Saints 78 Eagles 131

stormtrooper

Despite a mini revival there wasn’t to be a sequel to the 55-point houdini act yesterday, unfortunately.

They’re the big birds, though they’re not kings of the Big Game – not yet. They’re not all that.

Plenty of encouraging signs again for Richo’s charges: Sinclair great again, Bruce kept Bruce-ing, Savage regained some form, and a vintage Leigh Montagna game. It was a real bitch of a game to be missing Keys Delaney though; ugh. Kennedy ended up with 4, but I don’t know if he even broke a sweat.

Anywho, yes plenty of encouraging signs, but 120 minutes of quality footy is proving gosh-darn hard for these kids.

THE REPORT WILL BE UP LATE, LATE TODAY

Saints wear new clash jumper again; lose

Round 7, 2015
Adelaide Crows 3.3, 9.3, 15.6, 18.13 (121)
St Kilda 3.3, 5.8, 7.12, 10.13 (73)
Crowd: 43,532 at Adelaide Oval, Saturday, May 16th at 1.15pm CST

Well I hope we enjoyed our Flavour of the Week status. Fortunately we didn’t give it over in borderline ridiculous circumstances as the Dogs did against us, but alas the ride is over.

Not that Richo would think of proclaiming anything that Malcolm Blight would. “Ride of Your Week”, certainly, but we’d banked some goodwill the prior week against the Bombers. Either way, following The Comeback we’ve got Tom Hickey on SEN, Jack Billings in the Triple M studio, Richo himself on Talking Footy and Billy Longer doing the lead-up press conference. It’s just that easy.

Before the Doggies game I suggested (just vaguely, and I’m not sure to who) that if we had a chance to knock them off it would have a lot to do with them being drained after their win against the Swans. I drew the parallel on everyone’s favourite Saintsational forum to our Round 7 performance in 1998, in which the bottom of the ladder Brisbane Lions knocked us off at Waverley the week after we’d stormed home against the Eagles at Subiaco the week before.

Obviously in the third quarter last week that thought was nowhere near my mind as it appeared regular programming had resumed, but given what what transpired then for the sake of consistency I had to say, well, the same would apply to us yesterday. I think the thing about yesterday’s performance was that you could have picked a result like this regardless of The Comeback ever occurring, let alone the week before and causing a massive hangover. The 46-point margin is certainly decent but it wasn’t the after grog bog it could have been.

In fact it was My Favourite Hair in the AFL’s awful collision that had him knocked out cold immediately that probably effected us more. Not that it was the difference between winning and losing, but rather we weren’t able to deal with the structural change and it clearly affected our ball movement.

Following last week and a number of people’s quite reasonable suggestions over the years, Roo was quite clearly playing high up the ground, and we had Hickey playing more mobile and several times found himself around contests with Longer. Bruce was anchored more so as per usual but wandered up to the wing early pre-Roo’s concussion.

There weren’t any signs of struggling to back up early because we kicked the first three goals and the pressure around the ground was right up. Newnes kicked the first from a 50-metre penalty, which would be the first of many the umpires paid throughout the day to both sides and for the most part reasonable. The hometown whistle is something any supporter of the visiting team to SA or Subi dreads, with every contest an apparent threat to all that is good and true. It only made a couple of appearances, glaringly for Charlie Cameron’s pair of goals in the second quarter, but we’d had Schneider get away with an arsey throw in the first and one to Billings in the second at the other end which neither were taken advantage of, so the decisions themselves certainly didn’t change the momentum or state of play.

Poor execution going forward became plagued our game throughout, and the signs were there early. Sinclair and Newnes put some really good pressure on the Crows at both ends and once we got it back up forward Hickey dropped a proverbial on the lead. Soon Roo in his new/old position provided the link out of the back half, and Eli’s great kick to My 2nd Favourite Hair in the AFL Josh Bruce in the goal square had things looking solid. To be reductive, the talls were in the right spots and the supporting cast – Eli, Sinclair, Schneider etc. were buzzing around and being generally annoying.

Speaking of which, I’d set up a lonely camp at the Great View Hotel after Matt and Evan were late withdrawals, and Richie was out of the country taking in much nicer weather through the week. It was just myself watching the Saints and then several gentlemen watching the other game on the other smaller screen but the benefit of audio. Most were inexplicably Hawthorn supporters, for no reason splashing out on the beers rather than a ticket to watch two Victorian teams at the MCG on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Baffling at best, but the real centrepiece was the one year-old’s birthday party going on in the function room (Happy Birthday, Lotta), which for some reason had the adjoining door open all door and thus parents, prams and an exorbitant variety of small children literally running around at all times. The talkative but seemingly kind and level-headed kid with the puppy balloon was the clear winner, otherwise it was a few Dads talking about their Supercoach teams spilling out also.

