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Saints kick on

Luke Holmesby  September 13, 2012 6:00 AM


Lenny Hayes' return from a knee reconstruction was remarkable

1. Scott Watters does things differently to Ross Lyon
LYON is still widely recognised as one of the most astute tacticians in the modern game, but his focus on defence ahead of attack had drawn some criticism from those hoping to see an entertaining spectacle. Watters, without placing any emphasis on the aesthetics of the game, has introduced a far more attacking style of game to the Saints. In 2011 they averaged 84 points for and 76 against. This year those numbers rose to 107 and 86.

2. Players with questionable foot skills aren't part of Watters' plans
Brett Peake, Farren Ray and Clinton Jones were all integral parts of the St Kilda team under Lyon but all three slipped down the pecking order when Watters took over. Peake has toe, Ray can take an overhead mark with the best of them and Jones is one of the game's best stoppers. But none of the trio could claim to be an elite kick and all three battled this season. Ray was in and out of the team for a total of 11 games, Peake was delisted after playing just one senior match and Jones spent the last four weeks of the season playing for VFL team Sandringham.

3. Lenny Hayes isn't familiar with the concept of ageing
Any 32-year-old coming off major knee surgery would be expected to be a shadow of their former self. Not so for the Saints champion who on Wednesday won his third club best and fairest 18 months after undergoing his second knee reconstruction. Hayes has led the Saints midfield all year and his signature attack on the ball and the man with the ball shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

4. The Saints have the best small forward contingent in the AFL
Stephen Milne and Adam Schneider have caused headaches for opposition teams for more than a decade but the Saints have a smooth succession plan in place with Ahmed Saad and Terry Milera both showing plenty of form in their first season in the AFL system. Milera booted 19 goals from 15 games and Saad 28 from 16 matches, giving every indication they will be a force for years to come.

5. Zac Dawson was a big loss
The much-maligned defender was forced out in a mutual decision that eased salary cap pressure for St Kilda but the team was left without a key defender to take on the gorilla forwards of the competition. Jack Riewoldt, Lance Franklin, Kurt Tippett, Tom Hawkins and Dean Cox all enjoyed big days out in front of the goals against St Kilda's undersized defence. James Gwilt and Tom Simpkin did their best but the Saints need another big body in the back half.

6. Ben McEvoy needs some support in the ruck
McEvoy has been St Kilda's ruck hope ever since he was the heir apparent to Michael Gardiner and Steven King in his first few years at the club. The big man was solid for the Saints this year without starring but the Saints need more depth in their ruck department. Rhys Stanley has shown some potential as McEvoy's support but he may be marked for duties closer to goal. The Saints were stretched when McEvoy and Stanley were both out injured at the same time this year and responsibilities fell to the 31-year-old, 189cm Jason Blake.

7. Arryn Siposs is the most exciting teenager to arrive at St Kilda in years
After getting a taste of the action with five senior games last season, Siposs improved in 2012, delighting fans with his long, accurate kicking and willingness to win contested possession. He still managed just 11 games, including the last few in defence, but he looks to be a vital part of the Saints team for years to come.

8. Very little seems to faze Stephen Milne
We probably learnt this one a long time ago but it was further emphasised this season. Whatever drama or occasion followed Milne had no effect on his game as he kicked 56 goals for the season to be the most prolific small forward in the AFL once again. The St Kilda goalsneak has long been a target of vocal opposition fans and aggressive opponents but it has been proven time after time that it only seems to spur him on.

9. Nick Riewoldt is football's ultimate professional
Another lesson that probably dawned on us all a while ago but became even clearer when Riewoldt revealed he had been undergoing the radical orthakine therapy on his troublesome knee. Many had expected Riewoldt to fade this season after an intense couple of years but he was one of St Kilda's best for much of the season before his knee got the better of him and ended his season three weeks early.

10. Dean Laidley has found his perfect role in football
Regarded as one of the AFL's best tacticians during his time as North Melbourne coach, Laidley wasn't as great at being the public face of the club. After a brief stint at Port Adelaide, made difficult by the fact he was based in Melbourne, Laidley has slotted in beautifully with the Saints as Watters' right-hand man, offering sharp tactical advice as well as working closely with St Kilda's midfield department without having the added responsibility of fronting the media on a weekly basis.

Luke Holmesby covers St Kilda news for Follow him on Twitter - @AFL_Luke

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs