Robert Eddy Posts

Jarryn Geary, St Kilda Captain

Armitage, Steven, Geary.

I’ve always subconsciously had them in the same bunch, although Armitage was picked up a year earlier than the other two. For immediate impact, they weren’t quite the Smith, Brown and Jones trio; all who who were picked up in the 1994 draft and would play a huge role in the 1997 Grand Final season. This modern group at best formed part of the bottom 6 of the 2009/2010 campaign. Indeed, none of them would play in any of those three Grand Finals (it still feels bizarre writing that), although Robert Eddy – the only semi-regular at the time to possibly have a lower profile than Geary – would play in the both of the 2010 editions. Collectively though, the current pack have had far more longevity together than their circa-1990s counterparts.

They all made differing impressions throughout the 2008 pre-season premiership-winning competition, the first time Geary and Steven would play in St Kilda jumpers. Steven would dribble through the winner in the second round, with a minute to go against the Cats in the in Canberra, and Armo would do the same with less time left on the clock a week later against the Bombers to secure a berth in the Final.

58601 (1)Geary would play in the Final win alongside Armo, but I remembered him more for the strapping on his wrist in the first round against the Tigers, which I thought made him look like he was wearing a watch out on the field. Being the first hit-out for both teams for the year meant the game was unsurprisingly flat, but I seemed to remember him and Eddy, also playing his first game, as being relatively busy as Ross Lyon began to make his mark on the team and the Saints shut down the Tigers repeatedly from half-back and through the middle. The game was also memorable (well, not really) for Charlie Gardiner having a massive impact as a roaming half-forward, but he would be gone at year’s end.

The only photo from that match I can find with Geary in is this one. Perhaps fitting, because he’s remained in the background ever since. Only in the last couple of years did it become gradually apparent how highly rated he is amongst his teammates, coaches and staff. It was what was going on behind the scenes the whole time brought us to where we are today.

Armo played a little more regularly from 2008, Geary contributed to the highlights reel in the early 2009 with some handy goals  (winning a NAB Rising Star Nomination in Round 8) and Jack Steven showed several moments of nous as a small forward in 2010 (see the three-goal burst at the MCG against the Cats in Round 13).

Perhaps typical for Ross, it was the far more unfashionable Eddy that got the nod at the pointy end of the season. He missed out on the 2009 Grand Final but played ahead of all three others the week before, despite Robert Eddy Awareness Week threatening to out him to the wider football public as a little more than a bit player.

As Roo’s extended his hand with the captaincy baton over the last couple of seasons, it seemed over the past couple of years Armo and Steven were the most likely candidates to take over. But from the rookie list and a shaky grip on a spot in the 22 for so long, Jarryn Geary is the St Kilda captain.

So here we are. A world in which – officially – Roo won’t be one to lead us to that second premiership cup we thought he’d be holding aloft, something we thought he and the club were destined for from early last decade. A world in which he is the one chosen to be mic’d up for Channel 7 during a match. A world in which “Signed Geary poster giveaway” is a thing.

Never mind Clint Jones being chaired off after his 100th game early in 2012. Relatively speaking, this is a more absurdly wonderful achievement than that; higher and further than anyone thought Geary could go.

image1It remains too high for some supporters. Early last season I thought he might not be in the best 22 by the end of the year, although I felt I’d been proved very wrong by the end of the season. The coaches more than confirmed their view of his worth to the team by voting him to second in the best and fairest. To outsiders he’s a more bemusing pick than Saints fans would see him; to AFL.com.au he’s Jarryd Geary probably trying to secure his spot in the 22 in the final JLT Community Series match last week against Sydney.

So what does he bring to the team? Nothing that’s obvious, but often such is the lot of smaller backman. “Geary” in the goals column remains a novelty, although his back-to-back snags late in the second half against Melbourne in a must-win match as finals came into the equation showed an ability to step up and make a marked impact on a game. His best moment would come against the Bombers in the final minutes as the Saints struggled to squeak home in the same stretch of the season. A horizontal dive to chop off an Essendon forward entry saved a shot on goal, and we’d immediately go straight up the other end and kick one of our own. “Geary” in the best likewise if it’s from someone outside the club, but the high-pressure game he plays on his direct opponent and the situation around him is an example for everyone else to follow across the ground. Sometimes they have to, because he’s the one out on the ground telling where they need to be or what they need to be doing; he’s always aware of what needs to be happening for the team to be in its best position for the next play. As Caro said in her article confirming his appointment, he’s been seen for a long time by Roo as his heir-apparent. Again, a lot of this we need to be told, because it’s not apparent from the comfort of our seats or in the lounge room.

The question of his place in the team based on talent alone might not loom so much for 2017 but more for beyond: what happens as Brandon White, Jimmy Webster, D-Mac and to a lesser extent Ben Long, Bailey Rice and Ed Phillips develop? And perhaps even Nathan Wright? The back half is already pretty full – there’s already Newnes, somehow-in-the-leadership-group Roberton and Savage running around there already, and then you have to throw in the taller guys Carlisle, Dempster, Brown, Gilbert and eventually Goddard.

Apparently no-one works harder than Geary off the track. His acts on the field aren’t always obvious, but as well as being perhaps quietly effective they demonstrate something intangible. In a time where team culture and team attitude can reign supreme over a team of champions and perhaps almost anything else, Jarryn Geary may have emerged as the best example of what’s required for this team to reach the final frontier; what’s required for this club to deliver its second premiership.