I’d had a slow start to the day so fortunately it was just a couple of blocks from my own home to get there and get back (something handy to have in hand should things end poorly). It was hard to get outwardly excited in my state but when Hickey got his chance to make amends and crumb a big contest in the goalsquare, with more than a guiding hand from Bruce, it was three goals to zip and a few cautiously excited texts started flying around.

That particular chain hard started a little earlier when had Bruce found himself making space in a marking contest for Longer close to half-back on the counter, and Schneider caught Sauce Jacobs out. The switch found Roo, and his kick ended up falling into the square where Bruce had worked all the way back to. Early yes, but Our Very Own Stephen Merchant’s rev up he gave Bruce and his fitness during the week was only just becoming evident.

Unfortunately that was just about the end of it. From that point is was 18 goals to 7, or more tellingly we only kicked one more goal than Eddie Betts from that point. Probably the other defining element of our games this season has been the ease with which the opposition can quickly move the ball out of our attack and hitting the scoreboard. I’ll get to Roo in a minute, but there’s no control group pre- or post- his and Lonie’s concussions. Geary and Montagna as late withdrawals hurt of course, but that wouldn’t have stopped the number of attacks launched by the Crows – particularly from our defence – that saw them shred through the middle for clean delivery to a one-out or forward in space. Often that was Betts, and whilst Geary was the man most suited to him Betts would have kicked a few of those anyway, just like Tex would have with or without Delaney in the team because there’s only so much the defender can do in those situations.

Let’s get to it. Roo’s concussion was sickening, particularly at the time given how long much extra care the trainers seemed to be giving him. It’s easier to talk about now that we’ve seen him up and about, and as always it’s really wonderful to see the crowd giving an injured opposition player a warm reception as they come off the ground, as well as the opposition trainers assisting in the post-injury care.

As I said, it hurt us more structurally than being one down did. Lonie had already been subbed off by this time with concussion, and given how relatively innocuous his incident looked (also an attempted tackle) with no sound at the bar I actually didn’t realise the hit had been that bad until after Roo had gone down. I don’t have any heat maps or anything but when we moving the ball it felt Roo’s presence was really lacking, and Hickey and Billy found themselves far too close together around the ground. The momentum had already swung Adelaide’s way, too – Eddie had taken a huge mark in the square following a debatably not being paid a mark in the pocket previously, and then Tex kicked a huge goal after the quarter time siren to level the scores after a weak Sav effort allowed the Crows to run away with the footy when we were a kick away from an attacking chance of our own.

By the siren we’d lost Joey, Geary, Lonie and Roo. It was time for someone to really make a statement, and Steven butchered the kick forward from the opening bounce of the second quarter. Then Hickey dropped another sitter and Billings missed the shot from the aforementioned reverse hometown whistle free, and who else but ex-Saints fan and ex-Saint Tom and first round draft pick to kick the next couple of goals and set the Crows up? Both goals came from two quality involvements from Tex further up; firstly a perfectly positioned kick to Lynch in the pocket which allowed him to draw the free, and then a one-motion take of the ball on the half-volley and sharp hands to Sauce Jacobs running past which again ended with Lynch.

In the end it was Josh Bruce who took it on himself to press up and provide an option. It looked like Lever was on him for much of it which probably helped him a little as Talia had (I’m sure) moved to Hickey, but that’s the benefit of having both Bruce and Hickey stepping up in the forward line and stretching the opposition defensive stocks, even when Roo isn’t there.

His five goals yesterday meant he’d kicked multiple goals in six of seven games this year. Perhaps ironically, the only match he kicked a single goal in was the Bulldogs game, in which he kicked 1.3, including the zero pressure shot after the siren. He also yesterday became the first St Kilda player to kick at least five goals three times in a six-game period since Riewoldt over the end of 2009 and early 2010, an overlapping period in 2009, Rounds 16-20 in 2008, and Rounds 16-21 in 2004 (to go with 9 goals in Round 15 that year). Milne did it over Rounds 8-13 in 2004 but that was the only time in his career, whilst you’d have to go back to the G-Train, who managed it in overlapping periods from Round 16, 2003 until Round 18, 2005 – as well as the last six games of his career (or at least before retiring the first time) – for any Saint to have done that with any regularity. I know it’s a very arbitrary criteria but I’m using it to compare the kind of return he’s given us in this period to what other Saints have over the past ten-plus years.

