RWB 2011 player reviews – Part 1 of 4

By Tom Briglia

We take a look at each player on the St Kilda list and their performance in the 2011 season, in alphabetical order over four parts. Part One features players from the rookie-listed Warrick Andreoli to the club’s best performer in the season, Nick Dal Santo.

Stats courtesy of Pro-Stats.

Warrick ANDREOLI
0 games

The rookie-listed Andreoli will surely be a casualty of an aggressive list clean-out, not having impressed enough at VFL-level to warrant another year at theout Saints. The winger played only six senior games at Sandringham and nine in the reserves, and was outperformed by several others on the rookie list through the year.

Daniel ARCHER
1 game, 0 goals

The first of eight Saints to debut in 2011, Archer’s first and last kicks in his career to date were very forgettable – two shanked kicks, the latter a missed opportunity at putting his side in front in the dying stages of the Round 2 match against Richmond.

Promoted from the rookie list after a strong showing in the NAB Cup as a pack-crashing forward, he found himself playing out of position through the year for Sandringham. At 193cm and not overly mobile, Archer is best suited to that forward role, but with Gardiner and Stanley spending much of the year injured (and after the premature retirement of Steven Gaertner last year), he had to spend most of the season as an undersized ruck. Some decent performances may just be enough to warrant keeping him on the list for another year.

David ARMITAGE
22 games, Club 2nd for contested possessions with 227, Club 3rd for tackles with 110, Club 1st for tackles inside 50 with 21, Club 1st in total frees for with 35, Club 1st in total frees against with 38, 12 goals

The first two months of the season had Armitage on track for a belated breakout year. Lenny’s absence meant a spot opened up in the midfield, but it seemed that Jack Steven was the youngster that ultimately grabbed the opportunity best. That said, Armo would surely have been travelling well in the best & fairest votes until being moved out of the centre and on to the half-forward flank; Saintsational forums everywhere would have it (upon what appears to be good authority) that Armo wasn’t happy with the change.

Being taken out of the action from the Round 9 Melbourne match onwards – the game that Jack truly announced himself as a bona-fide midfielder – Armo would only affect games in short bursts. He finished the season 4th for the club in clearances, with 61, despite playing much of his time away from a midfield role for the better part of the season.

It’s widely acknowledged that he only signed on for another year at the end of 2010, but maybe a change of coach could breathe new life into him.

Steven BAKER
10 games

A Best & Fairest winner and club and fan favourite who was quickly delisted at season’s end. It took a Twitter message for people to learn that he hadn’t retired, as Ross had said he had after the Elimination Final loss. The situation was unfairly messy way for Bakes to finish his career. Sadly, the game had passed him by in 2011, with more versatility needed from such a smaller defensive player. Towards the end of the season he was overlooked for Jarryn Geary, who came into the side as soon as possible after a leg injury in Sandringham’s season opener; it was only last year Baker came straight into the side for the Grand Final after a 12-week suspension.

Jason BLAKE
12 games, Club 2nd for average 1%ers per game with 7.2, Club 3rd for hitouts with 49

It would be great to see the lifetime St Kilda supporter play a 200th game for the club. His slow exit from the ground after the Elimination Final seemed to suggest it may have been his last game; I dare say it would have been the knowledge that games would be hard to come by for a player such as him next year. At worst, he’s a depth player and would be needed in 2012 for that at the very least. An underrated work ethic like his would be a great presence with an influx of younger players.

Paul CAHILL
0 games

St Kilda’s forward structure woes were compounded by the slow progress of players such as Cahill, who was drafted nearly three years ago now. A quad injury in the first game of the VFL season may have cost him his spot on the list. It prevented him from establishing early on a spot in Sandy’s forward line and a claim for a St Kilda debut – particularly when games were being handed out quite loosely. Some decent performances upon his return for the Zebras may have given Chris Pelchen reason to keep him on the list. However, he would need a big pre-season to put himself in a position justify that in 2012.

Cahill was the only senior-listed player drafted pre-2010 to not have debuted for the Saints by season’s end.

Raphael CLARKE
17 games, Career-high for most matches in a season

Much-maligned worst-of-the-outer fodder. However, he played genuinely good games in the back end of the season upon returning from being dropped to Sandringham, necessary in Gwilt’s absence. His running game off half-back in Round 24 highlighted what he is capable of, and I thought his performance in the Elimination Final was harshly judged – rarely did any of his teammates even attempt to break the lines and provide some sort of run coming out of defence. He may have been caught with the footy, but he was trying to provide something no-one else seemed to be willing to do.

It will be interesting to see how Pelchen and <Ross’s successor’s name> view his worth to the team, as Ross was obviously a fan of his. Raph could become a handy depth player at worst if he’s given the chance to continue his end-of-season form in 2012.

Jamie CRIPPS
4 games, 7 goals from 16 kicks, Club 2nd for average goals per game with 1.8

Instantly impressed in his debut season, but managed only a few games before breaking down with compartment syndrome. Whilst he played most of his footy last year running off half-back and through the midfield, Cripps quickly found himself at home as a pinch-hitting small forward, kicking 7.2 from 16 career kicks to date. Very fit and with huge wraps on him already from the club, he was able to return to the VFL at the end of the season and will have an entire pre-season to develop his body further (with time for that also available in his lay-off) for the rigours of AFL footy.

Sam CROCKER
0 games

Taken at pick 43 in the 2010 National Draft, a slender frame saw Crocker played in the VFL for the home-and-away season after getting game time in the NAB Cup. He underwent shoulder surgery towards the end of the season in order to be 100% for the pre-season, and likewise Cripps will have had a chance to build up his body. Able to play in the midfield and as a forward and his speed will be handy asset in the years to come.

Thomas CURREN
0 games

The rookie-listed midfielder worked hard for a decent year with Sandringham, finishing the season as a regular part of the senior side. Has a reputation as a hard worker – highlighted by The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind on his recent appearance on One Week At A Time – and is a good chance to be promoted to the senior list in the off-season.

Nick DAL SANTO
23 games, Club 1st for disposals with 615, Club 1st for average disposals per game with 26.7, Club 1st for kicks with 339, Club 1st for handballs with 277, Club 1st for contested possessions with 293, Club 1st for clearances with 124, Club 1st for goal assists with 21, Club 1st for run & bounce with 46, Career-high average tackles per game with 5.3, 14 goals

Would have to be the favourite for the 2011 Trevor Barker Award. He played every game and was rewarded with All-Australian team selection on Monday night for his efforts.

Dal was required to have a huge year after Lenny went down if the Saints were any chance of a finals berth and he exceeded all expectations, even with his already high standards. His numbers show club-high 615 disposals and an average of 26.7 disposals per game for the year, and a career-high 5.3 tackles per match reflected his increased work rate. Well and truly established himself as one of the competition’s premier midfielders.