Saturday night fever (the bad kind)

By Tom Briglia

Another week, another must-win game for the Saints.

It’s a familiar scenario, as seasons 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and, at stages, 2010 saw the Saints battling in the latter part of the year after slow starts or troubled early periods.

Those seasons obviously offered a wide variety of results, and sadly 2011 is set to be one of the leaner ones. With the competition’s in-form team/locomotive in West Coast coming over this week, there are echoes of the failed Docklands battles in Round 18, 2006 and Round 21, 2007 which played huge parts in snuffing out the Saints’ wilder hopes.

This week is a good chance to follow suit.

Of course, there’s St Kilda’s incredible record at Docklands on Saturday nights to humour ourselves with – undefeated at the place and time since Round 9 of 2003.

That night, Collingwood was playing with its ailing legend, former player and coach Bob Rose in mind. This week, the Saints will wear black armbands for the departed Allan Jeans, and they’ll need to channel Yabby’s wisdom and fire to get over the line.

West Coast’s rise has been driven by a healthy mix of experienced heroes from the mid-aughts, and younger players coming into their prime. Cox, Embley and a rejuvenated Kerr – who is doubtful for this clash – have been joined by Priddis, Shuey, Rosa and Hurn on the Eagles’ frontline, and that’s before mentioning hype-machine Nic Nat.

Talls Kennedy and Lynch have been dangerous up forward, and they have LeCras and Nicoski buzzing around them. The former pair have formed a dangerous rotating attack of bigger bodies with Cox and Nic Nat, and the Saints will be stretched – nearly literally – to combat them.

Winning form is good form, and the Saints will be tempted to keep their line-up settled after last week’s big win (margin-wise, and that’s about it) against Port.

Lynch will probably come out for Kosi, who will return from suspension, otherwise Clarke may be the only other in danger of being dropped. Assuming height is the name of the game, Blake had a strong defensive performance in Sandringham’s woeful and unfortunately televised loss on Saturday, and would probably get the nod ahead of Walsh and Simpkin if there’s another change to be made.

Anything else would just be tinkering, and there won’t be much time for the Saints to do that once the ball is bounced on Saturday night. It won’t matter where they’re playing.