 

St Kilda and Fremantle: The Bizarro Rivalry (update)

The Ross Lyon defection brokered a new sensational chapter in the ridiculous rivalry between St Kilda and Fremantle, which I’d written on in 2010.

Whilst Ross took things to a new level, this past weekend threw up a couple more very interesting links:
– St Kilda’s first Grand Final appearance was in 1913, against Fitzroy. Freo will make their first Grand Final appearance 100 years later.
– Freo’s strange decision to wear their clash jumper on Saturday makes them just the second club to do so in a Grand Final. The first team to wear a clash jumper in Grand Final was St Kilda – also under Ross – in 2010.

Here’s the original post, “St Kilda and Fremantle: The Bizarre Rivalry” (I’m not sure why I didn’t take the golden opportunity to throw in the Seinfeld reference then and there) from 2010:

St Kilda and Fremantle share one of the most bizarre “rivalries” in the AFL.

As the two least successful clubs in VFL/AFL history to date, it’s not all-important clashes between competition juggernauts that this rivalry has been based on.

Rather, it has been a mixture of the unique, incredible and questionable, with occasional flashes of both genuinely brilliant and sadly woeful football being played.

It began immediately – although inconspicuously – in 1995, when Fremantle played their debut AFL match in the Ansett Australia Cup against the Saints at East Fremantle Oval. Whilst the match itself was normal enough (St Kilda would win by 35 points), this would be the only time (to date) the Dockers would actually play in Fremantle in a competitive AFL match.

In Round 14 of the following season, St Kilda would break through for its first win at Subiaco, and in Western Australia – of course, against Fremantle – in a game which produced great goals from both sides.

The next clash between the two came on ANZAC Day of 1997, with Fremantle – in 10th place and the Saints in 16th – weathering a late St Kilda challenge to win by a straight kick. The return bout was played on a ridiculously blustery day at Waverley in Round 20 of that year, with Fremantle in 10th place (again) going into the match whilst St Kilda was second on percentage, on its way to a second minor premiership. The Saints that time won a scrappy game by 13 points after the Dockers got within a point in the final term.

St Kilda co-captain Stewart Loewe would be stretchered off in Round 9 of 1998 at the WACA after an awkward fall in which his head ended up making contact with his knee. Despite a thrilling running goal from ruckman Peter Everitt, the 4th-placed Saints were overrun by the 13th-placed Dockers in the final term.

After several years of minor quirks, things were about to get really weird.

Continue readingRound 15 of 1999 will be remembered for the mark that was taken by umpire Peter Carey. Early in the match, Docker (and former Saint) Adrian Fletcher centred a short pass to Brad Wira on the wing, only for the experienced Carey, who was in the path of the ball’s trajectory, to take the mark and call for a ball-up. Needless to say, the incident was a massive talking point in football circles, though ultimately it would take its place in VFL/AFL history as a wonderfully unique and humourous moment in a game that has a habit of throwing those up from time to time. The Dockers would go on to win the game by 23 points, and send St Kilda’s season into a further downward spiral.

By the time the two teams met in Round 12 of 2001, both teams had new coaches and were sharing 14th (St Kilda) and 16th (Fremantle) places on the ladder; by season’s end they would be 15th and 16th respectively. On this Saturday night at Subiaco, the Saints won their third game of the year after a young Stephen Milne sprang to life in the final term, on his way to kicking three goals and giving the Saints a 10-point win. However, captain Robert Harvey would seriously injure his knee in a gang tackle that continued well past its use-by date; with the ball locked up amongst the scrum, the umpire inexplicably chose to let play continue, long enough for the Dockers players to force Harvey to the turf as his knee buckled under him.

It would also be Malcolm Blight’s last victory as coach for the Saints, with his brief tenure at Moorabbin ending just three weeks later.

The next season threw up a couple more notable matches – in Round 2, the fast-finishing Dockers would roll the Saints by three points at home after trailing for much of the day, and in Round 17 St Kilda played a rare home match at Princes Park and defeat the Dockers in a dead-rubber in front of just 8,078 fans.

A skip to 2004 would find Brent Guerra breaking Docker Byran Schammer’s arm in a devastating bump as a barnstorming St Kilda extended their winning streak to seven to begin the season, as well as Fremantle wearing their predominantly white away/clash jumper for the first time in the return match in Round 22 at Docklands.

A trio of thrilling matches followed. Strange, thrilling matches.

In round 2 of 2005, St Kilda won their first match of the season by a solitary point at York Park in Tasmania. The Saints would overhaul the Dockers in trying conditions, with Aaron Hamill earning a free kick for holding the ball and scoring the winning point – but not before a final Fremantle charge into their forward line, with defender Luke Penny expertly safely punching the ball out of bounds in the final seconds from a marking contest.

The infamous “Whispers in the Sky” clash was a dire battle in Round 21 at Subiaco. St Kilda were pushing to solidify a top four spot after being outside of the 8 after Round 13, though tipped by many to win the premiership on the eve of the season. Skipper Nick Riewoldt has broken his collarbone in Round 14, and stand-in captain Justin Koschitzke had powered his way to stunning form and lead the Saints’ fight for redemption. He earned 11 Brownlow votes in just five matches, and with Riewoldt back, he was seen as a key component to St Kilda’s premiership hopes as September neared. Fremantle, meanwhile were hoping to return to finals action after St Kilda had knocked them out on the eve of the 2004 finals series.

