West Coast have overcome the early loss of star goalsneak Liam Ryan and a marking masterclass from Max King to post an eight-point AFL victory over St Kilda at Optus Stadium.
183 days ago, on the third of October 2020, Brett Ratten’s led St Kilda fought off the Western Bulldogs late to squeeze home by three points up at the Gabba.
Cut to the pre season when preliminary final, grand final dreams even were speculated and premiership smoky was bandied around by publications needing eyeballs to stay alive.
From then on, it’s been disaster after disaster for the boys at Moorabbin and with three of their toughest games of 2021 coming back-to-back-to-back, at 1-2 and sitting 16th on the ladder, they will need a rebound quicker than a heartbroken soul.
On the 16th of February, stress fractures were found in a scan in Rowan Marshall’s foot and ask any Saints supporter; if they had to pick five players to not get injured, Marshall would feature on that list.
On the 18th of February this year, an intra club game was halted as one of their most improved players Ben Paton laid sprawled on the ground with a horrifically broken leg that ended his season with a snap of the fibia.
Cut to the fourth of March and in the AAMI Community Series match against Carlton, former Dee and Hawk James Frawley injured his hamstring and is still four to six weeks away, a week later, ruckman Patty Ryder took personal leave that remains to this day, Dan Hannebery is hurt and Jarryn Geary’s leg still isn’t right.
On to Round 1 and in pretty poor conditions, Harry Himmelberg took a shot to put the Giants 17 points up, he misses, the Saints’ smalls stood up and got an eight point win but with the Giants sitting at 0-3, injuries galore and seemingly playing with half the spirit of their 2015-19 form, how big is that win?
Heading into Round 2 in the brilliant concept of ‘Spud’s Game: Time 2 Talk’ but when the bounce of the ball thudded into the turf at Marvel Stadium, the Saints were taught a lesson by Melbourne.
The 18-point difference was flattering for the Saints, given the Demons kicked twelve goals nineteen but the Saints were -14 contested possessions, -5 inside 50 marks, -6 tackles inside 50, equal in clearances, equal in inside 50s and equal in tackles but the panic had subsided; they had an insipid Essendon VFL team it seemed to take on in Round 3.
Jump to Marvel Stadium on Saturday and -117 disposals versus Essendon, -51 uncontested marks by allowing Essendon to chip the ball around, -16 per cent scores per inside 50, -28 per cent scoring accuracy, even -22 in tackles!
All in resulting a 75-point loss that’s left Moorabbin hitting the panic button with their lack of defensive structure, lack of pressure and even former legend Nick Riewoldt lamenting their lack of care which is a damning statement, even with the quote ‘everyone wants to talk about North Melbourne (128 point loss to the Dogs) but that’s the worst performance of the round’.
The Saints were genuinely bullied around the ball, with Jack Steele (35 touches) the only Saint to feature in the top dozen disposal getters on the ground.
So, what now? At 1-2, the Saints have got a West Coast unit who’s last fortnight fell to the Dogs by just over a kick and then wiping off Port Adelaide like a stain in the first half at home but the positive for the Saints is that it is at Marvel but on the flip side, so was the Bombers clash.
Paddy Ryder is back at training which is a huge plus, Jarryn Geary is a week away, Dan Hannebery is a test and last year’s’ Most Improved Rowan Marshall is a test as well which is huge news and are essential cogs in the Saints’ machine.
After the Eagles’ clash in which they are outside favourites ($3.08 as of writing), they’ve got Richmond at Marvel but they don’t have a good record against the Tigers, losing four of the last five games but did get a win in Round 4 last year by 26 points with Tim Membrey and Dan Butler kicking three each, Jack Billings having 25 touches and current co-captain Jack Steele had nine tackles.
After that fortnight from hell it seems, it doesn’t stop there, with travelling to Adelaide Oval to take on flag contenders Port Adelaide which seems like a daunting task.
It is another history which doesn’t flatter the Saints with Port winning every clash from Round 16, 2011 to Round 8, 2020 (eight games) but in their clash last year at the same ground, the Saints did come away with a 31 point win with Marshall, Ryder, Membrey and Butler kicking two and Hunter Clark having 25 disposals.
So, at the end of the day, is it all doom and gloom at Moorabbin? At 10pm AEST on Anzac Day, we will know because the Port clash will be over, and the Saints could be 1-5 or of course, 4-2 if they win them all.
Who really knows? 2021 has provided surprise after surprise so far and upsets are everywhere so it would take someone brave to outwardly predict but for a team that became the nation’s second favourite last year as they won a final, anything less than that is a failed season and if they are 1-5 after Anzac Day, the writing could be on the wall.
While no one suspects they were a massive premiership threat, anything worthwhile coming out of this season seems difficult to predict also.