Max King celebrates a goal during the round 10 clash between Greater Western Sydney and St Kilda at Giants Stadium on May 21, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

SPEARHEAD Max King sparkled in his first match of the season as St Kilda held off a brave Greater Western Sydney to snatch a 12-point triumph in an enthralling clash at Giants Stadium.

King was superb on return from a shoulder reconstruction and a hamstring injury to finish with four goals as the Saints secured a 13.14 (92) to 12.8 (80) victory on Sunday.

GIANTS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats

With King back as the Saints' focal point their small forwards Jack Higgins (three goals), Dan Butler and Jade Gresham (both two) were also able to run free in a close contest in which the lead changed hands 13 times.

Jack Sinclair (game-high 37 disposals, two goals), Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (29) and Bradley Hill (20) were influential in the free-flowing contest, while first-year Saint Liam Stocker (24) was another to impress.


The hard-fought victory entrenches the Saints (7-3) in the top eight, while the Giants (3-7) will rue a missed opportunity after they held the greatest margin of the tense tussle when leading by 13 points in the opening term.

The Giants’ key forward Jesse Hogan was a threat in the air throughout and slotted two majors, but was off target with a set shot in the dying stages that would have reduced the margin to less than a goal.

Giants skipper Toby Greene also had two goals on his return from a stint on the sidelines, while Brent Daniels also lit up the forward half with 23 disposals and two goals.


Former co-captains Stephen Coniglio (26disposals, one goal) and Josh Kelly (24, one) also led the way for the Giants, while Tom Green (29 touches) battled hard around the stoppages.

The match was put on hold for more than five minutes when Saints young gun Mitch Owens sustained an accidental knee to the head and had to be helped from the field in the second term.


Owens was jolted forward in a marking contest, collided with teammate Anthony Caminiti’s knee, and had to be replaced by substitute Ben Paton but watched the second half from the bench.


The Giants led by four points at the first change and the scores were level at the main break after the lead had changed hands eight times in an even opening half.


The tight contest continued through the third term, the lead changing three more times as the Saints took a three-point advantage into the last quarter before holding on late in the game.

St Kilda faces Hawthorn on Saturday, while the Greater Western Sydney heads to Geelong to take on the reigning premiers later the same day.

And to think some people don't want a King
After four rounds St Kilda sat atop the ladder and there was no rush to get Max King back in the side. However, results haven't been going the Saints' way since, making the spearhead's return a blessing. On Sunday King kicked his side's first major from a strong mark, set up its second with a beautiful long kick and had three to his name by half-time. His next in the final quarter snatched the lead back for St Kilda when momentum seemed to be going the other way. The Saints' unpredictability without King almost seemed a bonus, but having him back in the goalsquare will be having teammates, fans and Ross Lyon all sleeping a little easier at night.


Sydney Show serves up a slippery dip
Sunday's clash was the first at Giants Stadium since round three due to concerns with the surface after the Sydney Easter Show in early April, and it looked like the ground could have done with a little more time to recover. Players from both sides had trouble keeping their feet and the surface was pockmarked with divots that increased in number as the match went on. Unfortunately the Easter Show can't change its date, which may lead to the Giants avoiding their home ground for a larger chunk of next season. It should be stressed the surface played no part in the three concussions sustained on Sunday.

Mitch Owens is tackled by Harry Himmelberg during the round 10 clash between Greater Western Sydney and St Kilda at Giants Stadium on May 21, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Jesse Hogan was anointed a future great before he played an AFL game but injuries, controversies and sometimes seeming indifference has seen the full forward never reach the level expected. His arrival at Greater Western Sydney looked like a last chance and one he didn't immediately grab, but his past two seasons have seen him playing at his best. However, there's still a level of frustration. Hogan was good on Sunday - one of the Giants' best - but he still finished with just two goals when he created opportunity for more. Toby Greene gets all the attention in the GWS forward line from both media and opposition. At 28 it's time for Hogan to step out of his skipper's shadow if he's to become the player everyone knows he can be.



GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY   4.1    8.3    11.4    12.8 (80)
ST KILDA                                  3.3    8.3    11.7    13.14 (92)

Greater Western Sydney: Hogan 2, Greene 2, Daniels 2, O'Halloran, Kelly, Coniglio, Cadman, Briggs, Bedford
St Kilda: King 4, Higgins 3, Sinclair 2, Gresham 2, Butler 2

Greater Western Sydney: Coniglio, Green, Greene, Whitfield, Daniels, Hogan
St Kilda: Sinclair, Marshall, Wanganeen-Milera, Higgins, Wilkie, Gresham

Greater Western Sydney: Haynes (concussion), Himmelberg (concussion)
St Kilda: Owens (head)

Greater Western Sydney: Callan Ward (replaced Nick Haynes in the second quarter)
St Kilda: Ben Paton (replaced Mitch Owens in the second quarter)

Crowd: 7,508 at Giants Stadium