What happened on that Friday night is now a part of St Kilda-Fremantle rivalry folklore. Awful and questionable umpiring decisions went Fremantle’s way all night, gifting the Dockers several goals and depriving the Saints of several chances of their own. Koschitzke would injure a quad muscle in the third quarter, and he would not be fit enough to return to the side, which bowed out in the preliminary final several weeks later (had St Kilda defeated Sydney in that match, he would have been a huge chance to return for the Grand Final).

The final term was an old-fashioned thriller. In the final minute, with the Saints up by a point, Justin Peckett was run down by Luke McPharlin just outside Fremantle’s 50-metre arc; the resulting kick forward saw Justin Longmuir take a spectacular mark over the top of the pack just 25 metres out from goal. His kick was straight, and the Dockers had won by five points, and were to face reigning premier Port Adelaide the following week in the final round for a spot in the finals.

Channel Nine reporter Tony Jones – travelling back to Melbourne from the game after Nine’s coverage – claimed that he heard umpire Matthew Head, who had made a number of the decisions that went Fremantle’s way remark, “Now I know what it feels like to have a victory”. Several other passengers made the same claim as Jones, but the AFL cleared Head of any wrongdoing after an investigation into the matter that week.

Though they would start strongly, Fremantle lost to Port Adelaide the following week and finish 10th as the Power clinched eighth spot. St Kilda would go on to record two amazing victories over the following two weeks – their biggest win in the club’s 132-year history over the Brisbane Lions, by 139 points, and a brave eight-point win over minor premiers Adelaide in the First Qualifying Final at AAMI Stadium, to secure a home Preliminary Final and a week’s rest.

But the centrepiece of this rivalry – so far, at least – came in Round 5, 2006; the final installment of this trilogy taking place where it started – at York Park (now Aurora Stadium) in Tasmania, referred to as “Sirengate”.

The Dockers were truly dangerous in 2006, and were only knocked out a week short of the Grand Final. Though notorious for poor interstate form, on this day they were all over an inept St Kilda, who were making another slow start to a season. Though the Saints would be in with a chance all day, that chance seemed to have disappeared as the clock counted down to zero as a desperate Dockers defence forced a stopped in the Saints forward line, with their team up by a point. The siren sounded, and Fremantle players around the ball began celebrating a hard-fought victory.

But the siren was quite faint, and umpire didn’t hear it – and play continued from the stoppage well after full-time. The Saints forced the ball to Steven Baker, whose flying shot at goal – a number of seconds after the siren – missed to the left, tying the scores. The umpire then awarded Baker a free kick for a hit he got as he kicked it, and so he was to take the kick again, with the first behind taken back, and the Saints again down by a point. As this was occurring, Fremantle officials had stormed on to the ground to remonstrate with the umpires, with coach Chris Connolly finding himself arguing with St Kilda player Lenny Hayes. Verbal stoushes were springing up between officials, umpires and players left, right and centre, and amongst it all, Baker missed again. The game was a draw.

St Kilda coach Grant Thomas declared the game “one for the blooper reel” in the post-match wash-up, whilst Connolly was understandably furious. Fremantle immediately took the issue to the AFL. Sensationally, the AFL overturned the result during the week, with final score officially at 13.15 (93) to 14.10 (94), the Dockers victorious by a point.

The sides would meet again at Subiaco in Round 20. To date, this match is the most important game the clubs have been involved in against each other, with a top four spot up for grabs. Fremantle trounced the Saints, with the only highlight for St Kilda being a goal kicked by Brendon Goddard from an enormous kick late in the match; from just inside the centre square, Goddard’s kick would go through the goals at post-height.

The Dockers would finish third on the ladder, with fellow Subiaco tenants West Coast in first place. Though they would lose the Second Qualifying Final to Adelaide away, they won their first final of any sort at home against Melbourne a week later. Sydney knocked them out a week later, otherwise the MCG would have been set for an all-Western Australian Grand Final.

Several things of note come out of this. Firstly, St Kilda would have finished third on superior percentage if the “Sirengate” result had stood, forcing eventual Grand Finalists Sydney out of the top four, and forcing a Western Derby as a First Qualifying Final. Instead, the Saints finished sixth and limped out of the finals series in the first week, losing to Melbourne in the Second Elimination Final. Of course, if the Saints had won that game – which was a good chance of happening through the final term – they would have faced Fremantle in a semi-final, bringing the two teams face-to-face in massive game; as it happened, Grant Thomas would be sacked just days after the loss to the Demons. The other point worth considering – albeit a hypothetical one – is if the AFL would have overturned the result the way it did had Baker actually kicked a goal from either of his shots, “winning” the game for St Kilda. It’s one thing to overturn a draw, but to  completely reverse the outcome of a match would have made this issue far, far greater, and a much more daunting prospect for the AFL.

The following season was a disappointment for both teams. When they squared off in Round 20, with the Saints hoping to snatch a finals spot under new coach Ross Lyon, a collision between Steven Baker and Jeff Farmer would be the talking point of the competition for the following week.

