Jamie Cripps Posts

And maybe it wouldn’t be so bad

Round 3, 2014
West Coast Eagles 3.2, 5.4, 8.8, 12.11 (83)
St Kilda 1.5, 6.6, 7.8, 8.10 (58)
Crowd: 36,448 at Patersons Stadium, Saturday, April 5th at 4.40pm WST

Basically I feel like the mood is as if we’ve all taken some Lovan.

Actually, in my case I’ve taken some Oxynorm due to some follow-up surgery stitches, but I think I’d be feeling the same anyway after Saturday night’s positivity-laden loss.

Indeed it had plenty – Luke Dunstan was there doing Luke Dunstan stuff, Eli too, Jack Newnes – and it’s left us with an optimistic spin on things, but it’s also just brought us back to earth gently. The dizzying heights of two wins to open the season have given way to humbler ambitions for now, but as supporters they’re ambitions we feel we can take on with optimism.

In all honesty I went into the weekend expecting to have the floor mopped with us. Yes, we’d won two games from two, but they were against the two teams that finished below us on the ladder last year. West Coast had won two, yes, and against two sides that not many people rated, But they’d smacked them both, including Melbourne, who they beat by 76 points more than we’d beaten them one week previous.

The “House of Pain” is also a thing again, and the punters wielded their ridiculously bloated influence on how people perceive upcoming sports events and had the Saints beyond $13 for the win.

They were right in the end, but as Rich said shortly after the game, this was arguably St Kilda’s best performance of the year. For most of the game they were able to harass, break down and take on an opponent all of a sudden rated in the top handful of the competition.

It started slowly. In fact, I barely got to Rich’s Richmond RWB Headquarters for the bounce, fresh from the night before’s surgery and undersetimating the length from Bridge Road to his apartment. But that was ok, he and Tamar were to welcome me and pizza was there shortly after. It was the kind of game I thought I’d need several-plus beers for, but I had to settle for Coke.

Shuey quickly had two shots at goal against Tom Curren though, and the Coke was seeming a little weak. But slowly they turned the screws around the ground even on the vast expanses of Subiaco/Corporate Name Stadium space was becoming a premium. Geary’s chase on Le Cras was a feature, reprising the pressure he put on Coniglio late in the previous week’s match near goal.

It was apparent pretty quickly that the execution of the footy wasn’t up to scratch, and it was a theme that would run throughout the match and prove costly later on. CJ battled wilfully yet again, but twice going forward in the first quarter butchered good chances.

Two early subs threatened to throw things around for both sides – the luckless pair in Glibert and Le Cras – but as expected the Eagles’ big mean were the most threatening. The Saints couldn’t close the deal going forward and in very St Kilda-playing-interstate fashion the Eagles managed to work their way to Kennedy up the other end. Soon after some more hard work to get things forward came undone, and Darling was allowed to get around two Saints, hoisting it high for Savage to harmlessly float past the contest with his arms vaguely in the air and Sinclair taking the mark in front of goal.

I didn’t even see Gilbert before the shot of him injured on the bench came up. The club’s come out and said it’s severe bruising and soreness, so crucially nothing structural, but then crucially he’s out for 4-6 weeks anyway.

I have reservations about Saints.com.au using words like “phenomenal” to describe Dunstan’s game. Of course he played a great game, and in context you could deservedly throw in a whole bunch of stronger adjectives – after all this is this the best start to a young Saint’s career since…Dean Greig? Brett Knowles? Although those were probably limited to debut games. But “phenomenal” is when a Jimmy Bartel or Steve Johnson kicks three or four goals to with 20-plus possessions in a game in a premiership year. The good news is, Dunstan can’t have done too much more at this point in his career to demonstrate he’ll be as valuable to us as guys like that in the future.

The thing I took most out of the quarter time break, aside from more pizza, was that John Worsfold’s daughter has one of the fantastic modern “yellow peril” replicas. Surely West Coast have the biggest waste of potential when it comes to footy jumper designs. They’ve had great designs in the past which they’ve improved on now, such as the “traditional” away jumper, (notwithstanding the sidepanel details), but their home jumper is absolute custard. One half of the jumper is navy (dark), the other half is yellow/white (light). The useless panels on the back, the inexplicable presence of the white panel on the front…awful. Their training jumpers have long been much worthier of being the clash jumper as opposed to the token white effort.

