What was Max Gawn thinking?
The Saints are sitting two games out of the top eight with half the season to go, but face a tough road to the end of the season.
Last year, the Saints won their first final since 2010 and looked destined to go deeper into September this year but have seemingly gone backwards. So, what has gone wrong down at Moorabbin?
Injuries have plagued the Saints early in the season and none were more frustrating than Ben Paton breaking both his fibula and tibia at training and being out for the season. Another frustrating aspect on the injury front is Dan Hannebery being perpetually hurt and yet to play a game this year.
Hannebery has over ten years’ experience and can add a lot to the St Kilda team, however, he has only managed to play 13 games in his two-and-a-half years at the Saints due to persistent calf and hamstring issues.
It can be argued that another five players in St Kilda’s best 22 will be out for at least the next four weeks in Jake Carlisle, Jade Gresham, Jarryn Geary, Zak Jones and Rowan Marshall.
Another major downside for the Saints this year is when they lose games, they can lose by big margins. Four of St Kilda’s losses this year have been by over 50 points, the worst being against the Bulldogs when they lost by 111.
St Kilda now has the third worst percentage in the competition due to those heavy losses, which means they must win more games than the team that finishes ninth in order to make finals, unless they can inflict heavy margin wins.
They had their chance against the 18th-placed Kangaroos, however, only came away with a 20-point win, increasing their percentage only ever so slightly.
A huge problem that has contributed to a couple of losses has been St Kilda’s inaccurate kicking for goal. It is great to see young talent like Max King and Jack Higgins having multiple scoring opportunities in a game, but had they converted more accurately, Saints could have a couple more wins on the board.
King kicked 1.5 in a 20-point loss to Geelong, and Higgins last weekend kicked 1.6 against the Swans in a nine-point loss, the last shot being in the final minutes of the game when the margin was four points.
Saints could have also had a percentage booster with their win against the Gold Coast Suns, when they kicked 8.15 as a team, only winning by nine points.
This round, the Saints are playing the Crows in what would have been assumed a very winnable game at the start of the season, but now could go either way.
St Kilda are coming off a narrow loss to the Swans and will most likely be facing Adelaide with at least four changes due to Geary and Wood getting injured, and key senior players Tim Membrey and Sebastian Ross flying home to Melbourne to welcome the birth of his children.
If the Saints lose this week, they will head into the bye at five wins and eight losses, meaning they essentially need to win every game after the bye to make finals and take percentage out of the equation.
The fixture after the bye, assuming it goes unchanged, has the Saints playing six of the top eight currently on the ladder and seem very unlikely to come away with wins from half of those games, let alone winning them all.
At the beginning of the season, the debate was whether St Kilda could land a top-four position on the ladder, but at the halfway mark, the debate is now whether the Saints can avoid a bottom-four position.