Farmer left the ground concussed, with blood pouring from his face, after evidently running into the back of Baker. No umpires nor cameras saw or captured the incident, but a Fremantle trainer said that Baker had been malicious in the collision, and this was influential in the seven-match suspension Baker received. The Saints appealed, but this fell on deaf ears from the AFL. The decision would prove costly for the Saints, who were now without their star tagger as they were coming up against West Coast the following week, a must-win game for the Saints. The Eagles’ midfield of Chris Judd, Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr were able to run far more freely and eventually the Eagles would win by eight points; though St Kilda defeated Richmond in Round 22, they would finish the season in ninth position after Adelaide also won their final round match to knock St Kilda out of September calculations.

Round 13 of 2008 saw a spluttering Saints wielding the axe on senior players Nick Dal Santo and Stephen Milne after just three wins from the previous ten games of football. Ben McEvoy, Robert Eddy and Jarryd Allen would all debut for the Saints on a dogged Friday night, with the Saints prevailing by eight points. It would be the beginning of a remarkable turnaround for Ross Lyon and his men, who would win eight of their final ten matches in the home-and-away season to finish fourth, including the return game at Subiaco in Round 20 which Stephen Milne played out with a grotesquely swollen cheek. The Saints would fall one week short of the Grand Final.

The Saints would go one better in 2009, as Fremantle were again finding themselves at the wrong end of the ladder. In Round 4, the Saints crushed the Dockers by 88 points, and keeping the visitors to a scoreline of 4.4 (28), the joint-lowest score at Docklands. Of course, that record is shared with St Kilda, who could only manage 3.10 (28) against Collingwood in Round 6 of 2002.

Most recently, their 2010 NAB Cup semi-final match was nearly called off, after storms ravaged the Melbourne CBD, leaving Etihad Stadium with internal roofing damage. The players ran out for a later start to no crowd in attendance, and the 5,000+ fans were eventually let in over the first quarter, but only allowed to be seated on the bottom level. St Kilda would win a position in the Final easily, but would lose that to the Western Bulldogs, who were making their first Final appearance of any kind in 40 years.

And now on Sunday evening, the two teams will be squaring off, and coming into this round are occupying the top two positions on the ladder. It’s definitely the first time this has happened with these two clubs; Fremantle will be looking to be on top of the AFL ladder at the completion of any round for the first time in their history, whilst the Saints are going to be entering a lengthy period of time with injured captain Nick Riewoldt. The football world will be watching this intriguing clash, which will hopefully be remembered for some good football, promising individual performances and solid teamwork. As long as no umpires take marks or feel like “having a victory”, or the siren fails, or there are unseen and inconclusive clashes which result in massive suspensions, or storms unleash fury over Melbourne, then there’s a good chance that just might happen.

But who knows?

Links

Umpire Peter Carey takes a mark in Round 15, 1999

Justin Longmuir kicks a goal after the siren to win the game for the Dockers in the “Whispers in the Sky” match, in Round 20, 2005

“Sirengate” finish Part 1, Round 5, 2006

“Sirengate” finish Part 2

Brendon Goddard’s monster goal, Round 20, 2006

2012 St Kilda player reviews – part 1 of 4

Under Ross Lyon the Saints played so many unassuming role players that it felt like two or three whipping boys were in the side in any given week. Regulars and semi-regulars such as Raph Clarke, Robert Eddy, Andrew McQualter, Brett Peake, Clinton Jones and Jason Blake were often criticised for their rather unidimensional performances.

Scott Watters’ game style has seen versatility as the order of the day, with an equal emphasis on swift attack and fanatic full-ground defense. It didn’t always pay off – a lack in skill often brough the former undone and the latter wasn’t always present – but player-by-player it felt there was more to be optimistic about going forward.

In number order, starting from 1 to 12:

1 – Jason Gram
Halfway through the season I dare say we all would have been happy to see the last Jason Gram Special sliced from the wing, but he ended playing some very good games towards the end of the year. Still doesn’t have a huge defensive side to his game but I think Swat’s game plan suits him a little more. Given his history and the stage of his career, going into 2013 fully fit will be hugely important for him.

2 – Arryn Siposs
My Favourite Player played only 11 games in 2012 but did more than enough to have us hugely excited about his future. A great field kick and a strong mark, he did it at both ends of the ground and demonstrated he could be the club’s go-to utility over the next decade. Right now, he could be anything.

3 – Jack Steven
Pleasingly, Jack stayed busy in 2012 after his breakout season last year. He was probably more effective in games too, and was able to display more of his pace and fit into Swat’s game style. Still probably not in the top three midfielders (and that’s not a bad thing for the team) but it would be great if he took his game to another level. After the faux-high incident at the new home last year he planned on turning up to a mid-season morning recovery session drunk and got caught by the fuzz instead. He’s got to change that.

4 – Clinton Jones
The resident puppy dog still has a place in this side according to Swat, but I’m not exactly sure what it is considering he hasn’t improved his kicking since the age of nine. He’s certainly not a bad player; he knows how to find the ball and has one of the best defensive sides of anyone on the list but his kicking remains a liability. Considering what Swat said though, I’d be surprised if he’s delisted.

5 – Ben McEvoy
The 2017 premiership captain probably didn’t improve to the point we thought he might this year after his great 2011. He still struggles in the ruck at times and would be handier if he kicked more goals but he continued to drop back and help out the defence to great effect. Big men typically take longer to develop, of course, and he’s probably still a couple of years away from his best. With Rhys on the up, should the Saints get Jonathan Giles then things might really get interesting in the ruck division.

