David Misson Posts

Avoid disappointment – get ready to laugh now

Under Ross the ex-Boss we grew accustomed to winning interstate; obviously for much of 2009 and 2010 the Saints were winning anywhere anyway.

So it meant a period of time (albeit brief, in the scheme of things) where we lived the dream of strong, cohesive performances interstate. The comedy hour displays that were a firm fixture in their own right- up until the players got out of the clown car to take on the struggling West Coast late in 2008 with a finals spot on the line – were shoved into Room 101. The hope was they’d stay there, with a premiership tempering any pain we would feel after slapstick efforts for another decade at least, in Victoria or interstate.

Those interstate performances gave us some memorable moments of skill, luck and controversy (most of those involving Fremantle), just to remind us all that at least if the Saints aren’t winning premierships, they’ll be providing genuine flashes of skill in vain, or be in the news for just about everything else.

But we enter a new era on Sunday, and for however many new eras this club should have had since 1991 where the laughing stock shackles were to be broken off once and for all (or at least for another few decades), there’ll be almost certainly teething problems as the players adapt to a new coach and game plan and the club adapts to new personnel. Comedy hour might well be making a triumphant return.

Playing Port Adelaide in front of a few fans and more tarpaulin could be just as much of a psychological challenge as playing in front of a packed house wearing purple at Subiaco/Corporate Name Stadium. The locals are just as unwelcoming, the tarpaulin indifferent to any of your heroic feats at the home of the enemy. Also, you’re St Kilda, and when things aren’t expected to go well in general they’re expected to go much worse interstate.

All of that said, St Kilda should win. Port had a pretty decent pre-season and the Saints didn’t as far as on-field performances went, but we all saw what happened at the MCG between Carlton and Richmond; if the Saints are good enough, they’ll switch on when the real stuff begins.

Their best is certainly better than this bottomed-out Port side, but with new personnel and a new game plan it might not click straight away. There’s a number of inexperienced or new faces in the line-up, with Ledger and Stanley certain starters and Siposs, Cripps and new boys Milera and Wilkes named on the extended bench. It probably won’t end up that way, but that’s potentially six players with 43 games’ experience between them.

Already injuries have come calling (losing Misson might be proving costly already), with Schneider and Gram to miss. Schneider’s absence opens the door for Milera to roam around half-forward – although I’d assume he’d be used as the sub if selected – or perhaps even Siposs after playing higher up the ground through the pre-season (although apparently his dad has said he’ll be playing for Sandy. Via Facebook of course, or so the story goes).

With development the order of the year, I suspect Cripps is only a slim chance to reprise his 2011 role of pinch-hitting forward (which he did with great effect) should he be selected, in favour of his more natural role of running through the middle from half-back.

A sunny day of 24 degrees with only light winds is forecast for Adelaide on Sunday, and it’s perfect conditions to be able to judge Stanley’s performance accurately. He needs to hold on to those 50/50 marks that he spills too often and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he and Kosi goes. The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind moved incredibly well by his standards through the pre-season, and aside from the newer players selected we’ll have our eyes firmly on how he and fellow veteran Lenny perform.

Wilkes’ potential inclusion would probably see him played as a backman, although I’d probably prefer Blake if that was the case – the alternative is a far too tall forward line, regardless of how much more suited he is down there (although some would probably prefer him up forward to Rhys). The Port forward line could be rather tall at times (Butcher, Schultz and Westhoff) so another big body will be probably be needed, particularly with no Simpkin – the closest thing to a natural full-back.

With the defence looking shaky anyway, the midfield will need to reverse their leaky form of 2011. I’d personally take Hayes, Dal, BJ, Joey, Steven, CJ and Ledger over Cassisi, Ebert, McCarthy, Boak, Pearce and Rodan (a monty to give us grief if selected) but McEvoy, Kosi and Stanley will have to do the right thing by them too, not to mention that Lenny hasn’t played for 51 weeks. This is where the class of the Saints’ top players will need to really come through – as unhealthy the reliance is on the top several, that’s where this game will probably be won. Port will be introducing several new players themselves so that could be two teams out there on Sunday trying to find their way around things and putting on a good stage show.