So it’s hard to outright classify the game as “frustrating” given the context, but there were a number of frustrating moments even through the second quarter, which is where the Saints took some control of the game. BIG RHYS BANDWAGON actually wasn’t too bad, but he undid a lot of good work to slow the Eagles right down and have them static behind the centre circle. A wayward kick went straight to him but he dropped the simple mark, and the Eagles were lucky enough to take it away and end up with a shot at goal.

It took a really good Jimmy Webster effort to foil Kennedy but then once the Saints actually got things forward themselves Curren missed Eli, and whilst Rhys put in two good efforts to lead and mark Maister couldn’t get into the right position closer to goal and there was no one down to help out. Soon after Geary took the intercept mark that Rhys should have taken several minutes before and set up Roo, but Roo’s walk-in was poor and he shanked it. Maister followed it up by again not being able to get into position close to goal to be on the end of a good Savage entry. But things changed soon after that.

Regardless, I think Maister’s had enough chances at AFL level this season in which no one would entirely begrudge the coaching staff for dropping him for at least a week. He’s only kicked one goal from three games, although his primary role is to mostly lead further up from goal, and create either a link or goal kicking option that way. I think the conundrum here (already well acknowledged) is that he works admirably hard to provide that option and get to contests, but he simply won’t mark what he needs to. If anything it feels like the percentage quota he comes into the games with has decreased since last year. Given I don’t think there’s too much improvement left in him, ultimately the selectors will have to say to themselves – ok, do we want someone who we know will get to these contests and provide these options, but won’t take many marks is running at one goal every three games; or, after the weekend, do we give BIG TOMMY LEE a crack? (And the have to say “Big Tommy Lee” in capitals.)

Tom Lee has been given the excuse by the coaches for his quiet VFL form  in the past few weeks that he was behind in the pre-season, and he delivered on the promise that better was coming. Four goals in the VFL isn’t anything to sneeze at, despite some people talking it down in some unnamed forums. I’m not sure what else you want him to do? Ok, you know what? We’re taking the four goals off him. They’re gone. Now what do you want?

It was overshadowed only by Jack Billings’ last quarter theatrics and Jason Holmes’ comical attempt at a kick. I think for the first time since he joined the club CJ isn’t the most unreliable disposer of the ball. There’s a big chance Big Tommy isn’t even physically ready yet, but if he is then it’s worth finding out right now just how much he has in his tank (which has its own questions), how many marks he can hold, and how damaging he can be in front of goal.

There may or may not be an extra dimension to this. It’s BIG RHYS BANDWAGON, and in the last couple of weeks he’s started taking a few more stronger marks around the flanks and providing a valuable link. Without trying to complicate things even more for a hypothetical, even his role is linked somewhat to the ruck stocks of the day, but if he’s able to provide that link more often and more reliably – particularly if you can back in more contested situations – on top of Hickey more effectively floating floating, then Tommy Lee’s underdone tank for now might not be such an issue. He might also be able to impact on the scoreboard a little more.

Naturally, it was My Favourite Hair in the AFL that really sparked St Kilda’s move. Two goals in succession from a really strong mark and then to finish a nice passage featuring Rhys presenting high, and some great delivery from Eli. We’re all getting our rocks off with Eli’s actions in and around goal but his delivery to Roo several times this season has been great, and certain improvement on what he’s been used to for probably most of two of the past three seasons.

Eli was involved in the handball string with CJ that saw Dunstan creeping out the back, which was pleasing because in just his third game he knew exactly where to run probably when Eli got the ball, because by the time CJ found him he was well and truly on his way to goal.

Roo then began a counterattack that finished with Rhys making us all work harder as supporters than necessary and giving to Joey, who finished calmly from the pocket. My Favourite Hair had pushed well up the ground and drifted into the wide shot as the Eagles tried being patient, but he was in the right spot in the right time when they turned it over and he got things moving the other way.

