Beau Wilkes Posts

A Hickey for a BJ might not be so bad

What an immature and unoriginal title. Don’t encourage that.

Before we could all say “How about those Swans?” BJ had officially POQ to the Bombers, but I dare say most of us had been expecting that for a long time.

I think the thing that sticks about this one regardless is that he’s gone to a cross-town rival. Often when a player of high stature changes club it’s due to bigger factors, such as wanting to go home (Judd) or a unique, new challenge in a totally new environment (Ablett; and I don’t mean to grade BJ up there with either of those two). Fans of those players’ first clubs won’t have to deal too much with the presence of those players throughout the season, considering the press in their respective states typically won’t go bananas about the Blues and the Suns. With BJ, however, it’s similar to the Luke Ball situation that’s still fresh in our minds: he’s left because he’d rather be at another club and he’s still right here in the heartland of the game. We’ll be seeing plenty of him in red and black, on game day and through every week of the season.

His heart obviously wasn’t in it at the Saints, and if it’s only going to take lax trade conditions to be the catalyst for you to leave then you really can POQ IMO FWIW. His loss isn’t going to cost us a premiership – that time has been and gone. (Although I do think had he stayed he’d probably be the only current senior player that was a realistic chance of being there the next time the Saints got close to the summit.)

Of course, that was easy to say going into the trade period. These were the heady days when we had pick 12 and were simply waiting to get 13 too as compensation. Idealistically, from a pool of talent that’s supposed to comprise a “super draft” the compensation pick alone could easily have given us another star for a decade – effectively meaning the number one pick in the 2002 draft was worth two very high picks spanning 20 years.

However, the recruiters went looking to balance the side’s age profile before anything else, trying to make amends for the several wasted drafts in the back end of the aughts (Sweeney, Howard, Heyne, Smith, etc.). Watters, via Pelchen and Bains, definitely stuck to the ethos of remaining competitive whilst rejuvenating the list.

Firstly, 21 year-old Tom Lee became the co-messiah alongside Rhys Stanley, by virtue of being a tall forward who is appropriately fair-haired. Of course, as per everything in the Watters era, he’s Western Australian. With Cripps leaving Swat needed to restore the balance and picked up Rich’s namesake after the appointment of Tony Micale in the coaching ranks. Then he grabbed his old Subiaco mate Trent Dennis-Lane just to be sure.

Tommy Lee came at the expense of pick 12, or, as it’s now described the Saints “flipped” pick 12 for picks 24 and 43 and got a young, mature-bodied forward who has seriously impressed in a premiership winning side in a quality state league. It also meant we’d taken a star forward from Claremont for the second season in a row, who by now must be pretty annoyed given the Saints took their 2011 premiership coach, too.

Which left us with pick 13 once the AFL got around to officially announcing it, after a week in which trading basically stopped as everyone was waiting for, you know, things to do stuff with. There’s not much point having that surplus week floating in there when clubs don’t even know for sure what players or picks they’re dealing with. A lot of people think that compensation picks shouldn’t even be there, and I assume we’ll be talking about altering the trade period as we do about the interchange structure for the next few years so get up and about for that debate.

We didn’t land the main target of a key backman after the Eagles played hard/annoying ball, but I feel there’s been a little undue criticism of Pelchen and co. from some supporters. And by “from some supporters”, I mean “on Saintsational”. There was effectively one key backman that was anywhere near the trade table, and the Eagles refused to put him on it. It’s not as if key backmen were lumbering around the Concrete Dome trying to the get the attention of the recruiting parties, and the club was well and truly offering overs for Brown too as part of the proposed Cale Hooker deal – the Bomber might have actually helped the Saints out on that one by backing out.

Missing out on Caddy hurt a little too, but again there was only one player of his potential like him floating around and the Cats had the Gaz compensation pick, which the Suns could hold off using until 2014. Again, there weren’t a whole lot of them on offer, and Ben Jacobs by all reports is a [deleted by legal department].

On top of Tom Lee, what the Saints did get was a very exciting ruck prospect, and another Tom to go with the new (co-)messiah, Simpkin, Ledger and Curren. Tom Hickey really could give Big Ben a run for his money for the number one ruck spot over the next few years and the wider footy community (i.e. BigFooty) didn’t seem to mind the Saints giving up a first round pick for him.