As much as I like to laugh, I’m hoping the Saints keep as filled with resolve and hopes for the future rather than fodder for Monday’s weekend wrap-up. Either way, CJ will be playing, so there’ll be some character-based comedy on show at the very least.

In here the world begins

Disappointingly, we lost, and all credit to the Crows, who harassed and pressured us into turning the ball over and handballing too much. They probably wanted the win more than we did. However, as Rooey said when he walked into the rooms after the game, ‘this is the weirdest feeling I’ve had after a loss. I’m not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved that the real stuff is finally here.’ It was a feeling most of us seemed to share.

David Misson, The Bubble

So the Head of Conditioning wrote in his memoirs of the incredible 2010 season’s final-round loss to the Crows.

Of course, in 2010 Round 22 was the final round of the season. This week sees the Saints taking on fifth-placed Carlton in Round 24, and that’s not a term being used to try to get a Semi-Final into perspective.

Perhaps a similar feeling to last year will be had by the St Kilda coaches and players after this Saturday night’s match. The Blues are widely-tipped to win with the only thing at stake being St Kilda playing for a home final, the Swans’ performance against the Lions permitting. It’s a big reward, but as Ross the Boss says, “good teams win interstate”. They’ll need to win wherever they play the following week.

Regardless of the result this week, the players will surely be relieved “the real stuff is finally here” come the final siren. The hype surrounding the club’s premiership chances are nothing compared to this time in each the past two seasons, but the players will be just as determined to prove themselves in the “real stuff” no matter what ladder position they’re starting from.

The club’s supporters will probably be relieved also, if only for the fact the Saints are actually playing in the 2011 finals series. Officially, those worries were extinguished on the weekend but the reality won’t hit until next week when the precariousness of entering in the finals from the bottom half of the eight is staring us all in the face. At the MCG on Saturday night, fans will be wondering what the next weekend’s plans will involve; they’ll be wondering the same thing wherever they are that weekend, too.

Naturally, the players may have their minds on the next match as they run around on Saturday night. Subconsciously at least, they might not want to give away too many tricks or risk injury, depending on the situation of the game. Something bigger is nearing.

Ultimately, our hopes come down to those players on the field, wherever that field may be. “Good teams win interstate”, and if they’re a good team they’ll win interstate if they have to.

A quiet Monday night turns into another press mess

A quiet Monday night on the couch, watching One Week At A Time after On the Couch, ended up being the catalyst for some more 2011 headaches.

“Headaches” from a personal viewpoint, because I really, really do like Ross Lyon, and I really, really do want him to stay at the Saints. I’m sure a huge majority of St Kilda fans would agree with me.

About a month ago I said as much after The Age ran Caroline Wilson’s piece, “St Kilda moves to keep Lyon”, which quoted chief executive Michael Nettlefold as saying the board wanted Ross the Boss at the Saints beyond his current contract, expiring at the end of 2012.

Chris Pelchen had just been signed up after his mid-season exit from Hawthorn to help out with list, and Caro had reported that Ross was seeking approval of a long-term plan from the board as a condition of re-signing. It seemed the stability the club seemed to be enjoying since the arrival of the Boss was set to continue, with a genuine chance of culture change for the better being entrenched at Moorabbin/Seaford/Frankston.

After his appearance on One Week At A Time on Monday night, Ross, apparently, is a hot chance to be coaching Melbourne next year, and for all the public humiliation the Saints have received for being “the Aints”, traditionally an unstable rabble, now a change of coach is being encouraged, if only for the individual’s sake.

Indeed, today’s sport section in The Age was led by a piece quoting the man who helped choose Ross as St Kilda coach in the first place, Robert Walls, saying as much:

“Walls, who was on the Saints’ coaching sub-committee that helped appoint Lyon in late 2006, said Lyon needed to seriously consider any offer that came from the Demons, who many in the industry feel have a promising playing list but are in need of firm leadership.”

