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St Kilda 2019 season preview: Best 22 and predicted finish

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Roar Rookie
18th December, 2018
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1249 Reads

Every footy season has its bolters, teams that defy the general consensus cast upon it during the preseason on the way to an unlikely finals berth or even a premiership.

West Coast in 2018 is a great example of the sort of the team that gets itself on a surprise roll and ends the season on an unexpected high.

But on the other hand you have your sliders. The disappointments. St Kilda were arguably the AFL’s biggest let-down from this season, not only failing to take that next step into the top eight after two promising seasons of knocking on the door of September action but falling down the ladder in a tailspin.

The Saints finished 16th with just four and a half wins. After a Round 1 victory over the Brisbane Lions, St Kilda didn’t sing the song until Round 13, when they came from behind to knock off the Gold Coast Suns.

In a worrying sign for the future, the gameplan was rigid and uninspiring, and young exciting prospects took steps backwards. Midfield star Jack Steven claimed his fourth Trevor Barker award as St Kilda’s fairest and best player, putting him on par with Robert Harvey and Bill Cubbins from the 1920s.

The Saints bid farewell to a number of players in 2018, one of them Koby Stevens, who retired in July due to ongoing issues caused by repetitive concussion injuries. Despite making his long-awaited debut in Round 20, Nathan Freeman was delisted, along with fellow injury-prone teammate Hugh Goddard.

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Nathan Wright, Maverick Weller and Darren Minchington were also cut, as was Sam Gilbert after 208 games. Rookie-listed Irishman Ray Connellan was also axed after failing to play a game with the club.

Entering the trade period with plenty of cash to splash and looking to add some skill and star power to a relatively bleak list, the Saints targeted Sydney’s Dan Hannebery, landing him along with pick 28 in exchange for selection 39 and a future second-rounder. Melbourne goalsneak Dean Kent was also acquired with pick 65, while Tom Hickey was sent to West Coast along with an exchange of picks.

With the fourth selection in the national draft, the Saints opted for impressive young tall Max King, a boyhood St Kilda supporter from the Sandringham Dragons in the TAC Cup. The Saints stayed local with their next pick, grabbing Calder Cannons product Jack Bytel with selection 41.

Matthew Parker from South Fremantle was nabbed at pick 47 before Nick Hind from Essendon’s VFL side became a Saint with selection 54. With their last pick St Kilda grabbed Robbie Young from North Adelaide before heading back to pick up Callum Wilkie from The Roosters with their one and only rookie draft selection.

Young tall Rowan Marshall was elevated from a rookie to the senior list, while former US college basketballer Sam Alabakis was added as a category B rookie.

Playing list

New players in bold

1. Nick Coffield 17. Dylan Roberton 32. Paddy McCartin
2. Jake Carlisle 18. Billy Longer 33. Ben Paton
3. Jack Steven 19. Rowan Marshall 34. Matthew Parker
4. Jade Gresham 20. David Armitage 35. Jack Sinclair
5. Shane Savage 21. Ben Long 36. Daniel McKenzie
6. Seb Ross 22. Nathan Brown 37. Bailey Rice
7. Luke Dunstan 23. Jack Bytel 38. Oscar Clavarino
8. Blake Acres 24. Logan Austin 39. Darragh Joyce (R)
9. Jack Steele 25. Dean Kent 40. Nick Hind
10. Dan Hannebery 26. Josh Battle 41. Robbie Young
11. Hunter Clark 27. Josh Bruce 42. Lewis Pierce (R)
12. Max King 28. Tim Membrey 43. Rowan Marshall
13. Jack Lonie 29. Jimmy Webster 44. Callum Wilkie (R)
14. Jarryn Geary (C) 30. Ed Phillips 45. Sam Alabakis
15. Jack Billings 31. Brandon White 46. Doulton Langlands (R)
16. Jack Newnes
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Best 22

FB: Jarryn Geary, Nathan Brown, Dylan Roberton
HB: Jimmy Webster, Jake Carlisle, Daniel McKenzie
C: Dan Hannebery, Jack Steele, Jack Billings
HF: Tim Membrey, Josh Bruce, Jade Gresham
FF: Jack Lonie, Paddy McCartin, Ben Long
R: Billy Longer, Seb Ross, Jack Steven
I/C: Jack Newnes, Rowan Marshall, Hunter Clark, Blake Acres
EMG: Max King, Jack Sinclair, Logan Austin, Nick Coffield

The star

Jack Steven immortalised himself as one of St Kilda’s all-time great midfielders with a terrific 2018 campaign, winning his fourth Trevor Barker award, going ahead of the likes of Darrel Baldock, Lenny Hayes and Nathan Burke. The 28-year-old averaged 26.9 disposals, four marks and 5.4 clearances from 22 matches, standing tall in a midfield that was too often easily outclassed by the opposition.