6 – Seb Ross
The only Ross at St Kilda played one game in the dead rubber period of the season but that was to be expected, particularly in a midfield that rarely saw injuries and had Jack and Armo continuing to improve. From the little we’ve seen of him he has a very no-nonsense demeanour and seems to take things very seriously which I think is a good thing. Showed some good things at Sandy and hopefully has a big future at the club.

7 – Lenny Hayes
Wowee etc.

8 – Raphael Clarke
Not sure if he’ll survive between now and list lodgements later on. A really popular guy by all reports and I don’t question his commitment on the field for a second (see several great efforts against the Crows) but just doesn’t always have the awareness required at AFL level. Injuries aside, three games in 2012 probably wasn’t enough to warrant a spot on the list next year given the dearth of tall mid-sized defenders, particularly with Jackson Ferguson coming through.

9 – Sam Crocker
One of four players the club didn’t even bother building the suspense for, delisted as soon as the Tip Rat had saluted the Carlton members. Didn’t seem to have bad skills, was just too slender which made things hard from the outset and in the short time he was at the club he disappeared from the face of the earth.

10 – Daniel Markworth
The Markworth Report was one of the many big plans Rich and I had for RWB in 2012 (on a more personal level I was simply hoping to become Demonblog), although hopes for several senior games were beyond even that. Showed some real glimpses at Sandy but still pretty raw. Should play a few games next year.

AND WHY NOT WITH GLIMPSES OF BRILLIANCE LIKE THIS?:

11 – Leigh Montagna
I don’t think anyone would have factored him into best and fairest calculations until Swat said towards the end of the season he’d be in the top two or three (I still didn’t agree with it but I dare say I’ll trust the coach of the St Kilda Football Club over myself). He didn’t have the huge possession counts that he did in some games in the past three or four years but was consistent. Talk of being used as trade bait floated around during the year but he re-signed on a two-year deal.

12 – Nick Riewoldt
A return to form after he more than anyone else (except maybe BJ) hated themselves and everything in 2011. Unlucky to injure his knee late but he had a big head-start on the pre-season so hopefully he can get the most out of the summer again and back it up in 2013, captain or not.

RWB 2011 player reviews – Part 3 of 4

In the third part of our 2011 player reviews, we look at St Kilda’s list from stricken spiritual leader Lenny Hayes to fellow elite midfielder Leigh Montagna.

Stats courtesy of Pro-Stats.

Part One features players from Warrick Andreoli to Nick Dal Santo, whilst Part Two features players from Zac Dawson to James Gwilt.

Lenny HAYES
2 games
Season 2011 mirrored 2006 in several key ways, inlcuding spiritual leader Lenny Hayes going down early with a season-ending ACL injury.

It’s impossible to measure just what difference Lenny would have made to the team’s overall result in 2011, but the club had to play from Round 2 onwards without its reigning Best & Fairest winner and arguably its most valuable player.

For all of his off-field appearances on varios media and Lunch with Lenny, as well as #lennyvent, Lenny’s presence on the field just could not be made up for; however, it gave Jack Steven a genuine chance to step up and make a name for himself in the St Kilda side. We simply can’t wait to see Lenny out there again, but at 32 and after effectively a year out of the game we’re not sure just how close to his best he’ll be.

Nick HEYNE
0 games
After playing two games in 2010, the draftee drifted out of favour of the Sandringham selectors in 2011, let alone find himself with that of the Saints.

Drafted as a medium half-forward/midfielder with a view to making the most of his strong hands, Heyne’s scrappy style simply hasn’t been as effective as hoped. His left foot is often untidy and by all reports, just wasn’t able to get himself consistently involved in the play through games at VFL level. Unfortunately, he’ll most probably be delisted.

Will JOHNSON
1 game
Recruited at the end of 2009 as a 19 year-old tall defender from Sandringham, Big Will (sort of) was turned into a forward in 2011, with some bold performances and small bags of goals earning him a debut in Round 6.

Unfortunately, his first appearance in St Kilda colours was short-lived as he was concussed in the first half, and perhaps oddly wasn’t given another chance. Given St Kilda’s forward structure woes, Johnson made a likely candidate to be given a chance on several occasions ahead of Ryan Gamble and perhaps even Tom Lynch (although easy to say in hindsight); his great attack at the ball and the contest showed he was willing to work hard with or without the footy.

Unlucky to have not played more than one game, it’s hard to say whether or not he’ll be on St Kilda’s list next year. Over to you, Pelchen.

Clinton JONES
23 games, Club 1st for tackles with 152 at 6.6 per game, Club 2nd for handballs with 241, Club 5th for disposals with 450, Club 4th for contested possessions with 210, Club 3rd for clearances with 85, Club 2nd for 1%ers with 134, Club 2nd for skill errors with 126
With the rejuvenation of Sean Dempster and the inclusion of Dean Polo into the side, CJ was allowed to run a little freer in 2011 and be more attacking. Arguably the game’s elite tagger (at least until “Dempster” also gained usage as a verb), the close-in workload was shared this year and without Lenny, CJ was given scope to include more creativity in his game.

For all of his bemusing aesthetics, CJ handballs a lot for a reason – his kicking was still poor. With rumours on Saintsational forums everywhere that he is following Ross back to his home state for a spot at the Dockers, St Kilda could be in danger of losing one of its hardest working players, and a key cog in its defensive midfield set-up.

