RWB 2011 player reviews – Part 3 of 4

By Tom Briglia

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.