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Opinion

Saints versus Suns is a rivalry for the future

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Roar Guru
7th August, 2020
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After an absolute ripper game, possibly the game of the season, on Thursday night between Gold Coast and St Kilda, Bruce McAvaney said that this match-up is “building up a great rivalry”.

And it is. Here’s why it will be the next big modern rivalry.

Close encounters
What every rivalry needs to start of is a few games decided by less than ten points. When the Giants versus Bulldogs rivalry began back in 2016, the prelim and the Round 6 clash in 2017 were decided by six and two points respectively. Yes, some players had moved between the two clubs, but that’s what really started that rivalry.

And this match-up has produced some close encounters, especially recently. In fact, the last four matches between the Suns and Saints (two last year, one in 2018) have been decided by four points or less, with the closest game being a one-point win in Round 1 last year to the Saints at Marvel Stadium.

The first one was the spark that ignited the fire up at Metricon in Round 13, 2018, with the Saints coming back from 35 points down late in the third to win by two points courtesy of Jade Gresham.

And let’s hope games like last night and like the first one continue between these two teams.

Izak Rankine of the Suns celebrates

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Youth and experience
When every team starts a rebuild, they always go for the younger players with a touch of experience. Take a look at Carlton and Brisbane (technically Carlton is still slightly in a rebuild). They both started with a lot of draft picks and some young players. Now they’re slightly going up the age ladder a bit, going from bottom last year to mid-bottom this year (14th and 15th).

Yes, Gold Coast are still the youngest and least experienced list in the league (23.41 years and 52.08 games per player), but they’re still 1.47 years behind the top. That’s much better than last year (roughly 1.8). St Kilda now, though, have the seventh oldest team at 24.3, only 0.58 years behind Collingwood at the top.

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But they still only have the 11th most average games per player (62.2). However, Gold Coast’s game experienced increased from 48.1 games last year to 52.1 this year, while St Kilda’s increased by 6.7 (55.5-62.2). If this continues to happen, which it most likely will, then this rivalry will heat up a lot sooner rather than later.

Fun, attacking footy
And finally, what makes a good rivalry is usually an open and high-scoring encounter along with it being close. For example, between 2009 and 2013, each time Hawthorn and Geelong played at the MCG (12 games), there was an average of 189.1 points scored per game, with only four games decided by double-digit margins, with three belonging to Geelong.

And now, ever since Round 13, 2018, every Gold Coast versus St Kilda game has averaged 159.3 points per game, which given the shortened quarters this year and how young each team is, is pretty darn good.

As a matter of fact, both of these two teams are some of the highest teams in the AFL, with St Kilda top at 74.8 points per game and Gold Coast eighth with around 60.8 points per game. They’re also in the top eight for inside 50s per game (Gold Coast 44, St Kilda 40.9). And again if this continues on, this will be a fun rivalry to watch.

Despite the fact that this is only just developing into a rivalry, it always has been. They both were down the bottom for a long period just after the Suns entered, and now they’re just starting to develop into much better teams.

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And if this rivalry continues to grow and develop like the Suns and Saints have, then it’ll be really entertaining to watch.