The Eagles replied with Darling taking a huge mark at the top of the square. It became more noticeable as the second half wore on, but the Eagles’ talls allowed them to kick long and high into space or even to a contest in a dangerous spot and there would be Kennedy on the lead or Darling taking a grab. The Saints had to be incredibly precise if there were numbers back, and with Mackenzie wearing Roo like a glove guys like Joey and Dunstan were required to step up and take responsibility for hitting the scoreboard also. The great thing was that they did – Joey’s goal late in the second ensured we would go into the main break in front and that West Coast would lose their first quarter for the season – but more guys were needed to do the same and we only ended up with eight goals by the final siren.

Cruelly, it was Eli who gave us all the biggest hope of all of winning the game, before stalling the momentum by missing an easy goal just 15 metres out to widen the gap to three goals. His goal, however, was a set shot in the pocket and was quality.

Strangely, the goals effectively dried up from that point, just a few minutes into the second half. Dunstan (probably going early but I’m already tempted to add a, “Who else?”) was able to settle and kick an important set shot in the final quarter, but Eli’s miss was followed immediately by an arsey Priddis snap and it was the beginning of the end. I’m certainly not blaming Eli for throwing away potentially match-winning momentum, but if anything I’m highlighting because there simply weren’t enough petrol tickets to begin with. The GWS game a week earlier was a pretty tough affair, and the trip to Perth with a lot of inexperienced guys was going to be a heavy load to carry. And so it was.

The last quarter was rather joyless. The pressure was still there but had dropped, Jamie Cripps was kicking goals FFS, and things almost seemed to reach a point of damage control after having gone into the quarter only a goal down. It wasn’t a true highlight but the fact that the tired Saints kept the Eagles to “only” four goals in the quarter was encouraging in itself.

There are a few things to take out of this game. The loss itself wasn’t overly surprising given the context of where the teams were at heading into the weekend, but certainly for me the positives were much more pronounced than I thought they’d be.

Losing by 25 points was a head start; as I mentioned I gave us no chance whatsoever in the lead up. I’m certainly a cynic, but I’ve enjoyed getting on board the Richo/Eli/Dunstan bandwagon like nothing else in the past few weeks. And what the hell, throw Jack Newnes into there as well for some reason.

But it was the way they went about things, and it went right across the team. As Richo and anyone given media duties has said over the summer and the past couple of months, the focus was to be a competitive team that was tough to play against. And that’s exactly what they’ve done in the past few weeks. Obviously the skill set isn’t there yet and simply won’t be for another year or two at least, but we’ve now seen them bring a really strong style of play and mindset to a game against a more widely fancies side and it’s held up much better nearly everyone thought it would. Watters spoke a lot of big, positive words and I really liked that. I really do think that’s what he wanted this club to become (I’m referring to his “juggernaut” comment) and he wanted to do all the right things to make it happen. But come 2013 there was a disconnect between his words and what the team did on the field and what the team were gearing up to do that season. Yes, he came at an awkward time in terms of scheduling a plan for the short-to-medium term, but Richo is completely on message and has the players doing likewise both on and off the field.

The personnel having an effect is the obvious next point to mention. My Favourite Hair in the AFL is doing all sorts of great things, Armo looks like he’s taken at least half a step up so far this year, Joey’s been really solid, Farren’s close to his great 2009 form. and CJ, for all his faults, is one of the best examples in application on the field and on the training track. Dunstan, Saunders, Newnes, Hickey, Eli, Wright and others are all having varied effects on the game itself but it feels now that there presence has been positive for the team and themselves.

A quick mention to old mate Jamie Cripps: it increasingly looks like he won’t develop into too much more than a quick crumbing forward. Pick 24 in the draft – seriously, what the fark were they thinking? Throw Sam Crocker (such a failed project he doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page) and Tom Ledger on top of that from the 2010 draft. It really is amazing how bad the Ross Lyon-era draft recruiting was – as a supporter it genuinely upsets me how pathetic indeed the recruiters were in that time. As for Cripps, I’m not sure if the Eagles thought they’d get the speedy running back-flanker that we thought, but they certainly didn’t give up pick 24 for him, and that’s after he’d had two years of development. It does say a lot about what a traditionally strong team thought about our first round pick in a Grand Final year – a bit-player worth effectively a third-rounder.

As mentioned before, the weekend’s result was buoyed by the VFL performances of Billings and Lee, with a number of other guys across the ground putting in strong performances. Bruce, Simpkin, Ross, Milera (yes, he still exists); hell, even Jason Holmes looked good in the ruck and finished with 32 hit-outs. All of a sudden, there’s a little more structure to the place.

