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St Kilda’s worst still to come

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    The St Kilda Football Club has had an alarming fall from grace since the heady days of 2008-2011, and unfortunately for their loyal and long-suffering supporters, the worst is still to come.

    Most pundits predicted another slip down the ladder for the Saints this season, but perhaps not the free fall that has ensued. The worst part is the weight being carried by the same old shoulders.

    Nick Riewoldt has been a giant of the game for a decade or more, and continues to lead the way with his legendary work ethic, evident again in yesterday’s loss to the Swans.

    Staggeringly to me, I still get the sense his career has been somewhat underrated.

    He’s had a sensational year, should win his sixth best and fairest award, and is my personal All-Australian centre-half forward.

    Leigh Montagna has returned to his hard-running, accumulating best after a couple of seasons that saw his impact dulled. He’s only really had one bad game from a ball-winning perspective, against Carlton in Round 7, but he offset that by laying nine tackles.

    The leadership shown in a struggling side is to be commended, and he’s gone up a rung in the eyes of many.

    Nick Dal Santo has found it hard to recapture his creative best, still being sat on every week by an opposition tagger. It’s become a tough ask for the silky left-footer, and he must be understandably struggling for drive with his premiership dreams in tatters.

    No-one would begrudge him looking elsewhere next season, and he’d be a perfect fit at a side like Hawthorn that plays a possession game moving the ball by foot.

    Lenny Hayes has been a heart and soul player for as long as anyone can remember, and is still willing his battered body to contest after contest, tackling fiercely and winning clearances. It’s yet to be determined if he’ll continue on next season, but he is one man who has well and truly earned the right to make his own call.

    Riewoldt has played a lone hand up forward, and the three midfielders only have Jack Steven for company in averaging the most disposals per match for the team.

    Steven was actually my pick for the St Kilda best and fairest at the start of this year, the leader of the next generation. He’s a certainty for a top three finish, and is the number one clearance and contested possession winner for his side, as well as ranking second for tackles, emphasising the defensive mindset that all coaches love.

    Another asset is his goal sense, which is always important for a midfielder looking to step up to the elite level.

    Support for him is thin on the ground, although David Armitage is still improving.

    Farren Ray and Clinton Jones are the best of the next tier at this stage, which is a sobering thought.

    Despite the lack of form and off-field troubles he’s suffered through this year, Stephen Milne is still the second highest goal-kicker for the year at the Saints. Starting as the sub yesterday, his superb career is coming to a close and it would surprise most if he decided to play again next year.

    In terms of replacing Milne in that specialist forward pocket position, it’s the old “there’s good news and there’s bad news” situation.

    The good news is that St Kilda has a plethora of options, with the recruiting staff at one stage being accused of trying to draft every forward pocket in the land.

    The bad news is that none of them have shown they can consistently cut it at AFL level.

    Adam Schneider is still effective when fit, which isn’t very often, while Ahmed Saad, Terry Milera and Trent Dennis-Lane have all been tried with varying degrees of success.

    The latter three seem to get dropped as often as they get selected, with none able to nail down their spot.

    Tom Lee has been a bright spot up forward after an unencouraging start to the season. Taller than he looks, he can assume a key position once he puts on some muscle. His distinctive kicking style is unerringly accurate when taking a shot at goal.

    Down back, James Gwilt and Sam Fisher are still very good footballers, although seldom have they shared the same field in recent seasons. Like most of the Saints best players, they’re getting on, and Fisher in particular has his best football behind him.

    Rhys Stanley is worth persevering with in the back half after a few spluttering seasons up forward. His footballing education as a full-back may help him in future years if he’s required to play in the front half again.

    Sean Dempster was a deserved All-Australian defender in 2012, but has been down on that form in 2013.

    This is as much a by-product of being far more under siege this year than last, but he’s taking fewer marks, generating less run, and disposing of the ball more inefficiently, not a good mix.

    Dylan Roberton and Jarryn Geary have both been good for what they are, but it’s not a defence that strikes fear into the hearts of any forward line.