Read more: “He’s Dee Man”, by Jon Pierik and Martin Boulton

Sports journalism obviously isn’t held to the same account as journalism covering general news, politics, and so on. Likewise, though, space needs to be filled daily, and as an employee of The Age, Walls is an easy person to access if a story with quotes from a senior source are needed to piggyback on some hearsay and hype.

Of course, Melbourne, if they haven’t already (see next paragraph), probably will and should approach Lyon if they’re serious about finding the best coach. It’s the nature of the business, as much as I don’t like it as a St Kilda supporter wanting Lyon to stay.

When asked on Monday whether or not the Dees had offered him a five-year contract, Lyon said, “Look, to be honest, that’s the first I’ve heard of it…to sum it up, there was some dialogue that was starting to occur; I changed to ESP, with Craig Kelly and Dan Richardson, and that really just circumvented any discussion and it was really just put on hold.”

Caro’s aforementioned article had the St Kilda board to be talking soon with Lyon’s new management, so Lyon on Monday may or not have been referring to Melbourne, “that’s the first I’ve heard of it” specifically referring a “five-year deal” officially being put forward.

“Certainly on tonight’s show I understand you’re curiosity but I’m certainly not going to posture but I have great faith in ESP to look after me.”

Either way, Lyon at the very least sent a message to the St Kilda board saying he’ll need to have the right conditions at St Kilda for him to be there beyond 2012; he’s not going to be a straightforward lock, but this would go for just about every coach. I’m the one assuming here obviously, but I think that’s the most we can get out of Monday night’s appearance as far as “Ross: the Boss?” goes.

No doubt he’s “absolutely committed to tomorrow’s session, tomorrow’s review and improving our performance”, as he also said on Monday, and he made comment on some of the more immediate issues the club is going to need to work through, namely, the forward structure:

“We recruited heavily for that third tall: Tommy Lynch, obviously Ryan Gamble, who’s not quite a legitimate third tall, and Paul Cahill and Rhys Stanley…but the really exciting one, Tommy Walsh, kicked six goals on the weekend and he’s right on track. He’s a bit frustrated he hasn’t been playing, but in the short term and longer future we see him as a power forward and an explosive athlete and we think we’ve got one there and at the right time he’ll come in.”

As I said in the aftermath of Sunday’s ugly loss, Tommy Walsh hype will reach unprecedented levels this week. The forecast has been softened after David Misson revealed in his weekly “Tuesday Check-up” spot yesterday that all of Roo, Blake, Dempster, Kosi and Zac are OK to play this Saturday night. In a must-win game, selection will probably continue to be conservative for as long as finals are a possibility.

St Kilda’s other recent blonde forward hype-machine, Rhys Stanley, was asked about towards the end of the show, with Ross highlighting his athleticism and certainly giving the impression he will stay on the list. At 202cm, and with the introduction of the substitute rule and Michael Gardiner’s career almost certainly over, the need for a mobile ruckman/forward at St Kilda can not be ignored.

A list clean-out is expected over the coming months, and Stanley has been earmarked by some supporters as one who will find himself in the “delisted” category. After only a handful of games a season ruined by injury, I think he’s certainly worth keeping.

For all of the more immediate challenges the club and its supporters are facing, whether Ross will stay or not is a “story” that will be pedaled in the press and around forums until something is signed.

There hasn’t been much quiet at St Kilda this year. Monday nights are no exception.

The state of St Kilda’s youth

After we had a look at the eight 2011 debutants over the Round 14 bye weekend, guest writer Kieran Francis follows up with his thoughts on the entire band of St Kilda’s youth. This is an edited version of his piece, originally posted on his St Kilda FC 2011 blog. You can follow him on Twitter @kieran_francis.

Not long after the final siren sounded in the 2010 Grand Final Replay, media “experts” started commentating that the Saints may have missed their chance for a flag, and the list was going to be in a real shambles in a few years’ time.

Then there was an article from The Age‘s Michael Gleeson a week ago which quoted anonymous list managers saying that the Saints list is a “dog’s breakfast” and needed radical surgery.

