AFL Round 18 – St Kilda v Fremantle: Saints on cloud nine; Dockers on slow boat back to Fremantle
by Braham Dabscheck
4.40 PM Saturday 19 July 2014
2014 will not go down as one of the better years for the Saints and their fans. A reasonably good start to the season was marred by a string of injuries. After winning 3 of the first 5 games, the Saints nose-dived with 11 losses on the trot and some terrible hidings to boot. Coaching staff chopped and changed the team in searching to find the magic switch which would turn the season around. There were encouraging signs against Richmond, other than for the first quarter and the last three minutes of the last. The Carlton and North games were disappointing losses.
In the lead up to the Dockers game Lenny Hayes announced that he would retire at the end of the season. He will fall short of a 300 game career. Hopefully, moves are afoot to build a statue for him. The coaching staff decided to go with three big men in the forward line; Nick Riewoldt, Rhys Stanley and Josh Bruce. And rather than playing Saint Nick deep he would be allowed to roam all over the ground and inspect every blade off grass on Etihad as he prepares to take up a job as a horticulturist when he decides to hang up his boots.
The Saints looked good from the first bounce. Sean Dempster was knocked out in a sickening head clash with the Dockers’ Matthew Pavlich in the first few minutes of the first quarter. He was subbed out for Cameron Shenton. I submit that the Dockers should have similarly subbed out Pavlich. After a long break where Dempster was stretched off the game resumed with Riewoldt kicking the first goal of the match following a mark.
The Saints then dominated the game from start to finish. They were a completely different team from the one that has struggled all season. Everyone played well. The Saints out tackled, out thought and out played the Dockers. The Saints had over 120 more possessions for the game than the Dockers. For the first time this season the Saints kicked over 100 points and had 10 players who kicked goals. It was difficult to understand how the Dockers were a candidate for a top two position.
The Saints won the first quarter by 4 goals to one. Stanley started well with some good grabs. Shane Savage had a stand out first quarter launching the ball into the forward line, again and again. The second quarter was even better. With a minute to go, the Saints had outscored the Dockers 4 goals to 2. Stanley marked on the wing. Former Saint, Zac Dawson, conceded a 50 metre penalty and Stanley lined up from 52 metres out. He landed a bomb, kicking his third for the half with the Saints going into half time with a 40 point lead. As fellow players mobbed him, a smile broke out over his face. It is not clear whether it was because of a realisation that this was a game that the Saints had in the bag, or that he felt that he had finally arrived as a player. He took 14 marks and finished with 3 goals for the game. It was easily his best game for the club.
But the best was yet to come. The Saints were in complete control in the third quarter. The ball was in their forward line for approximately 75 per cent of the quarter. The Saints kicked 6 goals 8 to 2 goals 4. Goals came from set shots and stoppages; at leat 4 of the points could have been goals. The last quarter provided Saints fans with a chance to wait for the final siren and cheer everything that players did safe in the knowledge that this was a great win. The highlight was when ruckman Billy Longer tangled with Zac Clarke in the Saints forward line. As he grappled with Clarke he freed an arm and pointed to the scoreboard. Saints fans knew the score; he was pointing for the rest of the league to take notice. The Saints are back in town. Go Saints!
St. Kilda 4.3 9.6 15.14 17.16 (118)
Fremantle 1.1 3.2 5.6 9.6
St. Kilda: Riewoldt 4, Stanley 3, Ray 2, Dunstan 2, Murdoch, Curren, Schneider, Montagna, Armitage, Shenton.
Fremantle: Pavlich 2, Fyfe 2, Mayne, Morabito, Barlow, Pearce, Taberner.
St. Kilda: Riewoldt, Stanley, Savage, Armitage, Ray, Hayes.
Fremantle: Barlow, Duffield, Fyfe.
Umpires: Fisher, Rosebury, McInerney Crowd: 16,594
Our Votes: Riewoldt 3 (St. K), Stanley 2 (St. K), Savage 1 (St. K).