The most impressive thing about his game though was that he kicked five goals as well as consistently pushing up to the wing to make the contest, take the mark and provide that next link. How many times did we see him do it after quarter time, and several of those ended in serious attacking ventures (two of them Dunstan behinds, who at times is a bit of a Lenny in front of goal).

Incredibly we led the inside 50 count in the second quarter 16-11, but the Crows kicked 6.0 to 2.5. It was around this time that Channel 7 cut to a shot of Rory Sloane in the coaches’ box, next to David Teague’s questionable hair. The Adelaide Advertiser had run with a sensational back page, led by whispers of ex-Saints fan Rory going to what will probably be Moorabbin by year’s end. The story had built through the week, beginning with Matt Finnis on SEN early in the week and by the time Richo had talked about how outstanding everything about Rory is it had become the talking point leading into the game. Whilst it wasn’t necessarily the midfield that was our problem – but rather a lack of pressure and endeavour that allowed Adelaide to cut through far too easily from back of centre – I really do think the club would love one guy who be the real midfield general in three-to-five years’ time when theoretically we’ll be challenging.

Yes, obviously Armo could be that guy, whilst Steven still talks like a shy 12 year-old, but Rory is someone who’s been a class above most for a lot of his career and he’s still only 25. It’s also worth pointing out there is Weller, Dunstan, Billings, McKenzie and even Acres still coming through and will varying degrees of impact, whilst we still may get a top tier young guy in the next draft or two, or snaffle someone like Shiel to add some real A-class youth. Not sure what we’d need to give up for Sloane though, and I’d probably rather go to the draft if we end up with a top five pick again.

The midfield didn’t have the kind of supply this week – chiefly from Billy Longer given Hickey’s a forward at the moment – as Sauce Jacobs dominated the hit-out count and around the ground. He found the ball 23 teams and was a part of a number of counterattacks. Billy himself I actually didn’t think was terrible considering it’s his 32nd game and has just turned 22; he got to a lot of contests but perhaps fell back into his old habit of not being able to, you know, take a mark. When Charlie Cameron got his second weird free close to goal Billy looked like he was about fulfil the destiny I’ve imposed on him of going Lazar Vidovic on everyone around him, but unfortunately he managed to control his emotions.

Bruce couldn’t do it all, despite following Hickey’s lead and doing some nice crumbing in the goal square himself in the third and even then it’s still a novelty to watch him playing genuinely good Australian Rules football. With Hickey and Longer struggling with some of the fineries of the mark Bruce got in on the act, as well as missing a couple of shots at goal. It made his return of 5.1 and 12 marks seem all the more remarkable because it very, very easily could have been more.

We didn’t seem as dynamic going forward otherwise, and there were structural difficulty parallels again with Roo missing at short notice in the Collingwood game and after quarter-time in this one. Eli and Schneider were busy early but that was pretty much it and neither kicked a goal, Billings had a decent impact higher up but kicked 0.2, Lonie was out of the game before you realised he was there, Sinclair – in his temporary farewell game before going back onto the rookie list – just didn’t have a great day and the mids – Dunstan as I mentioned, Armo and Mav all missed their shots. Hickey obviously had a presence as far as the talls went but finished with 1.2, including a miss late after a gallant run through a couple of opponent and finding space which would have put us within four goals with a whole lot of momentum and plenty of time left. It was probably the closest I got to being clearly animated about the game, but the frustrating footy overall, a couple of pints and and a whole lot of small children had worn me down over the afternoon.

Not sure what to make of Sandy’s demolition over Frankston today. Saad kicked four but like Schneider will need to be back on the rookie list within a few weeks. Membrey kicked three, Tom Lee kicked a couple in what’s now a rare foray forward and Minchington kicked two. Minch is our forgotten guy who actually can bullet a pass and kick a couple of goals, whilst Lee might be a very slim chance if Roo doesn’t come up. Acres surely comes in after getting plenty of the ball and a couple of goals so there’s a few to come in, as well as potentially Montagna and Geary, for a few others both up forward and through the midfield. McKenzie might come out. His numbers will tell you he only had nine touches but his presence seems to offer a lot more than that. There’s no rush either way for him. Curren had 31 touches for the Zebs but I CBF.

