels.
      We note he has drawn some WA connections into the club which will be handy for his coaching ideas.(Just like Malthouse has done).
      We say give him another 2 years at least to see how it all pans out because after all the Saints must have seen something in him to get the job.

    • Roar Guru

      December 11th 2012 @ 3:54pm
      Redb said | December 11th 2012 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

      I’m intrigued and naturally happy about the Goddard defection. My sense is the Saints have drifted into the twilight team stage somewhere between 8 and 14 on the ladder.

      • December 11th 2012 @ 9:53pm
        Floyd Calhoun said | December 11th 2012 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

        So, about where Essendon too, can realistically hope to finish?

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