The Saints are flying under the radar

Geoffrey Evans Roar Rookie

By Geoffrey Evans, Geoffrey Evans is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    I have been watching the progress of the St Kilda Saints this year and in particular how little they trouble the media summary given their excellent start through the first third of the season.

    In only his fourth year at the club Alan Richardson has guided them from the bottom of the ladder into a healthy sixth spot.

    While Jack Steven gets the attention that his strong ability demands, there is much more going on with this side’s depth of players this year.

    Dylan Roberton has come to the fore with his rebounding out of defense and ability to kick strongly off either foot with accuracy.

    When a defender can generate this kind of run out of the back half and convert it to goals off his own boot or delivery to a score involvement for other players in as little as one or two kicks is an outstanding skill to have for a running backman.

    He is generating elite level data for a defender, including ball turnover possession and intercepts.

    The addition this year of Nathan Brown and Jake Carlisle providing hugely capable and strong intercept and tackling defense, working off captain Jarryn Geary in the backline with an improved Jimmy Webster seems to have released a monster at running defender work in the now elite Roberton’s game.

    Seb Ross is also knocking on the door of elite status this year. If he can continue his excellent form so far, he will land in that bunch.

    His work outside the contest as well as his hardness inside when the demand is there, coupled with genuine ability to crumb goals from outside 40 meters as well as inside 30, provides real power at turnover inside the 50 arc as well as forward of the ball when the run comes out of defense.

    Jack Billings is having a breakout year with his stellar best-on-ground performance in his 50th game, albeit after some where we waited to see if this would happen.

    Jack Billings St Kilda Saints AFL 2015

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Jade Gresham seems a little quiet but is still adding class and some of his unusual silk to ball movement and crumbing opportunity in the front half, while Jack Newnes is following the best St Kilda has in midfield work on the outside, and isn’t afraid to apply tackle pressure inside at the contest. As his running improves he’s starting to pop up all over the ground.

    Many of the “lesser lights” in the St. Kilda list while not appearing every week due to the team’s depth and the selectors’ ability to make selection on form and anticipated match-up rather than the hope of pure form doing the job are providing such an even spread of work that the Saints are able to generate multiple avenues into the front half, continually testing the defense of even the best sides above them.

    So far this year, St Kilda lead the ladder in scoring from the 15 to 30 meter arc. In scoring opportunities taken from 40 meters and under they rank third in the league, and if it were not for six shots that missed that still remain almost inexpiable, they would be ranked first in this category as well.

    A lot of this comes from how evenly spread the side’s depth is, with its second rung of players all contributing relatively high possession counts, tackle numbers, disposals and score.

    It isn’t unusual for St Kilda to have more goal scorers than their opposition on any given day, often by a significant amount.

    Perhaps because St Kilda haven’t been seen as contenders in any shape or form since the end of the first decade this century, and historically have only one premiership flag and a lot of bottom dweller status in that history, they don’t attract a lot of commentator coverage or kudos.

    Often when they have a victory like the win over flag favourites GWS Giants, it is seen as a failure of the side above them than it is a victory of the Saints themselves.

    Perhaps this is because while the Saints actually lead the competition in scoring shots from forward 50 entries, their percentage remains low because of a poor goal to behinds ratio.

    If the side as a whole improve this percentage-killing aspect of their game – and they appear to be doing so, albeit slowly – they may start to firm as more of what they really represent in the eyes of the games onlookers, which is a much more dangerous side than many have indicated they consider in the season to date.

    In only his fourth year as coach, Alan Richardson might have a top four team waiting in the wings for September.

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • Roar Guru

      May 19th 2017 @ 9:16am
      JamesH said | May 19th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      I think top 4 is a bit of a stretch, although in saying that there haven’t been any clear standout teams this year. The Crows have stumbled, GWS and WC look vulnerable away from home and the Dogs can’t kick straight. With a bit of luck the Saints might just sneak in there.

    • May 19th 2017 @ 9:58am
      mdso said | May 19th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      I think you are on the money, St Kilda may well turn out to be this year’s smoky. Makes interesting watching.

    • Roar Guru

      May 19th 2017 @ 10:02am
      TomC said | May 19th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      They get plenty of positive coverage.