Appropriately it was Betts who sealed the game with some slick hands and then cleverly finished a chain of possession close to goal after Sinclair up the other end put everything into a set shot but didn’t quite make the distance. Delaney gave away a free kick to Tex shortly after who delivered the icing. It wasn’t unexpected – and arguably it was inevitable – given everything that had happened through the afternoon, but the performance overall did leave what was perhaps a hollow feeling compared to the two games previous.

It’s difficult to tell what kind of team will turn up at the stage in development, and more so one that will again have a couple more changes. West Coast are second on the ladder for some reason and we play them on Saturday, and whilst I don’t think we’ll win I don’t exactly know what form that would take. For every memorable game like The Comeback – although not typically of that magnitude – there are countless in these leaner years that we simply forget. The team doesn’t turn up, or the young guys have an off-day en masse, or the disposal going forward is butchered. Roo’s hit and Bruce’s five might stand out for the minutiae in later years, but otherwise yesterday won’t be revisited too many times; banked in the back of the mind but rarely called upon.

Wulf and Dwyer Awards update

We don’t give enough of a shit about these to even post the votes on time, so again I’d be surprised if you’re reading this at all. Here are the votes for the Round 5 (because I was “too busy”) and Round 6 games.

Round 5
Mick Dwyer Award
Rich
Armitage 7
Bruce 7
Dempster 7
Steven 6
Billings 2
Lonie

Tom
Bruce 8
Armitage 5
Steven 4
Lonie 4
Billings 3
Dempster 3
Dunstan 3

Daniel Wulf Award
Rich
Membrey -10
Savage -6
Geary -5
Schneider -3
St Kilda Fans -3
Fisher -2
Roberton -1

Tom
Schneider -15
Longer -6
Membrey -6
Sinclair -3

Round 6
Mick Dwyer Award
Rich
Armitage 9
Billings 8
Dempster 5
Sinclair 3
Hickey 2
Montagna 2
Lonie 1

Tom
Armitage 9
Billings 7
Fisher 3
Hickey 3
Steven 3
Dempster 2
Riewoldt 2

Daniel Wulf Award
Rich
Fisher -6
Dunstan -5
Roberton -5
Savage -5
Weller -5
Riewoldt -3
Longer -1

Tom
Longer -9
Bruce -6
Weller -5
Newnes -5
Webster -5

Running Totals
Mick Dwyer Award – Top 5
Armitage 70
Steven 46
Bruce 43
Billings 32
Lonie 22

Armitage solidifies his lead and I’m too scared to say he’s arrived because last time I thought he might have was two years ago and our season quickly turned to absolute rubbish, and he fell off the radar. Obviously this is binding in zero ways but I would have eaten my membership scarf if anyone’s pre-season top five after Round 6 looked like this.

Daniel Wulf Award – Top 5
Longer -56
Membrey -33
Curren -30
Saad -29
Schneider -26

Longer keeps polling steadily but I’m increasingly thinking he’s on a hiding to nothing given his role (and it’s worth mentioning he’s currently second in the competition for hit-outs). Schneider makes an appearance on the back of his late howlers against the Bombers – as a St Kilda supporter, how much can you outwardly articulate, “but hopefully he won’t do that again” before he does it again.

Plot twist: Saints win from nowhere

You just don’t expect to experience a 55-point comeback victory when you arrive at the footy. You just don’t.

Not in the wildest, wettest dreams of the most optimistic Saint would that have occurred. Particularly against Luke Beveridge’s Doggies, who had become flavor of the month in the week leading up to the game after out-Swanning the Swans up at the SCG.

For the first time probably 3 years, there was an actual swell of anticipation for this contest. Anticipation beyond the default ‘let’s see what they can produce today’ kind. The fact that we had 45 players fit and training had even bought in some interesting discussion about selection headaches, who’s playing well at Sandy and various opinions on team structure to accommodate said players. This had me chuckling in my head – we have won 10 out of our last 49 games for crying out loud. If guys toiling away at Sandy are that great, then they won’t be waiting too long to break into the side.

And so we encountered a week whereby arguably the Club’s most decorated captain and one of the club’s most reliable stalwarts (of 234 games played no less) return to the side was being met with a sense of disdain and bewilderment from sizeable sections of the Saints faithful. This was utterly perplexing to me; had I momentarily slipped into the bizarro world? In some ways, the fact that the side pulled off the equal fifth biggest comeback victory in VFL/AFL history, completed the bizarro week full-circle.

(The fact that Tom’s Favourite Hair in The AFL was periphery to proceedings for the first 3 quarters, was also bizarre yet also a positive. More on that later.)