The acquisitions mean there’s now all of My Favourite Hair in the AFL, The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind, Big Rhys, Big Beau, Big Ben, Big Tom Hickey and Big Tom Lee legitimately pushing more selection in the side. (We’ll be waiting a bit longer for Big Jay Lever; hopefully he’s not another Big Blake McGrath or Big Barry Brooks.)

But they’re not really meant to be in the same side in 2013. These picks had a view to the next five-to-ten years, to fill that gap between the very senior players and the 19-20 year-olds who are still getting used to the bigger bodies and pace of the AFL. That doesn’t necessarily mean the new or younger guys are the ones being squeezed out – they’re also there to put pressure on spots in the side, an element the club was really lacking in until this past season.

Roo, Big Ben and Stanley – given, as Swat has said, the latter is arguably the structurally most important player in the side – would be the closest to locks for Round 1, 2013 at this early point in time.

Fitting Hickey into the same side as those three would be a tall order (OMG get it?), although increasingly I think Stanley is best suited to roaming the front half of the ground as a forward and only occasionally hanging out in the ruck.

This leaves out Kosi, but now that there’s an abundance of talls filling the ruck and forward spots if he can’t improve on his 2012 form, sadly, it’s hard to justify his place in the side given his age.

And back to Roo, he isn’t going to be around forever. If his knees keep giving him grief we might even be seeing him in the backline at times in the twilight of his career. Which brings us to using a first round selection on Lee.

If all goes to plan, Kosi and Wilkes will be depth players in 2013 and Lee will continue where he left off in the WAFL. He’s the one with more upside either way; if he finds himself in the team it would be great for his development, and if not then we simply have to remember he’s only 21 and by all accounts a different player to the one that got drafted by Adelaide four years ago, and use the magic words “young” and “potential”,

Questions of the dynamic of the forward line were brought up again with the late recruitment of TDL, which seemed to bemuse some given that there’s already Milne, Schneider, Terry and Ahmed buzzing around.

The forward line is very much split between the talls and smalls, with My Favourite Player Siposs the only senior-listed player who plays as a medium-sized forward. There’s every chance he’ll be playing as a utility through his career given his size, great hands and excellent disposal which leaves the rookie-listed Dunell (who certainly showed good signs when he was called up to the top level) as the only other likely medium-sized forward. However, with Gram’s dismissal yesterday, there’s immediately more scope for Siposs to play off half-back, and opens up a spot on the senior list the club might consider using to upgrade Dunell or the Jackson Ferguson, who has already spent a couple of years impressing at Sandy.

You could mention Wilkes too, who doesn’t play as a traditional tall at all times and could theoretically be used down back to free up a rebounding defender. But we’ve all seen that his form down back has been entirely ineffectual and he’s there to do the heavyweight stuff up forward.

So four smalls would seem like more than enough, but again, there’s a plan for a smooth succession in place. Milne and Schneider might only have one or two years left each, but TDL and Terry are both 24 and have experience at the top level and, if they continue to develop will be ready to take over. Likewise Ahmed, but like Lee amongst the talls has the upside of (more) youth.

Losing Cripps was something the club had no control over. It’s disappointing to lose a first round pick in those circumstances, but like BJ he obviously didn’t want to be there. His insistence that he only be traded to the Eagles, despite saying that he was leaving to go back home to WA, was very frustrating and prompted my brother to call him a little [deleted by legal department].

We got picks 41 and 44 for him, so considering the Eagles weren’t going to let Brown go unless they really got something out of it (which they didn’t consider Cripps to be) I was glad we managed to get two picks in the early 40s from them for an uncontracted player that had already moved back to Perth before a deal had been done.

St Kilda goes into the draft with picks 25, 26, 41, 44, and 77. There’s also the delisted players’ free agency period upon us, and the we might yet make a play for Tom Gillies from the Cats to fill that spot in defence. The failure to get Brown wasn’tgoing to make or break the fortunes of a 2013 premiership tilt – we should acknowledge that was unlikely either way. For now, we look to the strategic selections of Lee and Hickey, and further to the national draft, for the faces that we hope will take over the reigns of a competitive St Kilda side in the coming years.

2012 St Kilda player reviews – part 4 of 4

The final part of our 2012 player reviews, this covers from Jay Lever to Warwick Andreoli, i.e. mostly guys that haven’t done too much just yet (mostly).

36 – Jay Lever
Earmarked from the outset to play with Sandy for the season, another athletic tall who would only have come into the side if Big Ben, Big Rhys, Kosi and Blake all went down. Zebras-listed Michael Sikora was very impressive and for a while yet Jay is well near the back of the talls’ queue.

37 – Beau Wilkes
He looks, plays and celebrates goals like a player from the 90s. Didn’t have anyone really convinced that he could be really handy until several games later in which he kicked multiple goals. Seems to be really popular around the club and I’ve really warmed to him as a fan/internet hero.

38 – Sam Dunell
A mature-age rookie who was elevated later in the season and was really impressive. Was probably unlucky to not play more games considering, but he took his chances and showed real class when he got his hands on the ball. I’d expect him to be elevated to the senior list.

39 – Cameron Shenton
Was a feature of the pre-season but was patchy for Sandringham. Not sure if he’ll make it to 2013, but it’s often hard to tell with rookies. Some real grunt about him but he needs to get more involved and his disposal can be wayward.

40 – Jordan Staley
Was neither here nor there for Sandy this year but has a good build. Other rookies have made a much better impression though.

41 – Darren Minchington
Really good start to the season for the midfielder who can kick a goal, buthe broke down with a hip injury. If he continues to develop he might be a chance to have a good crack at the top level.

42 – Daniel Archer
Will probably be remembered as having the worst first and last kicks of a career by a player for some time. His form didn’t really warrant elevation later in the season and enough players stayed fit to limit the chances for other opportunities and his departure wasn’t a surprise.

43 – Tom Curren
The Arms is a very good chance to be elevated to the senior list after a couple of good seasons for Sandringham. Really hard working midfielder who can kick goals as well, although his disposal would need to improve for him to make a big impact in the AFL.

44 – Stephen Milne
The Tip Rat showed signs of slowing down early in the season before rocketing his way to 56 goals for the year, kicking his 500th career goal along the way. Remains a fan favourite and villain to the rest of the competition. His send off to the Carlton fans on the final siren of the last game of the year said it all.

45 – Jackson Ferguson
Another good season at VFL level by the rookie who will surely get elevated to the senior list. Really good size with some good pace, another mid-to-tall defender who is set to leapfrog his way up the queue.

46 – Warwick Andreoli
His second season at VFL level was OK but I don’t think he has what it takes to make it at AFL level. His time is probably up.

The beginning of the end of 2012

Round 21, 2012
Geelong Cats 5.3,  11.9,  11.13,  18.15 (123)
St Kilda 3.2,  6.5,  9.12,  11.15 (81)
Crowd: 38,169 at Etihad Stadium, Friday, 17th August at 7.50pm

With only two rounds left it looks like our season will end in early September in front of a disappointing crowd at the Concrete Dome.

No, it’s not 2011 – for one thing, even though the Saints will finish lower on the ladder the club and us supporters will have actually enjoyed and taken something out of this season – but only if the Blues have something to play for will we have a chance of matching the 39,000 that bothered showing up to last year’s Elimination Final in this year’s corresponding closer. It’s going to be a further cry from the 99,251, 100,016 and 93,853 that were on hand to witness the 2009 and 2010 Grand Finals; this is a new era that we’re all upbeat about but it’s not an easy ride on the way down.

I wasn’t expecting to win on Friday night but I thought the Saints would be a sneaky chance if the game turned into a shoot-out, which it could well have if not for the customary inaccurate kicking. The Saints at one point went from 6.2 to 7.9, and from that 6.2 would finish with 11.15. Though the margin was 42 points the game could have been much different if there was some serious scoreboard pressure put on the Cats in the third quarter.

Instead, on display was a mix of the typical yips in front of goal that’s dogged the club this year and a lack of forward structure; Milne missed two difficult shots because he was the only one who bothered to take the game on and had no one in between him and the goals before he realised it was too late, but Cripps and The Knife kicked 0.2 each for no particularly good reason (although if I’d been professional and written this immediately after the game I might have said “except for The Knife’s potentially collapsed lung”. Fortunately the scans have shown no structural damage and he lives to tear a hamstring another week.).

Geelong admittedly weren’t immune from said yips; 6.6 in the second quarter and a 34-point lead at half-time could easily have been eight or nine goals and a definitive buffer. But yet again the Saints were again their own worst enemy when they were in control and blundered their way to 3.7 in the third quarter as the Cats could only manage 0.4.

It was just my dear cousin Evan and I at the game. We headed to the standing room behind the St Kilda cheer squad as I tend to do at away games at Corporate Stadium (and I was calling the shots for the two of us, thanks very much). Standing room is a far cry from the more refined atmosphere of Aisle 29 on Level 2 (and anywhere else, really); sounds are amplified and dramatised in the more closed space and there’s no shortage of drunk biased fools specialising in all sorts of ignorance and homophobia.

None of those were in short supply but the over-umpiring was so contemptible early on that there was a mutual groan when yet another 50-metre penalty was awarded to Jarryn Geary. Several of those were awarded throughout the game and there was some serious faffin’ throughout on the umpires’ part and fans of both sides were again bemused when Mitch Duncan’s high mark in front of goal wasn’t paid because the Tomahawk was apparently handled illegally by Sammy Fish.

The occasional universal agreement aside, even a year ago the rivalry between fans of these two sides might have been more intense but the Cats have well and truly won out in this one. Chapman was more right than we’d ever thought he’d be (how fitting it was he’d kick a late goal) and nearly two full seasons after we thought the Cats were done and dusted they’re the reigning premiers, have blooded some genuinely good kids and are capable of taking anyone all the way come September 2012.

St Kilda has introduced some youth to great effect this year too under Swat, but obviously he didn’t quite have the same record of success and the same number of games under kids’ belts to inherit. Another week of Minimum Siposs after the coaching staff’s disregard for his, Milera and Newnes’ performances for Sandy the previous week meant that by the time the J-Pod wheeled around on his left in the pocket to seal the deal late in the game this match was, in the long run, about the development of Simpkin, The Knife, Saad, Cripps, McEvoy, Armo, Geary and Steven rather than achieving success with the likes of the Tip Rat, Sammy Fish, BJ, Dal and so on.

The Knife was Swat’s OBLIGATORY LATE INCLUSION, replacing Jason Blake who perhaps has now been named in selection for the final time. Without Roo the forward line treble of big men consisted of Rhys, Big Beau, coming off a brilliant five-goal performance – admittedly against slop – and The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind.

As opposed to the brief moments in the season when we actually had Roo, Kosi and Rhys out on the same field (injuries have created parallels with the Roo, Kosi and Hamill trifecta struggling to take the field with the G-Train in the 2004-06 era) there was absolutely no synergy with the three here. Beau was going to have far more attention put on him than against the Dees and he worked hard to push into space but ultimately wasn’t quick enough. Such was Geelong’s pressure across all parts of the ground (the Cats won the tackles count 72-50) that ball movement out of defence particularly simply wasn’t quick or precise enough (the Cats got the ball inside 50 54 times compared to 43 for the Saints) and didn’t give an obviously underdone Rhys the chance to run off his opponent into space and utilise his physique. Instead, he and Wilkes were bombed by Sherrins constantly and if it weren’t for the umpiring and Geelong’s inaccuracy as I said this game could well and truly have been over by half-time. It was up to Milne and Saad to keep things ticking over and they held up their own end handsomely, finishing with 7.3 between them.

At the major break Kosi had had exactly 0 possessions, and his handball early in the third as part of the slightly comical passage of play that netted Milne the first goal of the quarter would be the only time he’d worry the disposals column before he was subbed out. I don’t know how many times he can have the flu in one season but he sadly looked too far behind the game. Delivery up forward, as I said, was often rushed and without purpose but he wasn’t crashing the packs to his usual effect and his ability to follow up contests and opponents seemed shot. If Martin Blake’s sources are right Kosi’s on a lot of coin and his contract favours him for another season if he wants it. Everyone around the club seems to love him and even he’s used as a depth player could help out Sammy Hamill in a mentoring role for guys like Rhys and Siposs.