Justin KOSCHITZKE
13 games, Club 2nd for hitouts with 90, Club 2nd for average contested marks with 1.6 per game
The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind finally found consistent good form towards the end of the year, perhaps making it clear his ankle issues were most at fault for his recent indifferent form (and perhaps sleepless nights with his newborn).

The charges towards and crashes into packs were more purposeful, and his Captain Calamity cape mostly stayed in the wardrobe for 2011 (as far as his teammates were concerned). He looked increasingly comfortable in his ruck/forward role as the season progressed and he regained uninhibited match fitness, and the Saints had their forward structures right he provided an admirable foil for Riewoldt and his presence alone made the side less predictable.

For the quiet humming of using Kosi as potential trade-bait, he’s a hugely-respected player around the club and provides a versatile ruck option to go with Big Ben, and will be required in the potential shortage of capable rucks in 2012.

Tom LEDGER
2 games
Ledger only played two games but immediately impressed. Ten possessions – seven of them contested – in little over a quarter of footy on his debut against the raging Magpies earned praise from Ross the Ex-Boss, and he provided the sealing goal against the Bulldogs on the following Friday night.

Like so many of his first-year colleagues at the Saints in 2011, he struggled with injury after debuting and was booked in for hamstring surgery to ensure he would be 100% right for the start of the 2012 pre-season.

His attack at the ball was exciting to say the least, and he didn’t shirk a contest in his short time in the side in 2011. Consistently talked up by players and coaches at the club alongside Cripps and Siposs as players to watch for the future, we should all be upbeat about what Ledger could bring to the club over the coming year.

Tom LYNCH
5 games, 4 goals
St Kilda fans are still waiting for the 2008 first-round draft pick to announce himself on the big stage. That said, his stellar VFL form came from roles across half-back, as opposed to the mostly forward-oriented role he found himself in when playing for the Saints. His best game of the year, against North Melbourne in Round 15, saw Lynch gather nine first-quarter possessions across half-back before making an impact in stints up forward.

Perhaps he is best used as a swingman, at least as he finds his feet at the elite level, with the defensive role giving him a chance to get his hands on the ball and get into the rhythm of the match. People forget he’s only ever played six games.

Ben McEVOY
22 games, Club 1st for hitouts with 497 at 22.6 per game, Club 4th for marks with 118, Club 1st for contested marks with 42, Club 4th for marks inside 50 with 15, Club 4th for handballs with 199, Club 1st for 1%ers with 150, Career-high for most games in a season

Big Ben had his breakout year in 2011. For the first time in his handful of years at the Saints, he was first in line for the ruck spot with the retirement of Steven King at the end of 2010 and Gardi spending most of the season injured.

After being dropped for the Round 11 match against Collingwood, Ben found himself a late inclusion and proceeded to have one of his best games to date, collecting (at the time) career-high numbers in possessions (23), hitouts (38) and marks (10). From then on he didn’t look back, and became one of the club’s most effective players.

His work around the ground became his number-one asset, pulling in the third-most contested marks in the competition. Whilst his ruckwork still needs improvement, his timely presence across all parts of the field became a regular sight. I harbour a fantasy that he will be the 2017 premiership captain; either way he presents himself very well off the field and is set to become a club leader in some capacity throughout the decade.

Andrew McQUALTER
5 games
Unfortunately, Mini’s 2009 renaissance was ultimately confined to that season alone. Whilst he found himself in the Grand Final teams of 2010, he couldn’t quite recapture the same form of the previous season and 2011 saw him delisted after brilliant VFL form and a season-ending shoulder surgery. Even more unfortunately, he will probably be remembered for his woeful missed shot at goal from close range in the 2009 Grand Final.

Perhaps the game had passed him by; he was more versatile than players I’ve said the same thing about in these reviews in Baker and Eddy, but he wasn’t quite agile or attacking enough to be a real threat with or without the ball in 2011. For all of his great footy played with Sandringham, like Eddy again he couldn’t translate that into something similar at AFL level.

Stephen MILNE
23 games, Club 1st for goals with 56 at 2.4 per game, Club 1st for behinds with 33, Club 2nd for goal assists with 20, Club 6th for inside 50s with 65, Club 2nd for marks inside 50 with 48, Club 2nd for inside 50 target with 109, Club 2nd for tackles inside 50 with 19, Club 2nd for frees against with 37
The Tiprat had one of his best seasons in 2011, leading the club for goals in a season that regularly required someone to make something out of not much. For all of the poor delivery inside 50 from further up the ground and messy forward structures, Milne was always a nuisance and did well so often to make and find space in attack for himself and teammates.

Though still with his critics (including here on Red, White and Black), it seemed that this year Yapper really consolidated respect and praise from the wider football world. For the first time in a number of seasons, he found himself as the best forward at the club with a near-full season from Roo. It also proved he wasn’t simply riding on the spilled balls of Roo and Kosi, and earlier in his career Fraser Gehrig, but rather was creating opportunities for the team himself.

At 31 it would seem by now his best would be behind him, but he worked very hard throughout the season and arguably had personally one of his best years. Not only did he kick the most goals for the club, but he was sixth in the side for deliveries inside 50, showing how hard he did work to push up the ground. It would be brilliant if he could maintain anything like this form in the future.

