In the fourth and final part of our Mid-Season Report, we take a look at what we’ve learnt about the Saints in the first 12 weeks of Season 2010. In no particular order:
Brendon Goddard is now an elite player
Goddard has become the premier utility in the game, with the ability to create damage from all parts of the ground, particularly off half-back, where he has collected 71 possessions in the past two games alone in vital roles for a challenged team.
His hot-headedness can get the better of him sometimes, seeing him give away free kicks, or, as late in Sunday’s game against the Dockers, cheap 50-metre penalties, and affect his disposal – otherwise, he is averaging career-high disposals, tackles and goals per game. Closing on “faultless”.
Goal kicking inaccuracy has cost the team, not a lack of scoring shots
This one is arguably more applicable to the way St Kilda has won. Of course, a strong case can be made for inaccuracy actually costing the team victory against Essendon in Round 8 (11.15), but then it’s to look at the chances not taken, particularly against West Coast, Richmond and Fremantle in the last two rounds that could have made those victories so much more imposing. The respective scorelines of 13.13, 14.13 and 12.13 could easily have been several goals more in each case; the last quarter against the Dockers garnered 1.6 alone.
It’s good chances going begging, too – see Clinton Jones’ miss to ice the game in the fourth term against Fremantle, by himself from 30m out as a damning example of this.
And a closer look at the stats will show that the main culprits are the midfielders, a goal source that once tapped to its full potential, would benefit the team’s dynamics enormously:
– Lenny Hayes – 2.6
– Clinton Jones – 2.3
– Nick Dal Santo – 9.7
– Leigh Montagna – 11.8
That’s a total of 24.24, or a conversion rate of only 50%; after Round 12 the AFL average was just on 57% accuracy.
And then there’s Justin Koschitzke, who has kicked 11.10 – not a good enough return for someone of his potential. That said…
…both Justin Koschitzke and the team function better with a more stable forward set-up.
A multitude of defenders were tried up forward in the wake of Nick Riewoldt’s severe hamstring injury: Sam Fisher, Zac Dawson, James Gwilt and for much briefer periods, Raphael Clarke, Jason Blake and Sam Gilbert. The balance of the defence suffered, and Justin Koschitzke was the obvious first-choice target up forward; he proved too slow and not mobile enough to play a Riewoldt-esque role, and struggled with the extra attention he attracted from opposition defenders who would otherwise be swarming around Saint Nick.
But since Rhys Stanley and Ben McEvoy have come into the side, the Saints have become that much less predictable, and Koschitzke is able to become involved in and impact games further up the ground in the knowledge there are still taller targets close to goal.
Of course, then there is the fact that…
…Stephen Milne has matured to become one of the side’s most important players.
After (another) disappointing finals series last year from “Yapper” – particularly the Grand Final performance – rumours of Milne’s demise certainly didn’t appear to be exaggerated.
But he’s stood up like few others this year, playing a massive role in St Kilda’s mission to atone for last year’s Grand Final loss, with or without Nick Riewoldt. His positioning, whether it be one-on-one, on the lead, or playing higher up the ground, has been hugely effective; he’s provided a more-than-viable option for the Saints going forward and is in career-best form.
Zac Dawson v2010 is a shadow of Zac Dawson v2009.
The game develops and changes each season, with teams able to devote some serious time to combating the previous season’s leaders’ game plans and styles.
For this reason perhaps, coupled with the unsettling of the side in the absence of Nick Riewoldt, teams have been able to isolate St Kilda’s defenders against their opponents with more frequency and potency – see the back-to-back losses to Essendon and Carlton. In these games particularly, without the extra support he enjoyed so often last year from fellow defenders, Dawson looked well out his depth – too slow against Paddy Ryder and Carlton’s small forwards, and outmuscled too easily and too often when under the ball one-out all year. He appears to lose focus on his task when under the ball, caught between trying to follow the flight of the footy and focussing on his positioning. His recent injury might prove costly to his place in the side – as other methods and players are tried, he may find himself further behind in the pecking order once fit.