“The Crows look ominous here”
Bruce McAvanney growled early in the first quarter, a 1.0 to 0.0 Adelaide lead enough for him to fear for St Kilda’s chances in the match. From a St Kilda viewpoint, more frustrating than the veteran caller’s rush to call a football game on suspicion rather than vision was the fact that the Saints efforts ultimately proved his concerns well founded. With Adelaide celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their 1997 Premiership win over St Kilda, the Saints midseason freefall continued with a crushing 57-point defeat at the hands of the high-flying Crows.
It was a familiar tale for the Saints, a lack of discipline and precision proving costly against an opposition eager to punish any transgression. The match was over early in the second quarter with the Crows having taken a 7 goal to 1 lead. The Crows gleefully feasting on the Saints transgressions, five of their seven goals from Saints turnovers the other two free kicks. Speaking of free kicks, the umpires must have gone close to blowing the pea out of their whistles awarding Adelaide six free kicks in the first 10 minutes of the game alone.
It was death by 100 cuts with even the most cursory glance at the stats sheet highlights how much this lack of precision cost St Kilda. Ten Saints had disposal efficiency at 70% or less and six recorded four or more clangers, these are numbers that cannot be covered. What Richardson would give to have Nick Riewoldt on the paddock, his presence as an option and ball use in the middle has been highlighted in his absence. When the final siren sounded they were all but 10 goal losers despite meagre differentials in possessions and clearances of five and two respectively.
Amidst the doom and gloom, there are a few things that would give an optimist reason to still call the glass half full. Having been blown out of the contest early, Alan Richardson’s men continued to attack the contest and did well to fight the contest out. In no ways is a 57-point defeat palatable but in season’s past, this contest would have degenerated into a 100 point rollick for the Crows.
In large part, this ability to stay in the contest was as a result of the efforts of Josh Bruce up forward. After a few weeks in the VFL, the man-bunned spearhead was almost a lone hand in the Saints attacking zone. He led hard at the ball all night to present an option for his team-mates streaming forward and was rewarded with four majors. It was a strong return while those around him struggled to have an impact on the contest.
Koby Stevens was given the role on early season Brownlow fancy Rory Sloane. The pair spent so much time together throughout the contest that Sloane may well have withdrawal symptoms over the course of the weekend without the Saint in is back pocket. Stevens job was made a little difficult by the umpires clearly paying close attention to the battle between the two after Sloane was man- handled by the Cats last week. In the end, this did affect the scoreboard with a highly dubious free kick paid to Sloane, even allowing for this Stevens deserves to be credited with the victory in this head to head.
Seb Ross has quietly gone about compiling a career-best season in 2017. The unassuming 24-year old has been the picture of consistency this season and could well be in the lead of the Trevor Barker Medal if votes were tallied right now. He was the best Saint on this night with six clearances and 39 touches as he tried manfully to get the Saints back into the contest.
After a seemingly blessed season in relation to injuries, they reared their ugly head in this contest. Nathan Brown, Jake Carlisle, and Mav Weller would all appear to be questionable for next week, after receiving treatment and finishing the game in obvious discomfort.
Having lost the first three of a season-defining stretch of nine games, the Saints finals hopes would now appear to have slipped into the ubiquitous status of mathematically possible. Another important match lies ahead next week against the Kangaroos. Despite their difficulties with disposal efficiency in recent weeks, they simply cannot let this prevent them from taking on the contest, clangers kill but inaction is equally deadly. There remains a feint pulse on the Saints 2017 hopes but not if they remain gun shy.
ADELAIDE 5.6 8.9 11.11 16.15 (111)
ST KILDA 1.1 2.4 3.10 7.12 (54)
Adelaide: Lynch 3, Jenkins 3,Walker 3, Betts 2, Sloane, Otten, Milera, Smith, Beech
St Kilda: Bruce 4, Stevens, Billings, McCartin
Adelaide: Lynch, Jacobs, Atkins, Douglas, Laird, Lever, Smith
St Kilda: Ross, Stevens, Newnes, Geary, Bruce
St Kilda: Weller (ankle), Carlisle (thigh), Brown (hamstring)
Umpires: Rosebury, Hosking, Schmitt, Mollison
Official crowd: 46,082, at Adelaide Oval