Up the other end, the Tomahawk joined Buddy, Big Cox, Jack Riewoldt, Kurt Tippett and Drew Petrie as taller focal points to give the Saints’ defence grief in season 2012. Those six players have kicked a combined 33.12 against the Saints this year and Friday night again exposed St Kilda’s lack of a genuine good-sized key defender. Gwilt was given the task but simply isn’t that kind of player (he was torn between that and his usual role, finishing with a clear team-high six rebounds from the defensive 50), Gilbert was playing his clumsy forward line role in the absence of an effective tall, Fisher and Dempster aren’t really one-on-one defenders and Head Simpkin is simply a little undersized.

That said, the Cats’ disposal was much more purposeful going forward; not only were they under less pressure, with the St Kilda full-ground defence missing for most of the night, but the execution was good, too. That means players like Fisher and Dempster particularly are taken out of the game and the pressure is really put on the suspect defence by way of one-on-one contests.

Just before the bounce Rich posed me the all-important question, “Who’s Tom’s Favourite Hair tonight?”. With My Favourite Hair in the AFL out for hopefully the rest of the season – what’s the point in risking bringing him back now in his situation? – it was Jack Steven with his similarly 1930s-inspired style (his working-class shaved back and sides vs. Roo’s Hitler Youth) that saw him bestowed the honour of Acting My Favourite Hair for the night (Sharrod Wellingham is my #2 hair in the competition for those of you playing at home). I almost had to begin the search for a Deputy Vice-My Favourite Hair when Jack tried to replicate Hamill’s effort in the dying seconds of Round 17, 2002 early on, but he eventually came good to maintain the reigns.

Guys like he, Armo and Geary were really going to have to step up and help out Lenny and BJ who were both great – BJ particularly in a more typical utility role – and he and Armo were quite serviceable but it looks like both are getting tired towards the end of a year in which for the first time they’ve been playing good, consistent footy from Round 1. Geary started well yet again, importantly against quality opposition, and he may have quietened as the the last two matches have gone on but his improvement really has been a highlight of this season.

Both Lenny and BJ really proved their worth to the side at times when that may have been questioned for different reasons. Lenny solely because of his age and whether or not his body can hold up but his comeback from a second knee reconstruction at the age of 32 has been remarkable. Not until Jack and Armo (and to an extent, Big Ben) can lift their output another notch and maintain that kind form for an entire season will the midfield really be ready to cope without Lenny, and his output alone warrants at least one more season. BJ, on the other hand, might be the only one of the senior core to still be around at the next serious flag tilt and his hard work in different parts of the ground was one of the few reasons that the Saints were still in touch at all come the third quarter. There have been questions about his form and whether or not the potential for a draft bonanza warrants him being around, but those aside it was the kind of match that befitted a captain, and if he doesn’t set sail for GWS in the coming months it may have been a pointer to his future at Moorabbin/Seaford/Frankston.

Looking at the less storied end of the “Do we need ’em?” list, Jason Gram worked hard for a match-high 31 possessions and showed he’s certainly not done with yet after some questionable performances earlier in the year. CJ wasn’t bought back into the side and Blake was used as Swat’s selection decoy so before the game had started there were further question marks over their value and whether or not the coaching staff saw them as required in a must-win game. It spoke volumes of where this team is headed that Big Rhys was selected ahead of the experience of Blake for such a match.

So it’s certainly not doom and gloom when the next line of players to come in are youngsters who have all shown genuine promise – Siposs, Ledger, Dunell, Newnes and Milera weren’t playing at all – but just to really irritate us the Cats, who have won three premierships in the past five years and so on, had Duncan, Murdoch and Taylor Hunt causing real grief for their opposition throughout the night. For the time being they’re still ahead of us even in this part of the cycle; the experience of greater successes to pass on and a greater depth.

Friday night was simply too much of a task for the Saints, who had to rely on a 32 year-old and a first-year player to kick nearly two-thirds of their goals. With the Dockers winning and Carlton demolishing the Bombers on Saturday the end of this season has begun. It’s a slow march towards it for the Saints this time around, but this season, in retrospect, is all about serving a purpose beyond immediate fortunes.