I managed to squeeze my way through some CBD weekend construction fuelled traffic to duck into some claustrophobic Little Bourke St parking lot, before finally meeting @Tom_Briglia and a mixed assortment of Saints supporters – with two quietly confident Doggies thrown in the mix – at the Concrete Dome’s poorly named Locker Room bar in lead up to the 2:10 kick off. Halfway through downing a beer and my default wariness about St Kilda’s youngsters reliability to perform “on the big stage” had been shrugged off, and I was fairly convinced that my excitement for their performance wasn’t merely the result of having alcohol on a lunch-less stomach. The Saints fans of our posse all had arrived filled with degrees of excitement and mellow confidence. It was unusual. And on top of that, we all had at least donned a Saints scarf – also unusual; but an underrated bonus element of having a 2:10 kickoff and not having plans to go somewhere half-cool/respectable immediately afterwards. For the record, I was sporting the thin stripes of 2010’s membership scarf, which is still my favourite.

What followed in the next 60 minutes of AFL footy – once we had bounced up to level 3 seats – was quite insipid from a Saints fan point of view. From contest number one the Dogs looked harder, more nimble, more precise with their extraction of the ball and focused. They were the aggressors in every sense and David Armitage looked like the only one willing to go toe-to-toe on that front. Deservedly, Armo finished the half with 27 disposals, though we were all dubious as to the effectiveness of all 27 of those. Despite Armo’s gallant efforts in the clinches, the Saints just couldn’t move the ball with any efficiency. Handballs were the order of the day, but the Dogs pressure and aggression completely stifled the effectiveness of them. We literally seemed pinned-in to our back 60 for 80% of the half.

At least for the first quarter we managed to batten down the hatches, only trailing by a kick at the first break, after Schneider finished smartly, running into goal onto his right foot. In fact, that last five minutes of the term served as an illusion. We finally had “field position” and some repeat forward entries, and it sort of felt like we might have weathered the storm.

How wrong I was: That turned out to be the calm before the ominous storm. Through Goodes, The Bont, Honeychurch, Stringer, Johanneson and others, the Dogs had all the run and now that was translating to bite on the scoreboard. St Kilda’s resistance seemed no use, and the 49 point margin at the main break almost felt flattering from a Saints perspective.

Not only did the Dogs seem the aggressors at the ball and the man, but this flowed on into their work-rate “on the spread”. Such was the confidence they had in each other and their want to run, the likes of Macrae, Johanneson, et al had no trouble getting into space whenever the ball transitioned between the arcs. With this kind of speedy ball movement, Fisher and Dempster had no hope against the spry play of Jake Stringer. Stringer had a day out against us last year, and he was threatening to be the dominant forward once again. Luckily for us, his forward line buddy Tom Boyd did not bring his kicking boots to the Dome.

At the other end, it felt like Riewoldt and Bruce were on different wavelengths. I’m loath to get stuck into them, as the lack of supply coming forward was glaring. But it felt like the three-pronged attack (Hickey being the other) wasn’t succeeding in giving us clear options when trying to escape to wing or half-forward. At one point, our companion Lewis, pointed out that Roo got stuck into Longer for floating across to a marking contest the the captain was originally working on one-on-one. Save for a strong mark and shot on goal (that he missed) in the second term Roo had nothing to get high and mighty about. The captain felt like an outdated bit of software that had been installed back into a revamped, modernised system. I was half-confident that at some point in the afternoon he would reboot, reconfigure but by half-time it felt immaterial anyway.

So much of the afternoon felt like a throwback. Lewis even had one of the Saints retro style scarves on. The 2:10 kick-off. Rocking up to a football stadium on the back of listening to a bit of 3AW footy blather. Getting to a game, and just being consumed in knocking the block off the opposition rather than simply viewing it through the prism of Rebuilding.

I remember at one stage in the afternoon – I think in the depths of our despair through the end of the 2nd term and beginning of the 3rd – I mentioned to the guys that I actually thought the Saints might be closer to two years behind the Dogs rather than the 1 that seems to be the general consensus. The second half performance doesn’t exactly TKO that idea, but it may have made that debate kind of irrelevant.

In the aftermath of the game, on the outskirts of the Locker Room, we were all trying to put our fingers on a moment that signified the momentum shift. Maybe it was Tom Hickey’s tackle on Bob Muprhy and goal? Jack Lonie’s manic forward pressure? Jarryn Geary’s contested mark when a sea of Blue was descending upon him at the edge of the centre square? David Armitage’s squibbly snapped drop-punt that Kernahanned its way through the big sticks?