St Kilda won’t go in as favourites on Sunday, even though after two wins and a promising, honourable loss (there, I said it), they face an Adelaide Crows outfit that hasn’t won a game from three starts. I don’t think it’s just yet time to start declaring us certainties and looking down on the Crows as easybeats/also-rans/etc. Once everyone’s form settles we’re more than likely still going to be at the wrong end of the ladder (that’s ok, drafts are exciting in these eras). But this week I’m trying to make the most of being having reason look forward with some enthusiasm.

Round 1 of NAB Cup not quite as exciting as New Clash Jumper

Remember when people cared about the pre-season cup? And 66,888 of us would go to Waverley to see St Kilda play off for a premiership? And then pack out Docklands eight years later for what was the official beginning of one of the better rivalries of the aughts?

They were good times. But Carlton shoved the integrity of the competition up our collectives soon afterwards and now here we are, with the bemusing match up of Adelaide vs. Port Adelaide (feat. St Kilda).

If you proposed this 10 years ago you would have dismissed it as a ploy from the 22nd Century, when footy jumps the shark and introduces a new format a la Twenty20 cricket. Instead, the 21st Century is still in its infancy and we’ll be watching Cameron Shenton, Sam Siggins and Nathan Blee duke things out, possibly or possibly not all at the same time. Either way, the shortened games will be over before anyone can say “who the fark is that?”. Then we have a couple of weeks of closer-to-regular-length games, during which we ask ourselves, “who the fark is that?”.

Effectively, it’s easier to name the players who aren’t playing than highlight who’s actually in the squad. The following aren’t pulling on what will be the NEW CLASH JUMPER (i.e. the culmination of the evolution of the cross clash design that began in 2011) on Sunday, considering the club hasn’t released a NAB Cup/Training-specific jumper for the first time since 2009: Lenny, Riewoldt, Schneider, Dempster, Fisher, Stanley, Simpkin, Markworth, White, Pierce (a lot of leadership missing from this one), or Minchington. Basically, everyone else is. As in, everyone. Players such as Lever, Staley and Webster will try and replicate the 1996 Ansett Cup heroics of Andrew McLean, Jason Traianidis and Jamie Elliott, starting off with a 1996 Lightning Premiership kinda thing.

Not the new clash jumper

On the topic of jumpers, my head burst this morning when I read that the club is offering supporters the chance to design the NAB Cup/pre-season training jumpers for 2014*. I know what I’ll be doing for the next four weeks – see my poorly slapped together first design (there’ll be more) on Paintbrush (I have a Mac but am rubbish with Photoshop).

[Edit: A Google images search for “St Kilda logo” yields a very similar design from BigFooty user pie_machine in this thread – which, a quick look at will show you, I quote and reply to immediately. As I say in the post, I’d already spoken about that kind of design before, so before anyone says I’ve stolen the idea from pie_machine, I’d actually stolen it from the 2009 black training jumper a long time ago.]

*Disclaimer: Echoing the Butterss Board’s alleged poll rigging several years ago, “St Kilda Football Club reserves the right to alter winning design to suit corporate and brand requirements”.

Back to the actual (sort of) footy: the Saints are the third wheel in this faux-Showdown and so play their games back-to-back straight off to get them out of the way. The Crows are up first and freak knows what kind of shape they’ll be in, Port likewise. Everyone’s been training the house down, everyone’s fit and everyone including Kosi is looking incredibly toned. I’m looking to sit back and enjoy watching some kids get some sort of game time in a St Kilda jumper.

We all got excited about Jack Newnes last week and so Saintsational members everywhere, myself included, will be keen to see if he can continue what seems to have been an incredibly strong pre-season from him. Perhaps a smokey for captain in the future (Rich: I’m not sure if he’ll get there in time for the 2017 premiership. Hickey might throw my current list out over time though, which has Big Ben at 1, Armo at 2 and

Josh Saunders seem to have been the most hyped of the 2012 draftees and he showed good signs in the number 35 after Cripps POQ’d. With Lenny and Joey out it gives a chance for guys like Saunders, Seb Ross, Armo, Jack Steven, Ledger and Tom Curren to get used to working together and sort things out on their own, except for the times they’re under the watchful eye of Clint Jones.

