If you’re a reader of Champion Data’s AFL Prospectus, you’ll know that the Saints weren’t far off making finals last season when analysing the stats.
They won by over 10 goals against Richmond and poor goalkicking cost them a couple of games in the first half of the season, which highlights some positive signs.
Ultimately though, the Saints simply were not good enough to make finals and while statistics can help us understand certain areas of their game, the lack of consistency in application of pressure cannot be accepted.
The team’s strength is applying pressure and Jack Steele is the leader in that regard. Some matches, however, they didn’t turn up and were subsequently smashed by their opposition.
David Armitage’s absence was underestimated, as was the fact Jack Steven played injured. While Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt have retired, it’s the return to fitness of Armitage and Steven that will have a bigger impact on the team.
Hopefully Paddy McCartin can overcome his injury issues.
FB: Jarryn Geary – Nathan Brown – Dylan Roberton
HB: Shane Savage – Jake Carlisle – Jimmy Webster
C: Jack Newnes – Luke Dunstan – Jack Sinclair
HF: Blake Acres – Paddy McCartin – Jack Billings
FF: Jade Gresham – Josh Bruce – Tim Membrey
R: Billy Longer – Seb Ross – Jack Steven
INT: David Armitage – Koby Stevens – Jack Steele – Nick Coffield
EMG: Sam Gilbert – Jack Lonie – Hunter Clark – Tom Hickey
Best 22 Analysis
The Saints are looking strong again on paper this season, with the likes of Jack Lonie and Mav Weller missing out on the best 22. Defensively, the team looks solid with Brown and Carlisle beginning to form a formidable duo.
Midfield depth is a huge positive for St Kilda. Dunstan, Ross, Steven, Stevens, Steele, Armitage, Clark, Billings, Newnes and Sinclair can all run through the centre and play their roles strongly. Jack Steven is every change of returning to his absolute best with the added quality around him this season. Having struggled through 2017, it will be fantastic to see him play well consistently.
Clearly, there will be pressure on the St Kilda forward line following the retirement of club legend Nick Riewoldt. Bruce needs to be able to perform consistently now, while Membrey continues to impress. He could be a Jack Gunston-type of player. Paddy McCartin’s full fitness is crucial to this team. If he plays 20+ games, he will kick 45+ goals this season. One of the more talented young key forwards, he just needs a good run at it. He could become the next forward monster by the end of 2018.
Round 4 vs Geelong @ GMHBA Stadium
Geelong may go undefeated at its home ground this season and no one would be surprised. This early season outing, however, could teach us a lot about St Kilda’s mettle in 2018. The Saints have been known to lose big in these types of games so a competitive showing would be enough to believe this team can compete.
Round 15 vs Melbourne @ MCG
Melbourne and St Kilda have long been compared to each other as they both enter in a potential period of finals appearances. In the eyes of many, however, Melbourne are now well ahead of the Saints. This match will start the second half of the season for St Kilda and there’d be no better way to commence the run home than with a win at the home of footy against the Demons.
Round 21 vs Essendon @ Etihad Stadium
This could be a match that decides who makes finals. The Bombers are another team expected to be contending in finals and are, once again, a team rated higher than St Kilda. The Saints lost two crucial games out of their last three in 2017. It can’t happen again.
Breakout Player – Paddy McCartin
It couldn’t be anyone else, could it? McCartin is the one that needs to take the next step at senior level, which only comes when he is fully fit. Granted, his issues have been predominately unlucky, however they’ve been recurring in previous years. No signs of injury in the preseason has him raring to go, and he’ll play the full 22 if fit. Expect him to finish top 10 in the Coleman Medal.
Fantasy Gold – Jack Steven
In 2015 and 2016, Steven averaged triple figures in all forms of fantasy. The 27-year-old admitted he had been hindered by injury throughout 2017, which limited his ability to perform at his best. With Armitage returning, there’s no doubt Steven has more space and less pressure to deal with. Steven can push into the 105+ point average bracket and be a premium option once again.
Prediction – 10th
Sorry Saints fans, but in a season that will be extremely tight for the final few spots in the top eight, your team misses out. It will end up coming down to the 50/50 games throughout the year and there’s every chance that St Kilda loses a few more of them than its competitors.