With the arrival of Dan Hannebery and with some improvement from the likes of Jack Billings, Blake Acres and Hunter Clark, Steven can expect to get off the leash just a little bit more in 2019, which only spells danger for rival clubs.

Jack Steven

(Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Needs a big year

The 2017 season saw the end of an era for St Kilda and its supporters with the retirement of club great Nick Riewoldt after 336 games and 718 goals. As a result, the Saints forward line became rather dysfunctional, averaging a lowly 73 points per match.

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After averaging 41 goals a season over the past three years, Josh Bruce endured a horrible 2018 campaign with a nagging back injury as well as a broken leg he suffered at training, limiting him to just three games. The former Giant will be looking to return to the field and, with a bit of luck, return to his best footy that saw him as one of St Kilda’s most potent goal kickers.

It also looms as a huge year for 2014 No.1 draft pick Paddy McCartin. With just 35 games from a possible 88 since he was drafted, McCartin has continued to frustrate St Kilda supporters, with his fitness and injury concerns continuing to grow over the years. Having finally appeared to get over the numerous concussion injuries that threatened to derail his career, McCartin suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot in Round 16, ending his campaign then and there.

The 22-year-old is fit again and reportedly lighter than at any stage of his AFL career thus far. He will be given another chance to hold down a key forward position. If both Bruce and McCartin can fire, the Saints can give the top eight a real shake.

Ready to breakout

Being the nephew of Essendon great Michael Long and the cousin of Hawthorn champion Cyril Rioli, there was always going to be a lot of attention on St Kilda forward Ben Long. Drafted in the second round of the 2016 national draft, Long enjoyed a promising second year of his AFL career, putting together ten games and earning an AFL Rising Star nomination. He would have featured a lot more if he didn’t suffer a fracture to his metatarsal in Round 7, which saw him sidelined for over three months.

Long possesses terrific speed and goal sense and is one of St Kilda’s most ferocious tacklers. Now with three preseasons under his belt and with a clean bill of health heading into 2019, Long looks set to make a name of his own.

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Last chance

While it may seem unfair to place him in this category given he has managed to average 17 games a year since being selected in the first round of the 2013 national draft, Luke Dunstan’s current standing at St Kilda seems to be a little shaky. The inside midfielder, originally from South Australia, has frustrated Saints fans over the years with his disposal, which can be very good one week and awful the next.

He is great on the inside, averaging 21.8 disposals (a career-best), 9.7 of them contested, as well as 4.4 tackles and 3.9 clearances. Unfortunately St Kilda seem to have an abundance of inside midfielders who all offer much more than Dunstan can, such as Steven, Jack Steele and Seb Ross. With Dan Hannebery also coming into the mix, it shapes as a crucial year for the 23-year-old, who comes out of contract at the end of 2019.

New colours

Despite being linked to the likes of Josh Kelly, Jared Polec, Dylan Shiel and Scott Lycett in the past couple of seasons, St Kilda have struggled to attract big-name talents to the club.

Premiership Swan and three-time All Australian Dan Hannebery bucked that trend, announcing the Saints as his preferred new club after 208 games with Sydney. The problem for Alan Richardson is that Hannebery is a few years removed from his best football that saw him rated as one of the top midfielders across the league.

The Saints have a task in front of them to get Hannebery back firing on all cylinders, a task that will made much easier when you consider the 27-year-old fronted up to preseason training earlier than required and is looking supremely fit. If he can get somewhere near his 2015-16 form, St Kilda will have an absolute bargain on their hands.

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Dan Hannebery

(Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

The kid

Touted as a potential No.1 draft pick as early as 2017, only a season-ending knee injury stopped Max King from pulling on a navy blue jumper when his name was called on draft night. Instead, with King slipping to the fourth selection, the key forward went to the club he grew up barracking for. At 204 centimetres with elite athleticism, King marks the ball at the highest point, making it almost impossible for any defender to spoil or outmark him.

In a bonus for the Saints, King has been completing his rehab from an ACL tear at Moorabbin, meaning he enters the AFL system already knowing key figures at the club. It’s a little thing, but one that could definitely assist his development not only as a player but as a person. While he may not be fully fit in time for Round 1, you can expect to see a lot of him in season 2019.

Supercoach star

Players who can find the ball are like gold in fantasy football, and Seb Ross is definitely a player you should consider when forming the nucleus of your Supercoach squad. The inside midfielder averaged over 30 disposals a game in 2018, ranking him seventh in the league. This amounted to a healthy Supercoach score average of 102.9 points, but if you look at his final six games of the season, he averaged a huge 125 points, showing a sign of what could possibly come in 2019.

And if you needed any further convincing, Ross’s Supercoach average has improved year upon year since his debut in 2012, so expect that average to continue trending upwards next season.