The hardarse this club needs, Nathan Wright, played like a kid amongst men last week, but what do you expect when he’s a kid playing amongst men? He showed some signs but everyone shows signs at this time of year and at this time of their career. For our anxieties’ sakes, let’s just hope he shows enough to make us feel, for the time being anyway, that our first pick in the draft as well-spent. Actually when I think about it, Seb Ross, Newnes and my favourite player Arryn Siposs all have this over-confidence this club has lacked since 1873, so Wright is yet another necessary acquisition.

Tom Hickey’s not quite a kid and will probably be playing Round 1 if fit, but he’s possibly the one I’m most keen on watching after last weekend’s intra-club match. St Kilda’s own Stephen Merchant had a good presence in aerial contests and, most importantly, was strong in the ruck against the slightly more seasoned Big Ben. It’s only the NAB Cup but it’s a small step towards making sure pick 13 was worth it.

As always, my favourite player Arryn Siposs will have most of my attention, aside from the NEW CLASH JUMPER.

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 3 of 4

In number order, this one from Sean Dempster to Jamie Cripps:

24 – Sean Dempster
Arguably should have won the Trevor Barker Award but will have to settle for an extremely respectable third finish for the second consecutive season. Didn’t simply improve on last year’s performance but became a more dynamic player, backing himself to take marks in defence – his best attribute in 2012 – and rebound with more purpose. All-Australian selection was a fitting reward and it would be sensational if he could back it up in 2013.

25 – Sam Fisher
I was going to say “his output was down on last year” but last year he won his second Trevor Barker Award so he might be a bit of a victim of his own high standards. All that said, his output was down on last year but he was always reliable. I don’t think he’s quite captaincy material, assuming the mantle is passed on for 2013, but he’s still clearly the defensive general.

26 – Nick Dal Santo
It was another pretty good year from Nicky Dal. His stats were down but his return of 17 goals was a career high; like Armo is reflected the change in offensive mindset that Swat brought to the team. Talked up as trade bait during the year but Swat has demonstrated he’s keen on keeping this team competitive, which means a balance of the top echelon of players at the club like Nicky Dal and developing youth.

27 – Jason Blake
Went from whipping boy to admired workhorse at some point in his career, I think. I’m not exactly sure when that was or if that even happened. Either way, I think he’s done. Was strangely named in the team for the final game of the season before Swat played his usual selection games; perhaps he’s required to maintain the balance of senior players and youth development, even if it’s just his presence around the club.

28 – Rhys Stanley
My Second Favourite Player was labelled as “arguably” “the most important player” structurally by Swat. It makes sense, as strange as it sounds applying to a kid who still looks quite raw and had barely played 20 games at that point. Appropriately fair-haired for a Saint billed as the next Messiah, like My Favourite Player he could be anything. First things first, though – he’s got to stay fit. Hopefully he can iron out the hamstring issues over the pre-season.

29 – Jimmy Webster
The Neck was earmarked for a season at Sandringham. Wasn’t a star at VFL level in 2012 but it’s very, very early to call things either way.

30 – Brett Peake
A Gentleman’s Agreement said he was gone someway through the year and Peakey decided to take a trip to Bali in the late part of the season before returning for the VFL Elimination Final. I actually thought he might factor in this side a little more after his 2011 season in which he was one of the few players that brought speed and good spread to the side but Swat thought otherwise (and obviously I’ll defer to Swat on that one, thanks very much).

31 – Tom Simpkin
Head was sensational this year and has quickly become a fan favourite. Probably a shame he’s not two or three centimetres taller because he’d be even handier if he could slot into a genuine full back’s role a bit more naturally. His attack at the contest is right up there in the time and I have a sneaking suspicion he might give Big Ben a bit of competition for the title of 2017 premiership captain.

32 – Terry Milera
Instant cult hero, although dropped off the radar later in the season before finishing with a flurry. He’s already 24 but there I hope there’s a long partnership between him and Ahmed up forward. They were key components in the far more entertaining and offensive style of play Swat brought to the side. Terry didn’t kick as many goals as Ahmed but he pushed harder and further up the ground for his kicks.

