Much of the news coming out of Wednesday’s press conference with Ross Lyon centred around his backing of power forward Justin Koschitzke and beleaguered full-back Zac Dawson.
Both have been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons in Season 2010.
Dawson, coming off a surprisingly good showing in 2009, was monstered by Bulldog import Barry Hall in the NAB Cup finale, and has struggled for form since. His physical presence in contests has been lacking, his opponents outmuscling and outmuscling him far too often and easily.
Koschitzke in the meantime has been put under enormous pressure to become the dominant Saints forward in the absence of captain Nick Riewoldt, with a number of Saints fans hoping for a repeat of the stellar performances “Kosi” strung together in 2005 in the similar circumstances.
That pressure had time to build as he awaited return from a three-week suspension after Round One. His comeback was a sore point in the fallout of the disappointing loss to Port Adelaide. In trying conditions for a tall forward, he could only manage 0.1 and failed in important marking contests in the final term. Riewoldt’s absence was all the more obvious in a game in which the Saints were crying out for an effective target up forward.
Of course, Koschitzke is not to blame for the loss to the Power – Brendon Goddard and Stephen Milne, for instance, were unable to have any real influence up forward after stellar performances against Fremantle the previous week. But doubts over “Kosi” have been compounded by his poor NAB Cup form, in which he looked slow and sloppy both in marking contests in applying pressure in the follow-up. It’s becoming far too common a sight, and an increasingly far cry from the best form he’s shown.
For St Kilda’s sake, both will need to put in big performances tonight at opposite ends of the ground against the dangerous Dogs.
Should the Sons of the West win the midfield battle, supply to Hall will more than likely be not only plentiful, but sharp. Dawson will need to be focused for every minute of four quarters to do what he can to stop Hall, and hope that on top of that his co-backmen can step in when they can.
Koschitzke will need to be providing a viable target up forward to give the midfield confidence going into attack. Efficiency will be the key tonight against a fast Bulldogs team, so he’ll also need to commit to pressuring his opponents aside from marking contests to make sure the Dogs have a tough time getting ball out of St Kilda’s forward line to maximise scoring opportunities.
It will be a fascinating match aside from these two battles – the Saints had far too many passengers last week and didn’t play the “Saints Footy” style that the players and coach so often promote, and the whole team will need to lift to come away with four points tonight.
But St Kilda fans particularly will have a keen eye on both goal squares at all times. And hoping.