Leigh MONTAGNA
21 games, Club 2nd for average disposals with 24.2 per game, Club 3rd for disposals with 509, Club 3rd for contested possessions with 215, Club equal-3rd for uncontested possessions with 350, Club 2nd for kicks with 337, Club 1st for long kicks with 115, Club 4th for average tackles with 5.0 per game, Club 2nd for clearances with 93, Club 1st for centre bounce clearances with 34 at 1.6, Club 1st for inside 50s with 98 at 4.7, Club 3rd for goal assists with 19, 13 goals
Joey had another great year in 2011, although it was a step below his brilliant 2009 and 2010 seasons. Always busy and one of the more attacking midfielders, he consolidated his place as a leader and wise head at the club with the captaincy for the Round 19 Gold Coast match in the absence of captain and vice-captain Roo and Lenny respectively.

The first several games aside, Joey found himself consistently in the goals kicked list to go with his club-high total of inside 50s. His speed and running remained a huge asset to the side in a year that saw the midfield struggle often in the absence of Lenny. However, if the Saints are any chance at a respectable return in 2012, Joey will have to step back up to his form of the last few seasons and continue kicking goals; fortunately, there’s every possibility of that happening.

RWB 2011 player reviews – Part 2 of 4

In the second of our four-part 2011 player review, we start with full-back Zac Dawson and go through to the sadly injured James Gwilt.

Stats courtesy of Pro-Stats.

Part One features players from Warrick Andreoli to Nick Dal Santo.

Zac DAWSON
20 games, Club 1st for average TOG with 118.0 minutes per game, Career-high frees against with 25
Zac at times looked like he struggled for much of the year, but with the fantastic team defence of the last two years diminished it meant less-pressured delivery to his direct opponent, both one-out and on the lead. A true full-back that perhaps could have been utilised as a forward a few more times than he was this year, Zac is still capable of doing some very good things in his natural position and should be kept on the list.

Off-field discretions had his place on the list in jeopardy early on this year, but he has done enough this year again to show he is required.

Sean DEMPSTER
23 games, Club 3rd for 1%ers with 126, Career-high for most games in a season
Ross’s time with him at the Swans and subsequent decision to bring him to Moorabbin looked like the right move late in 2008 as he hit some good form. A knee injury in Round 22 of that year saw him play only minor parts in the business ends of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, but 2011 was the year we learnt what getting “Dempstered” meant.

His shut-down roles, particularly in the back half of the season, saw the unheralded Dempster become one of the premier taggers in the competition, and also allowed Clinton Jones to play a more attacking role in the midfield at times. Chief scalps included Hayden Ballantyne (twice), Andrew Embley and Brent Harvey, with Marc Murphy and Ryan O’Keefe also finding life difficult under his close attention.

Sean was also capable of playing more attacking roles, finding himself forward at stages through the year, but his kicking at goal yielded a wayward 2.6 for the season and perhaps prevented plans for him spending more time in attack.

Robert EDDY
0 games
Eddy’s career appeared over after being delisted at the end of 2010. It rather perplexed many in the sense that he had been picked for all four of St Kilda’s finals matches ahead of more versatile players. His attack on the ball couldn’t be questioned, and he earned respect throughout the club for playing with injury through the finals campaign.

Sadly, in a case similar to Baker’s, the game had simply passed him by; players need to be more versatile. Despite being picked up again in the Rookie Draft, Eddy was never likely to get a game in 2011 – despite great form for Sandringham throughout the season – and he was quickly delisted as soon as the club’s 2011 campaign was ended. Curiously, his last two matches were Grand Finals.

Jackson FERGUSON
0 games
Initially picked up through the NSW Scholarship program, Ferguson quickly made a name for himself as a tall, athletic running half-back for Sandringham, able to find plenty of the ball and use it well consistently.

Still quite slender, he was sent for shoulder surgery towards the end of season to ensure he would be ready for 2012 pre-season – a definite vote of confidence in his place at the club, and he would be a strong chance to be promoted to the senior list in the off-season.

Sam FISHER
23 games, Club 1st for rebounds with 103, Club 2nd for marks with 153, Club 3rd for contested marks with 22, Club 4th for disposals with 486, Club equal-2nd for long kicks with 112, Club 1st for TOG with 2640 minutes
Probably behind only Nicky Dal in this year’s Best & Fairest count. Fisher continued his role as general of the defence, with his stellar early form a rare highlight of St Kilda’s first couple of months.

Fisher’s presence alone appears to settle the backline, providing a strong frame, safe pair of hands and a cool head. For all of St Kilda’s poor recruiting through the aughts, Fisher remains a selection masterstroke at pick 55 as a 21 year-old. He would make a worthy captain should the unlikely scenario unfold that the position become vacant over the next couple of seasons.

He proved his versatility with roles through the midfield as well, including a successful shut-down role on Adam Goodes in Round 22 before Ross the Ex-Boss changed things around – and Goodes went on to lead the Swans to victory. Fish can also chip in for the occasional goal.

Ryan GAMBLE
11 games, 11 goals
Vegas/Charlie Gardiner II may not be blessed with the most natural talent, but he certainly worked hard to make the most of what he has. His workrate was reflected in his running far up the ground to create an option, but aside from some decent marks and handy goals at times his highlights reel would consist mostly of efforts in Sandringham colours.

Deceptively small for a player of his role – intended to be as a third forward target behind Roo and Kosi – Gamble’s frame is very small and he found himself outmuscled too easily out of contests. Whilst his pressure on the opposition when the ball was in attack was better than others at times, he will most probably be delisted in favour of the several younger forwards coming through.

