“When this many players get involved (in the melee), something has happened that was untoward.”
After taking this long to produce our Saints Summary for Round 8, it would be imprudent to ignore the story that has sent the football world into a fit of self-flagellation. As you are no doubt aware, Carlton’s Marc Murphy was incensed by comments suggesting he may not always have been his wife’s favourite footballer, or something to that effect. So incensed in fact, he bravely expressed this displeasure to a prone Jake Carlisle, sparking a melee and Jason Dunstall’s commentary on Fox Footy above. Since this time anybody with even a passing knowledge of football has fallen over themselves to express their outrage that Murphy had to endure such an ordeal. While I am in no doubt that my thinking is on the wrong side of history on this issue, I am unsure what makes the abuse directed at Murphy abhorrent, but his actions in abusing a felled opponent, or even just his abusing of an opponent, perfectly reasonable. In the name of our entertainment, we ask these players to be prepared to potentially injure or be injured themselves, despite this ‘primality’ we also expect them to be polite to each other too?
So with that out of the way, let’s talk some footy. After defeating GWS the week before, Carlton offered St Kilda an opportunity to consolidate their potentially season defining victory. Brendon Bolton’s Blues are no pushover though, and in a gripping encounter, they made the Saints scrape all afternoon for a hard earned four premiership points
In the last few weeks we have spent much column space waxing lyrically about Jack Billings. After an extended run of good health, we were eagerly awaiting a game to remember. This wait was rewarded with Billings’ best on ground performance against the Blues. Racking up 30 disposals, he hurt the Blues around the ground and doubly so in front of the big sticks. The yips that had plagued him for much of his career where nowhere to be seen, as kicked goals on the run and from set shots alike.
While Billings was a clear best on ground, he wasn’t the only St Kilda youngster to consolidate his early season form. Seb Ross has been a picture of consistency this year and was again against Carlton. While perhaps best known outside of Seaford as the cousin of Jobe Watson, St Kilda fans have long known the potential of the 24-year-old. All year he has been a ball magnet and was so again against the Blues. His grunt and drive was also evident, his clearance work and tackling were again a strong foundation that St Kilda’s efforts were built upon. Former Giant, Jack Steele has been a maniacal partner in crime for Ross in this regard. The tackling pressure these two provide made it difficult for Carlton to win clean possession.
Despite the clearance winning abilities of Steele, Ross, Jack Steven and Carlton’s Patrick Cripps, both sides entered the match with a negative differential for clearances in 2017. The Saints were able to win this battle against Carlton and were able to translate this into a dominant possession and territory advantage. Unfortunately, through a combination of bad kicking for goal and strong defensive rebounding from the Blues, St Kilda were unable to take full toll of this dominance.
The Blues were extremely patient when they had ball in hand and refused to allow St Kilda’s pressure to force them into a handballing chain to their doom. Waiting for the right option they worked the ball by foot and in doing so spread, and lessened the lethality of, St Kilda’s vaunted defensive pressure. It enabled them to not only avoid the quicksand of the press, but to find better options beyond it and create better shots at goal than the Saints could.
Another tactic utilised by Carlton that would have been noted by other opposition coaches, would have been their approach to Dylan Roberton. The Saints have been one of the heaviest scoring teams on the rebound thanks in a large part to the former Docker. The Blues sent Jack Silvagni to Roberton to play a defensive forward role. Silvagni was the perfect choice for the role, his defensive pressure is high quality and, as he showed against the Saints kicking two goals, he is also damaging forward target. While the tactic will no doubt be replicated in future weeks, Roberton would be buoyed by his ability to find a way to have an impact on the contest despite the attention.
When Carlton hit the lead early in the final term, despite the weight of statistical disadvantage, many would have expected the Saints to wilt. What followed would have pleased Alan Richardson as much as it surprised those expecting a different result. Winning seven of the next eight clearances, St Kilda finally broke the Blues’ resistance and were able to run away with the match. Now at 5 & 3, expectations have been significantly raised for the Saints. Next week they are confronted by the resurgent Swans, this match and the seven that follow before they meet Sydney again, will go a long way to deciding what becomes of season 2017 for St Kilda.
Bring it on.
ST KILDA 4.3 6.5 9.8 12.13 (85)
CARLTON 4.0 6.1 9.3 10.6 (66)
St Kilda: Billings 5, Ross 2, Bruce 2, Membrey, Riewoldt, Steele
Carlton: J. Silvagni 2, Murphy 2, Cripps 2, Weitering, C. Curnow, Williamson, Gibbs
St Kilda: Billings, Ross, Carlisle, Newnes, Steven, Dunstan
Carlton: Murphy, Cripps, A. Silvagni, Docherty, Rowe, Kreuzer
St Kilda: Jimmy Webster (broken hand), Jake Carlisle (groin)
Umpires: Foot, Margetts, Meredith
Official crowd: 38,014 at Etihad Stadium