Whilst I don’t think the summary by the list experts is 100% correct, we need to look at the fact that what some of what they are saying is correct and there are going to be some wholesale list changes over the next few years.

This article will feature a section on each St Kilda player under the age of 22. Tommy Walsh will be featured as a “youth” despite being out of the age criteria; I believe that his current stage of development is behing a 22 year-old.

It will chronicle the development the youth players have made, their form this year and their chance of staying on the list for next year. Other than retirements, this is where most of the list turnover will come from.

Warrick Andreoli
This talented winger from WA was selected at Pick 41 in the 2011 Rookie Draft. His biography on the St Kilda website states, “he is a speedy winger who needs to work on his endurance”.

Andreoli hasn’t set the world on fire down at Sandringham. He has played six games for Sandringham seniors and nine for the reserves. In only one of his senior games has he featured in the best players.

Question marks still hang over the endurance of Andreoli and I doubt very much whether he will be on the list next season. I don’t think he has done enough this season to show that he could be part of a future St Kilda line-up.

Daniel Archer
Archer was selected at Pick 36 in the 2010 Rookie Draft. He is a power forward who has had stints in the ruck this season.

After impressing in pre-season, Archer was promoted off the rookie list and selected for his first senior game against Richmond in Round 2 this year.

He only gathered eight touches on debut and was dropped back to Sandringham straight away.

What concerns me about Archer is his lack of maneuverability and work rate. These are the things that have jumped out at me when I’ve attended Sandringham games this year.

He doesn’t work hard enough when presenting for teammates and pressuring opponents at ground level; a lack of agility and speed is a reason for this.

Unless there is a sharp improvement in his deficiencies in the last few VFL games, I think Pelchen will move Archer on.

His development since his first senior AFL game has stunted. It’s a shame, because his future looked so promising at the start of the year.

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Keep St Kilda Lyon’s den

From The Age today:

ST KILDA will move to re-sign coach Ross Lyon one year early as it embarks on a long-term strategy for the club’s much-scrutinised playing list and football operation.

Saints chief executive Michael Nettlefold confirmed last night that he would meet soon with Lyon’s new manager Craig Kelly, adding: ”We want Ross Lyon to be a part of our future. What we’d like to do is ensure we’ve got Ross beyond 2012.”

Lyon, who moved to Kelly’s Elite Sports Properties stable last week, is believed to have indicated a desire for the club’s executive and board to approve a long-term list strategy before embarking on contract talks.

Read more: “St Kilda moves to keep Lyon” by Caroline Wilson

If only for the pleasure I get from watching him in interviews and press conferences, I’m glad the Saints are already moving to sign up Ross the Boss for beyond 2012. I couldn’t say no to hearing him describe the good things as “Pleasing”, nor to his comically deadpan delivery, no matter the result.

Of course, there are more substantial reasons for wanting to keep him – foremost his great record coaching the Saints. He is arguably the club’s most successful coach behind only the late, great Allan Jeans.

St Kilda has become a different club under Ross. A club’s identity begins with the team on the field, and Ross has put together a strong team with a great work ethic. It’s a team that has obviously tasted much success, bar the ultimate, for a large majority of his reign.

His tenure also coincided with a change of board, and the club has done a great job at different times in recruiting great off-field personnel, such as the highly-revered assistant coaches Stephen Silvagni and Leigh Tudor, fitness and conditioning guru David Misson and, more recently, proven list manager Chris Pelchen. For all the debate about lifestyle conveniences, his time has stretched over the club’s move to elite facilities and resources. He’s been the face of the overhaul.

Re-signing Ross is move towards a more professional, stable St Kilda, a far cry from the revolving door policy past coaches seemed to live by in the “bad old days” – a policy even echoed in the dismissal of Grant Thomas nearly five years ago.

According to Caro, Ross has requested the club approve a “long-term list strategy” before beginning contract talks. It shows he wants to plan and do things properly.

The Saints were lucky to have secured Ross initially, who very nearly became the man who led the club to its second premiership. Keeping him just might mean he will be.