33 – James Gwilt
Understandably struggled a bit coming back from a knee reconstruction (he’s not Lenny). His kicking wasn’t quite as penetrating and he didn’t find as much of the ball until the final game against, which would have given him a lot of confidence going into the off-season. He was often played as a full back on some of the bigger forwards, which was tough for him so hopefully the recruiters can do the right thing by him and he’s able to play his natural game in 2013.

34 – Dean Polo
Surprisingly (sort of) brought into the side against Collingwood after I thought he was truly done and dusted but it only delayed the inevitable. Simply wasn’t dynamic enough to quite make it at AFL level, but I dare say he was recruited as a depth player in the first place. I don’t think Swat would have ever picked him up in the first place.

35 – Jamie Cripps
After spending most of his first year as a rather effective pinch-hitting forward he was tried off half-back, which was where he played his best under 18s footy. However, it might be the stage of his career that he’s at or perhaps his slender frame, but he was always more effective when playing in attack. It’ll be really interesting to see how he develops not just in 2013, but well beyond that.

For a sunny day in the future

Round 23, 2012
Carlton 4.5, 7.7, 10.15, 12.19 (91)
St Kilda 4.1, 8.4, 10.6, 16.10 (106)
Crowd: 31,939 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, September 2nd at 1.10pm

It’s hard to separate writing about this game and reflecting upon the season as whole.

In a number of ways it really summed up the season. Lots of scoring shots from both sides, heavy youth involvement and wavering form throughout the game. This time, though, the Saints would win a close one.

It was the first time the Saints were playing in 2012 without the mathematical possibility of playing finals for a fifth straight season, and so already it was time to think where this club had gone and what it had done over the past six months.

Carlton had experienced a shocking week and the proud club didn’t hesitate in announcing the end of Ratten’s tenure after their loss to the Gold Coast counted them out for the year.

What it meant for this game was that the players would be looking to send out Ratts on a winning note. Thus, Andrew Walker ended up topless by the first bounce as a bit of push and shove that he started with the Tiprat (which prompted Rhys Stanley to awkwardly try and throw around his weight). The tussle sparked a series of spotfires throughout the game as the Blues tried to rally for their coach. No doubt they were feeling a little guilty after dropping their season spectacularly so they were keen to finish with a bang.

The Walker vs. Milne battle led to the Carlton cheersquad covering themselves in all sorts of glory, which continually wheeled out the old rape-themed favourites throughout the game in baiting Milne. Walker a great job on him, but the Tiprat would be the one to put the Saints in front late and give it right back to the crowd after the siren.

Aside from that and the other series of small spats that broke out the theme of the day was youth. The Blues went into the game with two guys playing their first game, Rhys O’Keeffe playing his third and the very impressive Tom Bell playing his seventh. Testament to the club’s development this season, the Saints had nine players who had played 20 or less games taking the field.

Passages of play are filling up with the names of lesser lights and youngsters. A Hayes one-two with Steven found Cripps, who took a strong mark. Armo, in a return to his better form of the first half of the year, started a run of play from half-back, his kick finding Saad who battled with Yarran, and finishing the passage with a great goal from the 50-metre arc.

My Favourite Player Siposs showed glimpses of being a true utility to take over from BJ, whether or not the latter leaves at the end of the season. He played from half-back for much of the game with the side taking advantage of his long, raking kicks to set up play and take the kick-outs; he also set up Wilkes for his first with a lovely kick out of the middle. After taking a couple of strong contested marks high up on the wings early he went into a contest probably for the first time in his AFL career with the intent of spoiling. He’s learning a lot very quickly and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the club he’s supported his whole life.

Up forward, it was another game with the focus on guys like Rhys, Big Beau, Saad and Milera. Rhys finally got involved when it really counted, kicking a huge set-shot goal to give the Saints some breathing space in the final minutes. He pushed hard up the ground throughout the game but his disposal at times was a little wayward, the most glaring occasion a handpass to Gram on the forward flank that put him under all sorts of pressure when there really should have been a chance to set up a scoring shot. He stretched out his groin before he kicked that goal so perhaps he was feeling a little underdone still after playing a couple of games over a few months. Freak knows what state it’s in after he actually kicked the ball 55-60 metres. Hopefully he can get that and his hamstring right over the off-season.