There wasn’t really one moment but rather just a litany of efforts scattered with moments of sheer class. And that intangible thing: momentum. By the time Josh Bruce snuck through a major to bring the margin back to 12 points heading into three-quarter time we had completely grasped the momentum with both hands. That made it seven goals three for the quarter, and the game was entirely back up for grabs. Not only that, but the opposition seemed out of ideas and out of inspiration. We had cranked up the intensity, particularly our pressure, and the Dogs seemed to have wilted.

Another topic of conversation through the afternoon was Alan Richardson’s “performance” on SEN’s coaching box feature only the night before. My take was that Richo at times comes across as a super-smart, glorified assistant coach. But with each week this year, the games are starting to speak for themselves in terms of Richo’s (and his staff’s) acumen. Perhaps Saturday was even his Keyzer Soze moment. Was the comeback Richo’s plan all along? Was this a rope-a-dope act or gargantuan proportions? Perhaps Richo’s greatest trick was to convince the world that he was simply a tea drinking, glorified assistant coach.

*****

One thing that I think is true of most young, aspirational, naïve footy teams is that they get off on being the hunter. Indeed, for most of the Bullies players, this would’ve have probably been the first time in their careers that they had come into such a game being the hunted and the short priced favourites. They had a target on their backs and by the last change that was starting to weigh on them.

Not even a Longer air flap to lead to a Honeychurch goal from a metre out (to get it back out to 24 points) would stop the Saints march though. By this point, they were playing like a team possessed. And like the Bombers game, Richo’s boys seemed hellbent on doing it their way. David Armitage had been joined by Montagna, Steven, and even Schneider in gut-running the Dogs ragged.

But there was one man that still had to take the game by the scruff and shuffle this team over the line. It was Jack Billings. He’s only just gotten past the 20 game mark in his career, but already he’s starting to become the Saints man on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Will he be the next Stevie J? Who knows. But his performance against the Dogs will probably go down as the first performance in which he started to carve out his own niche.

Billings owned the last quarter. He had five shots on goal, and on many occasions would have kicked all five. For the second half he had 17 touches, 4 goals two, and 1 assist. He was instrumental but not only that, it was great to see him just take that responsibility himself. His running goal to put us up by 7 points with 3 minutes remaining, wasn’t just a calm and steady finish but it was distinguished in how he passed up the opportunity to handball onto the rushing Bruce but released the safety and fired away himself. It’s not ridiculous of me to say either that on many other nights he would have dobbed all five of those last quarter shots on goal; I think he’d be slightly filthy that he didn’t.

I can honestly also say that when he lined up against the animated boundary line advertising boards near the 50 metre arc in the third term, that I had quiet confidence he’d dob the shot (at that point the scoreboard was still well lopsided anyway) and that he was the only guy on the ground that could be that confident from there. In no time at all, he’s become the guy who you want kicking for your life. Indeed, RWB companion Lewis, highlighted after last week’s loss that Billings doesn’t need high possession games to be a dominant player – “a 20 possession game for Billings is worth 30 possessions” to quote him more precisely. And I think that notion is only further underlined when you hear Richo on several occasions highlight instances in which Jack wins his own ball. That’s purely because he knows that that is the part of the game – that work rate and that hardness – that is the main hurdle that would prevent Jack from evolving into the great player that he has the makings of.

Lonie, Bruce, Hickey, McKenzie, Weller, Newnes – they all deserve praise for really digging in and helping build the momentum to see us surge over the top. But this will probably be remembered as Billings’ night.

Another intangible thing in footy is confidence: and nothing boosts the confidence like winning games of footy. Granted, last week’s effort against the Dons on most measures was a better, more complete performance. But the belief and confidence that the youngsters will get from the Bulldogs win will be invaluable. Indeed, this will be an afternoon that will be recounted in many a Locker Room (and Livewire) conversation amongst Saints fans for years to come. What context these tails will take is completely up in the air; your guess is as good as mine.

Bulldogs 87 Saints 94

liotta

That’s the single most enjoyable day I’ve experienced in the last 3 years. Just, whoa. What a day! What a game. A historical win – the 5th biggest comeback victory of all-time.

Not a bad way to lay the foundation blocks for ROAD TO 2018 you say? Wellllllllllllllll…

MATCH REPORT UP BY TOMORROW NIGHT.

Peace!