St Kilda have now had four different coaches in this decade and haven’t been seen in September since 2011 after blowing multiple chances of winning a premiership in the late 2000s.
Another season of underperforming was too much for the Saints hierarchy to handle in 2019, finishing 14th when finals were expected and in turn sacking senior coach Alan Richardson.
The Saints were the big movers in the trade period under new coach Brett Ratten and the administration have openly stated that they expect to break their nine-year finals drought in 2020.
FB: Jarryn Geary, Jake Carlisle, Callum Wilkie
HB: Dylan Roberton, Dougal Howard, Hunter Clark
C: Jack Billings, Sebastian Ross, Bradley Hill
HF: Jade Gresham, Tim Membrey, Jack Sinclair
FF: Daniel Butler, Max King, Jack Lonie
FOLL: Rowan Marshall, Jack Steele, Luke Dunstan
INT: Jimmy Webster, Zak Jones, Josh Battle, Shane Savage
St Kilda’s defence should be a much improved outfit providing a few of their key players can stay on the park. Jake Carlisle only played ten games in 2019, captain Jarryn Geary played five games and Dylan Roberton didn’t play one due to a major heart condition.
All three of those players are very underrated. Geary is the inspirational leader of the team as the captain and any team misses that when it isn’t there, while Roberton and Carlisle were both potentially All Australians in their best seasons.
Dougal Howard, the new recruit from Port Adelaide, should help shore up the defence and better yet the Saints didn’t have to give up much for him. He’s the new wave of modern defenders so he should be able to intercept well, beat his man and provide good run, which is something the Saints lack.
Speaking of which, the weakness of the Saints’ back line is that they lack any real run out of their defensive 50. Geary, Hunter Clark and Callum Wilkie are good defenders but when it comes to using their foot skills and speed, they don’t really have any. The majority of their run will need to come from the likes of Roberton, Shane Savage, Zak Jones and Bradley Hill.
The Saints did fantastically well in the trade period by recruiting outside runners in Brad Hill and Zak Jones. Hill averaged 25 disposals a game last season and ranked ninth in metres gained per game and eighth in uncontested possessions per game. Jones played predominantly off half back last season but at a new club, he will get more of the ball and be able to use his speed on the outside, which the Saints have been missing.
The midfield’s ball-winning ability has never been questioned. Led by Sebastian Ross and Jack Steele, the Saints are a hard-nosed midfield who rank well in clearances won and contested possessions.
The main deficiency in this midfield was the lack of outside run and with the recruits of Brad Hill and Zak Jones, hopefully for Saints supporters, they’ll see much more exciting football in 2020.
The forward line is clearly the worst part of the Saints’ outfit and it seems like the area that will hold them back from a finals berth.
With the loss of Josh Bruce, who is good for 40 goals a year, the Saints look very thin on key position talent. Max King will lead the forward line in his debut season in the competition, and Tim Membrey – who simply isn’t a key position forward – will be forced to play on the second-best defender every week.
The small forwards are led by Jade Gresham, who is a very good footballer. He moved more into the midfield last season and averaged 22 disposals a game along with 15 goals, but kicked 35 and 30 the two years previous when he played mainly as a small forward. With the inclusion of Hill and Jones, we should see more of Gresham in the forward line in 2020.
Bar Gresham, though, the cupboard is pretty bare. The Saints recruited Tigers premiership hero Daniel Butler in the trade period, who kicked 30 goals in 2017, but he found himself out of Richmond’s side last year when only playing seven games.
Jack Lonie and Jack Sinclair are extremely inconsistent and it’s hard to see that changing in 2020.
Realistically, I see the Saints in that middle-of-the-road group with about nine other teams.
They have arguably improved certain parts of their side (outside run and speed, a good second key defender) but they have also stayed similar in certain parts of the ground which have hindered them for a few years now, like their lack of a powerful key forward.
Although finals aren’t completely out of the question, new coach Brett Ratten still has his work cut out for him at the Saints and he’ll need to find improvement in areas where it doesn’t look possible at the moment.
Predicted finish: 11th.