    Ben McEvoy has gone backwards in the ruck, while Tom Hickey looks promising.

    Both are still young enough to grow into a quality duo, but both have question marks over their agility in terms of having an impact when resting forward.

    The Saints have used 38 players this season, which is at the top end for the AFL. It’s far too early to tell which of the inexperienced types are going to make it, but all are going to need continued exposure at the highest level.

    We’ve known how poorly their list is positioned for a couple of years due to varying factors, and it’s going to be a long haul back. You’d think there is going to be three top three picks coming their way in the next few drafts.

    Each of them needs to be nailed, and the focus must be on elite midfielders first.

    By the time the next wave of youth matures into AFL standard, the gun older players are going to be retired. It’s not inconceivable that the Saints won’t see finals again this decade.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (56)

    • August 19th 2013 @ 7:16am
      Jacksoon said | August 19th 2013 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      Really dont know why theyre so bad. Just 3-4 years ago they were the best team in the comp. against sydney they still had 10 players with 100+ games. Yes, they are rebuilding, but they should at least be more competitive. Itll only get worse when milne, hayes and possible schiender or riewoldt go next year.

    • August 19th 2013 @ 8:17am
      Franko said | August 19th 2013 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      This squad has 6 players 19 or under and 11 that are 29 or over. With 3 wins for the year, they are in massive trouble.

      What they perceive as loyalty to Milne is (IMO) sheer stupidity.

    • Columnist

      August 19th 2013 @ 8:50am
      Cameron Rose said | August 19th 2013 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      On a side note, let’s have a look at this from an esteemed Roar writer 11 weeks ago:

      http://www.theroar.com.au/2013/06/03/afl-top-four-locked-in-14-teams-cant-win-flag/

      Line up to apologize, all those doubters, and I know who you are!

      • August 19th 2013 @ 9:30am
        Gezza said | August 19th 2013 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        First in the queue

        I am here to take my punishment – you were right Cam

        Still think the Pies made a fist of it but they can’t seem to manage the Hawks!

      • Roar Guru

        August 19th 2013 @ 9:34am
        TomC said | August 19th 2013 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        How’re you feeling about this article from 12 weeks ago?

        http://www.theroar.com.au/2013/05/20/long-cold-winter-ahead-for-western-bulldogs/

        I thought Dickson played pretty well last night, for a stopgap.

        • Columnist

          August 19th 2013 @ 10:00am
          Cameron Rose said | August 19th 2013 @ 10:00am | ! Report

          Tom, I think what you’re trying to say is that my piece forced some introspection at Whitten Oval and inspired the Dogs to their current level of performance. I’ll accept full credit, from them and you.

          As I tweeted yesterday, “Everything about Tory Dickson screams ‘VFL player’, yet he continues to be dangerous and effective.” He’s like a next generation Giansiracusa. I’m still disappointed that more VFL players aren’t taken, there must be plenty out there who can have a great impact if given the chance.

          • Roar Guru

            August 19th 2013 @ 1:28pm
            TomC said | August 19th 2013 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

            Yes, I’m pretty sure you were single-handedly responsible for the turnaround in Jarrad Grant’s form when you wrote him off. I hope he sent you a fruit-basket, or something.

            Must admit I’m not sure I agree that Dickson screams VFL player. I certainly don’t agree that Gia does.

            • Roar Guru

              August 19th 2013 @ 3:30pm
              TomC said | August 19th 2013 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

              Perhaps someone can explain to me why this comment has been awaiting moderation for the past two hours. Is it because it’s off-topic? There’s no rude words in there.

            • Columnist

              August 19th 2013 @ 8:59pm
              Cameron Rose said | August 19th 2013 @ 8:59pm | ! Report

              Fruit basket? What am I? A slab of some kind I think would be a better fit…

              I’ve always found Gia the type who does damage because the opposition doesn’t respect him. Certainly has the smarts to make the most of it, and has made a career out of exploiting such thinking.