      • May 19th 2017 @ 10:09am
        Luke said | May 19th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        “Positive coverage” Have you ever heard Brereton, King, Roos speak about the Saints?

        • Roar Rookie

          May 19th 2017 @ 10:25am
          Dan said | May 19th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          I’m not normally a defendant of Kingy (just ask him about the Gresham trade…*sigh*) but since the win over GWS he has been very bullish about the saints, much to my surprise.
          But Roos and Brereton are hardwired to only attach negative connotations to the saints.

          • May 19th 2017 @ 10:41am
            Luke said | May 19th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

            Remember when Kingy said saints wouldn’t win a game in 2015

        • Roar Guru

          May 19th 2017 @ 11:29am
          TomC said | May 19th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

          Not really, to be honest. I try not to watch shows that Brereton and King appear on. Not my favourite footy analysts.

          But the Saints really do get plenty of positive coverage.

          Cherrypicking the most negative commentators and claiming they represent the whole media is of course a flawed way of assessing the overall level of optimism.

      • May 19th 2017 @ 11:57am
        gyfox said | May 19th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

        yeah, that was positive coverage after last week’s sledging 😉

    • May 19th 2017 @ 10:32am
      MikeW said | May 19th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      Totally agree with article.When Saints win media state opposition playedoor. When Saints loose they played poor. the way Richo has them playing and the depth of the side very positive long term future. With Bruce dropped this week just shows the depth.

    • May 19th 2017 @ 11:35am
      Lord Dunsborough of the MCC said | May 19th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

      Dear oh dear, you gents down Seaford way have short memories don’t you. The Grand Old Club finally overcame the decade long hold the dreadlocked Frankstonites had over us in round one this season, surely that alone should have demonstrated to you that the Saints weren’t going to be getting back to the big time in 2017. If you are on the up again it is surely only good luck that has resulted in this – my stockbroker always says that historically poor performance is a good guide to future earnings, and I assure you I didn’t manage to assemble a pile of money that is the 9th highest mountain in Victoria in its own right by making poor investment decisions.

      Saint Nick Riewoldt will surely break down sooner or later, not even his seemingly bionic body can continue on forevermore, and your host of working class honest triers & chasers in the midfield when left to fend for themselves are just a Bulldogs lite outfit, thinking hard work alone & never mind the talent will win a flag. A true Ayn Randian premiership dream if ever there was one, but unfortunately in the real world Rand’s ideas don’t stack up and neither does St Kilda’s premiership chances.

      I always think of your team as not dissimilar to my chum Archie’s new mail order bride – has some spectacular high profile assets on display for all to see, but everyone knows they’re not the real deal.

      It’s a grand old flag…

      • Roar Rookie

        May 19th 2017 @ 11:58am
        Dan said | May 19th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

        Those roustabout moderators!!

      • May 19th 2017 @ 11:59am
        Michael Hallam said | May 19th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        oh dear, someone has trouble looking past the colors of their jumpers. 😉

      • May 19th 2017 @ 3:57pm
        MikeW said | May 19th 2017 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

        Dear Lord you may go Ok with the stock market, but by your comments you know jack all about talent on the football field….

      • May 19th 2017 @ 5:12pm
        Lord Dunsborough of the MCC said | May 19th 2017 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

        I’m often distracted by the chit chat in the members bar, not to mention perusing the spirits menu most games. It took me until 2010 to notice Adem Yze had retired. But I have seen plenty of football to know that the Saints will always be a mediocre bunch of riff-raff, with a culture of inadequacy, reflective of a club that has grown up in the shadow of the Grand Old Club. The last ten years has been an aberration rather than the norm. You’ll be back to your wooden spoons soon enough, while my silver spoon will remain firmly in my gob, where it has been ever since I was born.

        Cheerio and don’t let the tram doors hit you on the way out of the G next time you’re invited up here. I’ll be up in the bar enjoying a few brandies – once the hoi polloi have dispersed I’ll summon my driver & the Bentley to take me home

        • May 19th 2017 @ 6:50pm
          Jonesy said | May 19th 2017 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

          Thanks for your insight Lord Dunce, your a funny guy good luck tomorrow

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