RWB 2011 player reviews – Part 4 of 4

By Tom Briglia

In the fourth and final part of our 2011 player reviews, we look at St Kilda’s list from speedster Brett Peake to one of 2011’s eight debutants in Nicholas Winmar.

Stats courtesy of Pro-Stats.

Part One features players from Warrick Andreoli to Nick Dal Santo, Part Two features players from Zac Dawson to James Gwilt, and Part Three features players from Lenny Hayes to Leigh Montagna.

19 games, Club 2nd for run and bounce with 32
All seemed lost for the ex-Docker after disappointing performances in both 2010 Grand Finals, and more so after being dropped after Round 3’s big loss against the Bombers. However, like several others, Peake found form in Round 9 against Melbourne upon his return to the side and played every game from then on.

It seemed he was finally able to utilise his great speed once the entire side got their spreading right, admirably creating space going forward with the run of play as well as when moving towards it from deeper forward. His stints in attack demonstrated his ability to create space up forward; I’ve mentioned “space” a lot in these reviews but it certainly was the order of the day/year in 2011. For a while it seemed his much-maligned disposal had improved for good but towards the end of the year there were some glimpses of bad habits.

With Ross’s defection to Yeeeeee-oooooo, perhaps Peake may come under consideration for trade should the Dockers come knocking (as in the case of CJ and Zac). There’s not many in the club with his speed, so his worth may come down to whether or not he can correct his disposal for good.

15 games, Career-high for most tackles with 49
What seemed to be an odd recruiting decision delivered probably better than what many expected, although much of that would be to do with the absence of Lenny Hayes, the emergence of Jack Steven and the move of David Armitage out of the middle.

Polo spent a lot of time around stoppages, playing his trade as an in-close specialist and defensive midfielder. Whilst his kicking wasn’t great, his handballing through traffic was superb and his hands were quite good when the ball came in overhead. If he survives being delisted, he will be pushed back in line in 2012 for players such as Hayes, Armitage and Ledger.

Farren RAY
21 games

Several players that had played important roles – as role players – in the 2009 and 2010 campaigns took steps down in 2011. It felt as if Farren was one of those; whilst his stats weren’t overly bad – he was ninth overall in the club for disposals with 372 – they were a noticeable drop from those of the past two seasons. An average of 22.2 disposals and 5.1 marks in per game in 2009 and 19.5 and 5.7 respectively in 2010, down to 17.5 and 4.3 respectively in 2011.

Farren’s presence does give side versaility; a strong mark for his size, he also provides plenty of run off half-back. It felt as if there was less of that too in 2011, but the entire side suffered together – perhaps bringing the silly “chicken or the egg” argument into play. With reports that he and CJ are the object of the Yeeeeee-oooooo’s interest, an opportunity to continue his career in his home state may present an opportunity for the Saints to make a deal with a player that could actually be worth something decent.

22 games, Club 2nd for goals with 36, Club 1st for marks with 158 at 7.2, Club 1st for marks inside 50 with 56 at 2.5, Club 1st for inside 50 target with 191, Club equal-2nd for tackles inside 50 with 19, Club 3rd for TOG with 2507 minutes
Where to start? A calamitous off-season and equally depressing first two months of the season had Roo fighting it out with BJ for the title of Person That Hates the World Most. The only upside was his new Nazi-esque undercut, which for mine had him as clear winner in “Best Hair in the AFL” stakes. His less obvious undercut sported by season’s end was still a winner, but nowhere near those earlier heights.

Roo, like BJ, simply looked to be trying too hard to do too much. That said, he was double- and triple-teamed often and still had teammates bombing Sherrins on top of his head. The Catch-22 here was that he couldn’t quite run his opponents off in the same as seasons past, partly due to his dodgy knee and perhaps also because of his 2010 hamstring injury.

Either way, he couldn’t find any space; when he did, shoddy delivery from further afield made everyone hate everything more. The above paragraph-and-a-half can be summed up with his stats – the number one forward target inside 50 on 191 occasions throughout the year, he could only manage 56 marks inside 50 and 36 goals.

End-of-season knee surgery and an early finish to the season will give him and others more than enough time to be fresh for the pre-season after last year’s late start (although that didn’t hamper the raging Magpies), and perhaps a new coach may breathe new life into the skipper. We all hope so.

21 games, Club 3rd for goals kicked with 30, Club 5th for inside 50s with 66, Club 3rd for marks inside 50 with 22, Club 5th for goal assists with 17

I was going to begin Schneider’s review saying, “Another player to have taken a step down from their 2009 and 2010 form…” and I realised it was probably easier to just say at the beginning that this was a given for nearly all players, and that only Nick Dal, Milne, Steven, Big Ben and Jimmy Gwilt really stepped up from last year.

