Almanac Season Review: The Saints Rediscover Their Halos – 2016, The Season That Was

By Braham Dabscheck


In 2015 the Saints won six games, plus one draw (against the Cats) and lost the lucky coveted thirteenth position on the ladder to the Demons, with a percentage of 78.4 (1695 points for, 2162 against). Despite ending up in the bottom third of the table, prospects for the Saints looked bright for 2016. The Saints’ brains trust’s strategy of focusing on the younger brigade, with a few veterans to help steer Good Ship St. Kilda seemed to be working. With more games in young legs, 2016 looked like it would be a much better year.


At the start of the season, those of us who know such things expected the Saints to win between 10 and 12 games, scare and beat a few top sides, particularly when playing at Etihad, but not make the finals. We know it alls, or maybe it was just me!,  were overly pessimistic with our predictions. The Saints doubled their number of wins and only missed out on qualifying for the finals on percentage. A couple of interstate games where the Saints, obviously suffering from jet lag, couldn’t get going and were murdered on the scoreboard was too big a hurdle to overcome in the percentage stakes. The Saints percentage for the season increased to 95.7 (1953 points for, 2041 against for a net turn around of 379 points, or almost three goals a game).


The Saints started the season slowly. At the halfway mark they were 4 and 7. There were two heartbreaking losses to the Hawks and the Kangaroos following odd umpiring decisions late in the game; against the Hawks the Saints were in front; and against the Kangaroos the scores were level. Things turned around dramatically in the second half of the season, with eight wins and three losses. The most impressive wins were against the top eight sides the Cats (by 3 points) and the Bulldogs (by 15 points). The Saints also achieved a club record with their fourteenth straight victory against the Demons. The crucial loss, as it turned out, was away to the Suns who had a poor season, when the team couldn’t do anything right, especially in front of goal.


In 2014 and 2015, the selectors experimented in selecting the young brigade to see what they could do. 2014, in particular, was also a terrible year for injuries, with players going down like nine pins. There were fewer bad injuries this year with a larger and a squad, with growing experience to choose from. At the end of 2016 the squad, as a whole, looks more talented and experienced than previous years.


The Saints look good across the board. The playing group as a whole seems to have matured. The team combines competitiveness with more dash and dare. A number of players had break out years. Tom Hickey was a revelation in the ruck and dominated many other big men. Blake Acres put in some stellar efforts in a ruck roving role. Sebastian Ross seemed to come from no where in a mid field role. On top of this there was Jack Steven who had another year which will probably see him win the Trevor Barker award again. Jack Newnes had another impressive year, as did David Armitage. Luke Dunstan provided the midfield with grunt. He unfortunately broke his collar bone near the end of the season.


Up forward the Saints now have a three prong big man attack, with Nick Riewoldt as an optional fourth, as demonstrated in his nine bag haul and 21 marks against the Lions in Round 23. He finished the season with 41 goals. Josh Bruce wasn’t as productive as last year with 38 goals. He combines his goal kicking with ruck relieving duties. Paddy McCartin, a player who has much potential seems to find ways to get himself injured, especially early in games. The standout forward for the year was Tim Membrey who finished with 44 goals, with a number of bags of five. Marvelous Maverick Weller has been transformed from a tagger to an aggressive half forward who finished with 24 goals. The find of the season is the small forward cum midfield player Jade Gresham who has a touch of the Milney’s about him. He is the sort of player who can kick clutch goals.


The back line has looked both more solid in repelling attacks and more assured going forward. Jarryn Geary and Sam Gilbert are fearless in the contest, and Sam likes nothing more than a burst forward. Moving him into the back half coincided with the turn around in the Saints’ fortunes in the second half of the year. ‘Joey’ Montagna, Dylan Roberton and Shane Savage all provide poise, especially going forward. Sean Dempster and Sam Fisher also had serviceable, injury interrupted, years.


Nathan Wright and Daniel McKenzie played well during the latter part of the season having been allocated swing roles, depending on opponents. Both Jack Billings and Jimmy Webster had problems with injuries. If there is a problem for the Saints it is with a second small forward. Darren Michington, Jack Lonie and Jack Sinclair have been tried in this role. Settling on a second small forward will be an important piece in the Saints 2017 jigsaw puzzle. Lewis Pierce kicked a goal with his first kick in his only game when he played in the ruck. And back Brandon White kicked a nice goal in his first game in the last game against the Lions. He has a nice long left leg on him.


The Saints can look forward to including big backs Jake Carlisle and Hugh Goddard, after he recovers from his leg injury, next year. The Chicago Cub, back up ruckman Jason Holmes, showed good form in his two games late in the season. The Saints are also on the look out for talented free agents and who knows who they will pick up in the draft.


I once read someone who said there is two things we can say about the future. The first is we don’t know what the future holds. Second, we know that we don’t know what the future holds. This provides a potent reason to not make any predictions about how the Saints will go in 2017. On top of this I am fearful of being ‘the kiss of death’. My wife has been very successful in making predictions in choosing teams that I tell her will lose. She also navigates this way in strange cities in heading in the opposite direction to where I think we should go. It never fails her. But, if we can put to one side these rational and irrational approaches to decision making and predictions, 2017 looks like it could be a pretty good year for the Saints; even better than 2016.


Go Saints!!


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  1. Well said Breham!

    I find positive things about our beloved Saints. So many young talented players contribute well to the club. They are improving much.

    In addition, some young players are joining such as Carlisle. And McCartin and Goddard will play more games next year.

    I can’t wait seeing the Saints in action next year.

    Go the mighty Saints!


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