When you actually HAVE to win

In the words of Krusty the Clown, “…that just kept going.”

I only say that because of Melbourne’s final term blitz well and truly condemned that game to irrelevancy, otherwise I could have been sitting at my desk in RWB’s Brunswick offices with the feeling that last Saturday saw a side taking a lower rung table to the cleaners and sounding a warning to the rest of the competition.

Instead, it was only a 25-point win, and although the Saints were never really headed shortly after half-time they just don’t seem as ominous coming into this week.

It was great to see Beau Wilkes stringing together two great games against the Demons, but then again it was great to see him string together one great game at all after I said to my brother two weeks ago he’d played his last game. Five goals, some great marks and a huge presence across the ground will be required this week again because My Favourite Hair in the AFL will be missing with a knee injury.

Let’s face it though, Melbourne right now are woeful. I feel awful for their supporters who have had to put up with the last half-decade (and counting) of slop and it seemed a classically St Kilda-eque thing for someone like Big Beau Wilkes to decide to turn things on against them. He almost certainly won’t get the same kind of freedom against guys like Scarlett, Taylor and Mackie, but even when he seems to be a bit behind things he’s still difficult to match up on. If he’s in similar form tomorrow night he’ll cause some problems at the very least.

As Nick sits out at least one week the Cats will have to make do without their own forward spearhead, with Tomahawk crashing out early last week against the Good Type of Coast (watch me eat that in five years’ time). It means those older heads at both ends who come across as lumberers (to varying degrees) in Kosi and the J-Pod will have to pick up the slack in the big man department, but I dare say this game could be quite entertaining as Milne, Saad, Cripps and maybe Milera and Siposs (depending on how harsh you want to be with selection) go head-t0-head against Christensen, Johnson, Stokes and Motlop – both backed by great midfields – in a fast-paced shoot-out.

The Cats are entertaining as it is anyway, and unless the Saints pull out a complete performance like they did against the Swans in Round 9 or the Bombers more recently chances are we’re looking at a lot of goals being kicked under Concrete Dome roof.

Hayes, Dal Santo, Montagna, Goddard, Steven and Armitage take on Selwood, Bartel, Enright, Wojcinski with Taylor Hunt, Guthrie and Duncan thrown in too. The Cats rarely have games where they’re truly off and their versatility is sensational so the St Kilda mids will need to hope Big Ben gives them a shot at first use of the footy and then use it wisely going forward, not to mention kick a few goals themselves.

As opposed to the last four seasons, in which we knew exactly when the final siren sounded that another season was over, this year probably won’t have the same kind of emphatic end point.

As the last two weeks (and nearly six full seasons) have shown, the Cats are all class don’t go away. They’ll go in favourites tomorrow night, and should they salute then St Kilda’s season will more than likely end gradually and without any single dramatic point in time, as only one of Freo and the Bombers need to get over the line in a couple of their games.

Should the Saints win, however, they will have far more control over the season. Either way, it’s week-by-week from here.

Beau Wilkes, come on dowwnnnn!

If it weren’t for a brilliant second half from Beau Wilkes, then this result may not have been straightforward at all. This game was built up as a routine affair, and midway through the first term it looked like it was a going to be a procession. The Saints got off to a blistering start, dominating possession and moving the ball swiftly.

A knee injury to Riewoldt however, threw a big spanner in the works, and come half time Melbourne had gotten a foothold in the game. That foothold was getting stronger in the third term when the Dees got the first goal early on. Things were not looking good at all for St Kilda: Riewoldt had been subbed-off at quarter-time, and from that point onwards the Saints were struggling to get the ball forward with any purpose or consistency.

Enter Beau Wilkes. Wilkes kicked three goals for the term, courtesy of some classical forward pack marking. He finished with five for the day, and for probably the first time in his AFL career was the pivotal player in the game.

This game really had the intensity of a NAB Cup game at times. The mesely crowd added to that feeling. Watching the game on television kind of felt akin to keeping an eye on the kids (not that I have any) – glancing across at the game to make sure nothing too dangerous happened.