AFL: St. Kilda’s season wrap and the ‘juggernaut’ comment

St. Kilda have finished the season in the dreaded 9th spot on the ladder.  Not high enough to play finals and too high for prime draft picks.  However, supporters should be proud of the way that the Saints have played their football this year.  The Ross Lyon defensive game style that strangles the opposition is gone and the Scott Watters free flowing attacking style was apparent throughout the season.  So what have been the highs and lows of the 2012 season?

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(Picture courtesy of Eurosport)

The season got off to a disappointing start with the Power upsetting the Saints by four points.  Terry Milera made his debut and did enough to impress fans and get them excited at the prospect of more new faces.  Lenny Hayes’ return from a second knee reconstruction was unbelievably strong.  Many experts believe that the 2010 Norm Smith Medalists’ return from knee surgery was one of the best returns, as he seemed to play with the same devastating form that saw him almost single handedly will the Saints to a second Premiership.  From this first match players and supporters were just hoping that it would not come back to haunt them at the end of the season.

With the next two games against Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs it was a good opportunity to for a percentage boost.  The Saints virtually opened the flood gates with multiple goals, free flowing play and refreshing youth mixed together with their senior players.  It seemed like a sufficient fusion that would hopefully carry the team to another finals campaign.

The next match was a round four blockbuster with Ross Lyon returning to his former home to take on his old club.  The crowd was split, those that wanted to thank him for all his efforts in taking the Saints to two straight Grand Final appearances and those that felt betrayed and were furious with the events that transpired at the end of 2011.  Lyon’s emphasis was to shut down Dal Santo and it worked as it is proven that the midfielder cannot deal with a hard tag.

Between the rounds of five to fourteen the Saints were unable to string two consecutive wins together which really effected their position on the ladder.  Although due to the closeness of this year’s competition they were still able to maintain a position in the middle of the table.  With losses to North Melbourne, Sydney and a controversial finish to the Collingwood game the Saints’ season was effectively over.

The positives to come out of season 2012 is the young talent that St Kilda have been able to inject into its senior nucleus.

Arryn Siposs is 19 years old and prides himself on his impressive kicking skills.  Recruited from the Dandenong Stingrays in 2010 Siposs had an interrupted 2011 when surgery cut his season short.  Playing 11 games in 2012 the forward has shown a lot of potential and seems to be a well-rounded individual that is excited to be playing at the highest level.

Jack Steven has established himself as a solid footballer.  His pace around the stoppages is what the Saints have lacked in recent years.  He is now able to find a fair amount of the football and add an extra dimension to the midfield.  A recruit from the now famous Geelong Falcons the 22 year old is proving an integral component to the Saints list.

Ben McEvoy might look he is 30 years old but his ruck work and contested marking ability has become vital for the Saints.  Formally a shadow for Michael Gardiner and Steven King the youngster now owns the number one ruckman position.  His absence hurts the Saints and the team is crying out for a backup.

Jarryn Geary has played an impressive 20 games in season 2012.  His defensive work has kept the Saints in numerous games and he has displayed remarkable composure.  Finally breaking into the team, Geary is almost a walk up starter and important to the defensive structure.

Tom Ledger was taken at pick number 59 in the 2010 National Draft.  He needed surgery to repair an injured tendon and has taken some time recovering due to his reliance on pace.  He is a promising prospect and hopes to have a strong pre-season to push for a spot in 2013.

Rhys Stanley is one of the most exciting players that played in 2012.  He has a long penetrating kick and is seriously quick.  Unfortunately a hamstring injury effected his season but when he was in the team he provided another target to run alongside Riewoldt and Koschitzke.  Even giving Koschitzke the option of going into the ruck and exposing the small forwards influence.

Terry Milera played 15 games this season and used his silky skills and fluid movement to add more to the forward structure of the Saints.  The 24 year old recruit has been one of the great stories of the year and clearly impressing coach Scott Watters.

Ahmed Saad and his goal kicking ritual had some great games in 2012.  The small forward gave some assistance to Stephen Milne and was also a viable option with the absence of Adam Schneider for most of the year.

Some noticeable performances throughout the year is the heroic performance of Lenny Hayes.  The veteran Saint will be going around for another season which is exactly what all football fans were hoping for.  He is no doubt the heartbeat of the Saints and uses his strength and poise to negate his opposition from having effective ball use.  Regardless of All-Australian selection or Best and Fairest results, Sean Dempster had a fantastic season.  His presence in defensive was imposing and he finished forth in the AFL for marks.  Dempster probably had his most consistent season and will be an important factor for the Saints finals aspirations in 2013.

The new game plan and enthusiastic talent is definitely exciting.  It is the refreshing rejuvenation that the Saints needed.  Does this mean that a juggernaut is on its way?  It will definitely be an extremely competitive outfit with a never say die attitude, but the current core group does not seem like it will be a juggernaut.  If that core group can eradicate the disappointment of the two Grand Final losses then perhaps anything is possible.

The Saint’s finished with 12 wins and 10 losses which equated to 48 Premiership points, eight points behind eighth placed Fremantle.  Pass or Fail?  The fact that most experts believed the Saints would bottom out, like the Bulldogs did, they would have to get a pass.  What are your thoughts about the Saints season or any other team for 2012?

Sean Munaweera

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