RWB 2011 player reviews – Part 2 of 4

By Tom Briglia

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.