      • Roar Guru

        August 19th 2013 @ 6:28pm
        Andy_Roo said | August 19th 2013 @ 6:28pm | ! Report

        All hail the mighty rose

    • August 19th 2013 @ 9:15am
      Winston said | August 19th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      The problem is it doesn’t take much for the whole deck of cards to call. If even 2 out of the 18 players on the field lack the intensity or stuff up at crucial moments, it doesn’t matter how good the other 16 are and the team will still fail. Their problem is not only that they have to plug those holes, but as their older players get on, they’ll have more holes appear. God forbid what happens when Riewoldt retires! Are they expecting Maister or Stanley to replace him?

      • Columnist

        August 19th 2013 @ 10:04am
        Cameron Rose said | August 19th 2013 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Winston,

        Maister’s been serviceable. The fact that he, Ray and Milera all signed contract extensions earlier this month tells us where the Saints list is at. After all, you can’t delist 30 players!

        • August 19th 2013 @ 10:28am
          Winston said | August 19th 2013 @ 10:28am | ! Report

          I’m not suggesting they do, I’m guess I’m just agreeing with you that their worst is still to come when Riewoldt retires!

          • Columnist

            August 19th 2013 @ 10:57am
            Cameron Rose said | August 19th 2013 @ 10:57am | ! Report

            Yep, I think we’re in violent agreement here Winston, I was more making a general point rather than anything else.

    • August 19th 2013 @ 9:17am
      David Gazia said | August 19th 2013 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      Sadly I agree , though hoping Rhys Stanley comments are right , as i think he has no footy brain and plays without heart and has a serious lack of stamina.

      • Columnist

        August 19th 2013 @ 10:02am
        Cameron Rose said | August 19th 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        David,

        I think the football brain thing is he big one for me. I’m not sure about lack of heart, which is a grave accusation to make, but I get the feeling he’s one whose confidence is easily shaken.

    • August 19th 2013 @ 9:18am
      D.Large said | August 19th 2013 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      Of all the AFL supporters I feel sorriest for the Saints, they more than any other team that hasn’t won a flag in the last 20 years deserved one most. I agree with Cam on this one going forward, I just can’t see much hope.

      • August 19th 2013 @ 10:36am
        Franko said | August 19th 2013 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        I don’t feel sorry for them at all, see the comment below from BigAl.
        Stan Alves took them to their first GF in 20-odd years and was sacked the following year.
        Proven premiership coach, Malcolm Blight didn’t last a year on his $1m contract and was replaced by a bloke with virtually no experience in Grant Thomas who wants to be a mate rather than a coach and oversees masterstrokes like trading their first pick in the 05 draft for Fergus Watts. When they finally get in a bloke who can coach (Lyon) they let him go.

        Meanwhile, they’ve got Milne on sexual assault charges, Nick Riewoldt crying because the Scott boys were touching him up, Max Hudgston crying because they can’t win a game, Koschitzke crying because he’s injured, Fraser Gherig peeing in public, dicki-leaks saga, Dal Santo getting cosmetic surgery, Ricky Nixon running riot and Ahmed Saad facing a 2 year suspension for drinking the wrong sports drink, they very possibly have the worst culture of any team in the AFL and as Cam points out, are in for a rocky road ahead.

        • August 19th 2013 @ 11:36am
          westie said | August 19th 2013 @ 11:36am | ! Report

          Yeah good on ya Franko, you belong on Bigfooty.

        • Roar Guru

          August 19th 2013 @ 11:37am
          Brent Ford said | August 19th 2013 @ 11:37am | ! Report

          We didn’t let Lyon go Franko he jumped off the sinking ship, Lyon’s behaviour in his last few weeks at St.Kilda was scratchy at best.

          Just look at some of the things he did in his last game as coach at St.Kilda, he knew the ship was sinking and did what any coach would do in his situation.

          • August 19th 2013 @ 9:13pm
            Jax said | August 19th 2013 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

            St Kilda were slow to sign him I recall. Not defending Lyon btw

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