Michael GARDINER
1 game
A rather bemusing end to his career saw Gardi brought into the side on the eve of the finals – seemingly to give him game time before the following week’s Elimination Final – only to have it end there. Injuries cruelled his season before strong performances in the VFL warranted his testing before the real stuff.

Big Ben had worked hard to earn his spot through the year, however, and whilst Gardi certainly wasn’t bad the team balance was thrown out with all of the two full-time rucks and Kosi in the side.

Unfortunately, his retirement at the end of the season meant he would never play in a premiership side. Having played in the unsuccessful 2005 and 2009 Grand Finals and the 2010 Grand Final Draw – for an aggregate loss of just 16 points – he had been banished from the Eagles during their premiership year of 2006.

Jarryn GEARY
8 games
A fractured leg in the opening VFL round delayed his season for a lengthy time, but Ross’s high regard for him was evident with a quick return to the St Kilda side upon recovery. The small running defender isn’t blessed with fantastic disposal skills for all of his commendable attack on the ball, and it’s those skills that will need to improve before he can seriously reach another level in his game.

He became somewhat of a sub specialist, donning the green vest several times. It will be interesting to see if he’s re-signed – how ruthless will Pelchen, and/or <Ross’s successor’s name> be? Right now, it’s difficult to see him getting a game for a side like Collingwood, Geelong or Hawthorn.

Sam GILBERT
23 games, Club 2nd for TOG with 2634 minutes, Club 3rd for frees against with 32
After a finishing equal third in the Trevor Barker Award in 2010, a tumultuous off-season found Gilbert at odds with many for being “the guy that took those shots of Riewoldt and Dawson”, and the Saint that brought KD into the club’s Bubble.

It seemed to all weigh heavily on Gilbert, who had a sloppy season marred by poor disposal and not-so-uncommon brain fades. Touted as a potential forward option by Ross the Ex-Boss in the lead-up to the season proper – after a solid third-quarter in the 2010 Grand Final Draw and three vital misses early in the Replay – the switch never eventuated. Ross eventually revealed that Gilbert felt the move wasn’t working for him after the training and education for it yielded little enthusiasm. In hindsight, considering how much of his season turned out it still might have been the best thing for him – a move that would perhaps necessitate extra focus on his footy, as opposed to the off-field rubbish.

Although contracted for beyond 2011, he was the subject of the token GWS rumours through the season. More than a few fans might have been happy for something to eventuate in that arena; however, decent form towards the end of the season reminded us all just why he was rated so highly by the club in a Grand Final-appearance season.

Brendon GODDARD
23 games, Club 2nd for disposals with 542, Club 3rd for kicks with 309, Club 3rd for handballs with 233, Club 2nd for uncontested possessions with 372, Club equal-2nd for long kicks with 112, Club 3rd for inside 50s with 76
The angriest man in football after the 2010 Grand Finals, BJ clearly hated the world early in the season. Like Roo, he simply tried to do too much to rectify what happened on the biggest days on 2009 and 2010.

By his standards, the start to the season was slow. He wasn’t able to accumulate the usual wealth of possessions in space and play the “quarterback” role he mastered in 2009 and 2010. It took a back-to-basics role in the the defensive 50 in Round 9 against Melbourne – a match that was set-up and carried out to restore the team’s equilibrium – to reignite his season, and he again became the damaging player we’re used to seeing. The poise was there, the commanding presence, the deft execution.

Whilst it was a relief to see BJ return to his best, the lingering of the GWS money machine will be entrenched in the minds of St Kilda fans throughout 2012. His words on The Footy Show last night eerily resembled those said by Ross throughout the season, with “when” used instead of “if” in regards to an offer from the new franchise.

Jason GRAM
Club 1st for uncontested possessions per game with 17.5, Club 5th for average disposals per game with 22.0, Club 2nd for inside 50s with 83, Club 1st for handball receives with 223, Club 1st for kicks direct to opponent with 32
Fell out of and back in to favour during the season, banished to Sandringham for a few weeks before returning and quietly racking up plenty of possessions. His disposal remained an issue – more so when as he was getting a lot of the footy – with the “Jason Gram Special” everyone’s least-favourite Special, highlighted by a disappointing return of 5.12 from his shots on goal; having an on-target Jason Gram can be a dangerous weapon. His attack on the footy and defensive attributes also continue to be questioned.

Many (including on Saintsational forums everywhere) have touted him as potential trade-bait whilst he is of some value, and there’s certainly some merit in that if the right offer can be made, although it seems youth will be the order of the (Trade) Week. Attention back on to Pelchen for that one.

James GWILT
15 games, Club 3rd for average kicks per game with 13.4, Club 1st for average long kicks per game with 7.0, Club 1st for average rebounds per game with 6.5, Club 4th for average marks per game with 5.5
In 2011, Gwilt became a great player and fan favourite before sadly hurting his knee in Round 17. The ‘Fro was having his best season by far until that point, finding a huge amount of the footy and providing composure in the backline. Both of those culminated in his raking left foot kick becoming a huge asset to the side when rebounding from the defensive 50.

Gwilt’s absence was truly felt as Gilbert, Gram and Raph struggled to match both his poise and possession quality off half-back through the remainder of the year. Hopefully Gwilt will be back sooner rather than later in season 2012; Saints fans will have plenty to look forward to upon his return.