That said, Schneider’s intelligence with ball was still on display through 2011, able to weight and curl kicks according to what the situation dictated. As he did last year, he continued to push further up the ground and by the end of the season was ranked fifth in the club for inside 50s to go with 30 goals of his own. His experience and deft disposal will be handy to have around with an influx of youth in 2012.

2 games, Club 1st for average 1%ers per game with 8.0, Club 1st for average run & bounce per game with 3.0

Head was promoted to the senior list nearly a year ago after finishing second in Sandringham’s 2010 Best and Fairest, and was ultimately one of the last of the eight players to make their debut in 2011. A willingness to confidently hold on to the ball and wait for an option to present when in space showed he has some composure about him (as his run & bounce stats show), though he did find himself holding on to the footy a little too long at time. Second and third efforts on debut against Collingwood were eye catching, though he had to be subbed off as he simply couldn’t run out the game; senior footy seemed to be too much for the youngsters in 2011.

Either way, having been re-signed this week the club certainly has faith in him to be an integral part of the defence in future.

5 games, 5 goals
A long goal from inside the centre square late in his debut game was the beginning of The Guy Whose Childhood Hero Was Jason Cripps becoming somewhat of a cult hero. The lifelong Saints supporter didn’t get too much of the ball but when he did, he used it well. His confidence was obvious from the start – the temerity to have a shot at that stage of the game from that position against Carlton showed it. He followed it up next week by setting up his captain for the first two St Kilda goals of the match and finished two goals of his own.

Like other St Kilda debutants through the year, the stress of senior footy was too much for the less-developed bodies and Lamb missed much of the second half of the year with shin splints. Talked up as one to watch in the future by others in the club, a role in the forward line is waiting to be taken by him.

Alistair SMITH
3 games, Club 2nd for average inside 50s per game with 4.3
The speedy Smith showed plenty of promise in the 2010 NAB Cup, but it was another year before we saw him in red, white and black again. His debut against Essendon in Round 3 was promising as he racked up 16 decent-quality touches in a losing side. Unfortunately, his disposal suffered in his next couple of matches and was dropped after the Adelaide match in Round 6.

Some good VFL form wasn’t consistent enough to warrant a call-up as selectors stayed conservative in the run-in to the finals, but he was named as an emergency for the Elimination Final. A poor attitude is perhaps holding him back from fulfilling his potential, and his disposal will have to improve to justify being kept on the list beyond this year.

2 games
Two games was a poor return for the tall athletic forward after playing a handful of games in 2010. With Kosi missing for parts of the season and a the team crying out for a revamped forward structure, it would have seemed a natural progression for Stanley to be sighted more than twice in 2011. However, hamstring injuries hampered his chance to catch the eye of selectors through the season. Hopefully 2012 will see Stanley given more game time and begin to have a real impact on games; until then, we can see how he goes in his second Grand Final sprint on Saturday afternoon.

21 games, Club 5th for clearances with 60, Club 6th for tackles with 99,
Jack finally found a place in the side in 2011, as a speedy midfielder with a handy attacking side to his game. It took until late in the Round 8 loss to Hawthorn for Jack to get a real run in the centre, but he followed a couple of clearances (on a day that the midfield was smashed after quarter time) with 27 possessions against Melbourne. The Skater was an integral part of the side from then on, providing valuable drive through the middle in a makeshift midfield line-up. His numbers didn’t match those of Dal’s, Joey’s or BJ’s but he constantly injected an attacking edge to plays.

The emergence of Jack to go with that of Big Ben in the ruck was a rare highlight for the club in 2011. Added to that was Jack’s re-signing with the club, ensuring a more dynamic midfield with the return of Lenny and more game time for players such as Ledger from 2012.

0 games
The most loved player to have not played a game for St Kilda took Sandringham and Saintsational forums everywhere by storm with his VFL performances. I spent most Thursdays thinking about 5pm and seeing “In: Walsh” in the team lists but it never happened; for whatever reason Ross the Ex-Boss just didn’t want to play him. Others were picked ahead of him despite Walsh’s seemingly superior VFL form, not to mention his versatility in being able to play down back and up forward effectively.

His six-goal matchwinning performance against Collingwood late in the VFL season should have been enough to warrant the club offering him a new contract if they hadn’t already. The good news is Walsh will be playing footy next year no matter what – it depends where, and we can only hope Ross or his legacy don’t force Walsh to seek gametime elsewhere.

Nicholas WINMAR
2 games
The prospect of having another Nick Winmar appeared to be infectious from the top down, as selectors had Winmar pencilled in for a debut from the beginning of the season. Whilst others youngsters in Zebras colours appeared to put forward a better case for St Kilda games with good VFL form, Winmar had obviously worked hard enough from early on to catch the eye of coaches and staff.

Two raw appearances in Rounds 9 and 10 gave Nick a taste of the big time, and a two-year contract signed during the season will ensure he’ll get plenty more opportunities to work his way into the side. His athletic build and decent height have given him a head start.