Beau again worked really, really hard for a return of 2.2. It could have been more had he not lost the ball in the sun twice in the first quarter but he took some really strong grabs – over White in the second quarter particuarly – and gave a contest every time he wasn’t the victim of shoddy stadium design. Fifteen goals for the season from 10 matches isn’t bad, especially when he found himself kicking multiple goals more often as the season went on. I’ve grown to like him the more he’s played and I hope he’s kept. That Swat has come out and said Kosi is a “required player” I dare say means he’s still a few good performances off finding himself any higher in the pecking order, particularly as Rhys and My Favourite Player continue their development in 2013.

Milera and Saad reprised their exciting tag team performances of the season and were part of the brilliant coast-to-coast effort that brought the first goal of the game. Terry finished it off, keeping his composure after three bounces, and ended with three first-half goal. Saad sealed the game once and for all and I felt he had a bit more of a presence in the general play throughout the game than Terry (certainly more than Milne). Both have proved to be great pick ups and if they can both start to string together consecutive good games the side will look a lot more dangerous overall.

Helping them out were Armo and Jack, who kicked two goals each. Armo also collected 25 touches whilst Jack kicked two final quarter goals. it was a fitting end to a season where despite a slight dip in form in the last month or two both took another step forward overall in their careers. With Rhys relatively quiet and no My Favourite Hair or The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind, it was imperative that the midfielders also took responsibility to contribute to the scoreboard and round out a season in which this had become a welcome addition to the team’s dynamic.

Jason Gram’s two goals, then, were highlights for the team and him personally, punctuating possibly his best game of the season. A 65-metre Jason Gram special yielded his first major soon after he started that first goal off with a massive torpedo from a kick-out, and he started the second half in a similar fashion. Many – including myself – had questioned his worth at the start of the season, as Jason Gram special after Jason Gram special had everyone ducking for cover in case a rogue Sherrin went their way, but he’s restored a lot of his respect as the season’s gone on, finding the ball more often and using it much better. It seemed on Sunday particularly he had taken the pressure off himself a little and allowed himself to play his more natural game.

How great was it to see Sean Dempster as captain? Another brilliant season for someone that has been written off a few times over the years and he could well go ahead and win the Trevor Barker Award. Some strong marks and a great kick forward to set up BJ for a goal early really topped off a day that was reward for his efforts this year, and they also reflected the fact that he’s added elements to his game in 2012.

Carlton really lost this game because of their inaccuracy of St Kilda-esque proportions and their inability to run out the game with the early losses of Judd and Yarran (that’s a fair loss of quality, too). McLean found the ball and space endlessly as he continued to be one of Carlton’s busiest midfielders in the latter part of the season, but he hit the post twice on his way to 1.3, which was matched by Garlett. Eddie Betts had chances at all stages of the game to impact the scoreboard but finished with 1.4. Thats 3.10 from three players, and a lot changes if only a couple of those go straight earlier on.

Jarrad Waite gave Jimmy Gwilt all sorts of trouble. Gwilt was great when he had the ball, with his kicking showing signs of a return to his pre-knee reconstruction form, but otherwise Waite joined Buddy, Dean Cox, Coleman Jack, Tippett and Petrie as tall forwards who have given this Saints defence a tough time in 2012. Although Murphy was held quiet by his standards by Joey and Judd was missing, players such as Robinson, McLean, Gibbs and Scotland were still busy enough to put the Saints’ defence under pressure and Waite rewarded them with accurate kicking. Surely a full-time, full-size full-back will be targeted in the trading season.

On that note, how appropriate it was that Head Simpkin managed to smack himself in the face with the ball in what has truly been the Year of the Falcon.

The Blues had 31 scoring shots to 26, but overall the game felt a rather even contest. Entertaining and free-flowing, it was spiteful but it certainly didn’t have the kind of full-ground pressure that we’ll be watching this over the next month. It’s probably what we all should have expected given what was at stake – down to Carlton being the fierier of the two.

So Milne was able to blow his friends in blue on the other side of the fence a kiss to finish things off for 2012. A beautiful spring day and the Saints finish the season as winners. However, it’s bittersweet; it’s only the start of September. The sunshine cast hope not for the coming weeks, but the years ahead.