Fixture

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Round Team Location
Round 1 Gold Coast Marvel Stadium
Round 2 Essendon Marvel Stadium
Round 3 Fremantle Optus Stadium
Round 4 Hawthorn Marvel Stadium
Round 5 Melbourne MCG
Round 6 Adelaide Marvel Stadium
Round 7 Greater Western Sydney UNSW Canberra Oval
Round 8 West Coast Marvel Stadium
Round 9 Collingwood MCG
Round 10 Carlton Marvel Stadium
Round 11 Port Adelaide Jiangwan Stadium (Shanghai, China)
Round 12 Bye
Round 13 Gold Coast Riverway Stadium
Round 14 Brisbane Marvel Stadium
Round 15 Richmond Marvel Stadium
Round 16 North Melbourne Blundstone Arena
Round 17 Geelong GMHBA Stadium
Round 18 Western Bulldogs Marvel Stadium
Round 19 Melbourne Marvel Stadium
Round 20 Adelaide Adelaide Oval
Round 21 Fremantle Marvel Stadium
Round 22 Carlton MCG
Round 23 Sydney SCG

View the full 2019 AFL fixture here.

A poor 2018 campaign has seen St Kilda stripped of its marquee match-ups, including the Good Friday clash against North Melbourne. The start to the season is quite friendly travel-wise, with the Saints playing at Marvel Stadium or across town at the MCG eight times in the first ten rounds.

St Kilda will earn their frequent flyer points after that, however. They have trips to Canberra to face the Giants and to Perth to play Fremantle in the opening seven weeks, with a trip to the Adelaide Oval to play the Crows, Hobart to face North and Geelong to play the Cats before ending their season with a trip to Sydney to take on the Swans in what will be Dan Hannebery’s first match-up against his old side. There are also a couple of other interesting matches away from home, and these will be explored in a little bit.

In terms of their return match-ups, the Saints have a golden opportunity to bank some wins with double-ups against Carlton, Gold Coast and Fremantle. They also face the Adelaide Crows twice, as well as Melbourne, a team they managed to claim an upset win over this year. Overall, a decent fixture, but not great from a commercial point of view.

The quirks

After three consecutive years of playing across the Tasman in Wellington between 2013 and 2015, St Kilda will be once again be heading overseas in 2019, but this time to Shanghai, China. With Port Adelaide heading the venture into China and playing two games against Gold Coast at Jiangwan Stadium, the Saints were revealed to be the Power’s new opponent for the next three seasons. The game will take place in Round 11 on a Sunday afternoon, with St Kilda to have their bye a week later.

Following their bye, the Saints will then get back on a plane and head up to Townsville, where they will play the Suns in the first ever match for premiership points at Riverway Stadium.

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Jack Billings

(Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Don’t miss it

Not too many games stand out on paper for me as a neutral, but some St Kilda supporters may be circling the Round 10 match-up with Carlton at Marvel Stadium on a Sunday afternoon on the calendar. Without obviously knowing either side’s form going into this match, one would assume that the Saints would go in as favourites for one of the few occasions in season 2019.

That match will also be St Kilda’s final match at Marvel Stadium before a three-week block in which they head to China, have a bye and then fly up to Townsville, so supporters who don’t plan on making those long trips would be best advised to get along or watch the match on free-to-air television, as it will be just one match of only six in 2019 to be broadcasted on Channel Seven.

Make other plans

The 2019 season will mark ten years since the epic grand final played between St Kilda and Geelong in which the Cats managed to prevail by 12 points thanks to a Matthew Scarlett toe-poke and a Paul Chapman snap goal. Saints supporters need not be reminded of that. Given the anniversary of that premiership for Geelong, they will be hosting the Saints on a Saturday night at GMHBA Stadium in Round 17.

St Kilda’s recent record in Geelong is downright abysmal, with their last three losses coming at an average of 81.3 points, while their last win at Kardinia Park came in 1999. I can’t see the Saints breaking their drought in 2019.

Headline you probably will see

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Slim Paddy’s powerful statement.

Headline you probably won’t see

Josh Kelly: Make me a Saint.

Final word

Having been on the verge of breaking back into the top eight, St Kilda were handed a massive reality check in 2018. Will it be the step backwards they needed to have, or is this a true indicator of their standing in the pecking order of the 18 clubs? Time will tell, but there is no doubt the Saints are a dangerous outfit if the likes of Josh Bruce, Jack Billings and Jack Sinclair all bounce back from disappointing years. The addition of Dan Hannebery will help, as will the return of reliable defender Dylan Roberton who missed most of this year with concerns regarding his heart.

Alan Richardson, arguably the coach under the most pressure going into 2019, has promised to go back to the basics with the game plan. We saw what kind of effect that had with Richmond in 2017, will we see a similar rise next year? Probably not.

Predicted finish: 12th to 16th.