Round 6 Match Preview – Two Saints with a lot to prove

By Tom Briglia

Much of the news coming out of Wednesday’s press conference with Ross Lyon centred around his backing of power forward Justin Koschitzke and beleaguered full-back Zac Dawson.

Both have been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons in Season 2010.

Dawson, coming off a surprisingly good showing in 2009, was monstered by Bulldog import Barry Hall in the NAB Cup finale, and has struggled for form since. His physical presence in contests has been lacking, his opponents outmuscling and outmuscling him far too often and easily.

Koschitzke in the meantime has been put under enormous pressure to become the dominant Saints forward in the absence of captain Nick Riewoldt, with a number of Saints fans hoping for a repeat of the stellar performances “Kosi” strung together in 2005 in the similar circumstances.

That pressure had time to build as he awaited return from a three-week suspension after Round One. His comeback was a sore point in the fallout of the disappointing loss to Port Adelaide. In trying conditions for a tall forward, he could only manage 0.1 and failed in important marking contests in the final term. Riewoldt’s absence was all the more obvious in a game in which the Saints were crying out for an effective target up forward.

Of course, Koschitzke is not to blame for the loss to the Power – Brendon Goddard and Stephen Milne, for instance, were unable to have any real influence up forward after stellar performances against Fremantle the previous week. But doubts over “Kosi” have been compounded by his poor NAB Cup form, in which he looked slow and sloppy both in marking contests in applying pressure in the follow-up. It’s becoming far too common a sight, and an increasingly far cry from the best form he’s shown.

For St Kilda’s sake, both will need to put in big performances tonight at opposite ends of the ground against the dangerous Dogs.

Should the Sons of the West win the midfield battle, supply to Hall will more than likely be not only plentiful, but sharp. Dawson will need to be focused for every minute of four quarters to do what he can to stop Hall, and hope that on top of that his co-backmen can step in when they can.

Koschitzke will need to be providing a viable target up forward to give the midfield confidence going into attack. Efficiency will be the key tonight against a fast Bulldogs team, so he’ll also need to commit to pressuring his opponents aside from marking contests to make sure the Dogs have a tough time getting ball out of St Kilda’s forward line to maximise scoring opportunities.

It will be a fascinating match aside from these two battles – the Saints had far too many passengers last week and didn’t play the “Saints Footy” style that the players and coach so often promote, and the whole team will need to lift to come away with four points tonight.

But St Kilda fans particularly will have a keen eye on both goal squares at all times. And hoping.

  • LongLiveRooey

    Tom, you highlight Kosi and Zac which is fair enough, but in terms of tonight Kosi and Zac aren’t going to be going head-to-head with the quickest midfield in the league.

    If Coon, Griff and co. get their tails up early then I’m afraid at what the final margin could be!! And Gram!! If there’s one game in the season where we need Gram, Ray AND Peake playing it’s this one.

  • Tom Briglia

    Speaking with the benefit of hindsight…

    In relation to the Bulldogs’ midfield:
    I felt Kosi and Zac were going to be huge for St Kilda’s structure if they played well, Kosi because, assuming the Dogs midfield would get on top, scoring opportunities for the Saints would be rare, and as the number one target he would need to be effective in marking contests, providing every opportunity for crumbers and apply pressure in the forward line to help assure that the ball didn’t come back out too quickly via the Dogs pacey flankers and mids.

    Zac as well because Barry Hall is the obvious forward target for the Dogs, and would be their go-to man, so if Zac and co. were doing their job on Hall, it would put that much more doubt in minds of flankers and mids looking to send the ball into the 50m arc, and when they did, Hall would be outnumbered and rendered ineffective.

    As it turned out, of course, Koschitzke had a good first quarter, kicking a goal and hitting packs hard. But he quietened after that, and his move into the ruck in the final term had him back in the game, getting his hands on the ball and allowing him have a presence around the ground; Dawson meanwhile actually started in the forward line, but soon ended up on Hall and received plenty of support from fellow backmen, and Hall was only able to finish with 1.1.

    The Saints were only able to be within striking distance (though no-one thought as much) before the comeback because their defensive structure overall was able to stifle the Dogs in their attacking half. Possessions were nearly always pressured, with little space to kick or run in to. Though St Kilda had much trouble kicking goals of their own, the Dogs, for all the slickness they showed in periods, weren’t able to break the St Kilda structure and bust the game open – which ultimately left them vulnerable.

    As for Gram and Peake missing – it would have been great to have players able to break lines and kick long the way those two do; Gram in particular, who is capable of very damaging footy. Fortunately the Saints got out of jail playing the way they did last night, but I don’t know how much luck they’ll be able to ride every week kicking such scores. Let’s hope Gram is fit sooner rather than later, and able to speed up the Saints on the attack – the Blues will be another tough test.

  • LongLiveRooey

    Haha. I think most of the list needs a lesson from Grammy in ‘very damaging footy’ – sounds a tad more entertaining than what is currently being produced.

    last nights win was one of the most memorable in recent years, but I don’t think this type of footy is sustainable – thank god we have a 9 day break before the Blues clash.