Max King celebrates a final-quarter goal in St Kilda's win over Sydney in round 13, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

THEY came for Buddy. They witnessed another moment of history at the SCG. But they left disappointed after St Kilda continued marching towards September under Ross Lyon.

On a night where Lance Franklin (1059) moved into fourth spot overall on the all-time goal kicking leaderboard behind only Tony Lockett (1360), Gordon Coventry (1299) and Jason Dunstall (1254), and a night where the Sydney superstar became only the 22nd player in VFL/AFL history to play 350 games, the Saints absorbed everything Sydney had before prevailing by 14 points on Thursday night.

SWANS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats

The Saints will return to Melbourne level with fourth-placed Brisbane after banking the 12.8 (80) to 9.12 (66) victory to record their eighth win since Lyon replaced Brett Ratten during an off-season of widespread change at Moorabbin.


It was ugly early – and rarely too pretty – but St Kilda enjoys it this way and produced the response it was looking for after a disappointing performance against Hawthorn before the mid-season bye.

While the focus in the build-up was on the man who has put more bums on seats inside the SCG than anyone else in the past decade, the focus will be on Sydney in the aftermath after it lost for the seventh time in 2023.

Rowan Marshall dominated in the ruck with 50 hitouts, 16 disposals and seven tackles, while Brad Crouch amassed 33 disposals and eight tackles and Jack Sinclair finished with 32 touches, seven clearances and 607m gained, while Max King continued his strong return from a shoulder reconstruction with a game-high three goals.


The first quarter was as unattractive and uninspiring as you will see in 2023. It didn't rain during the game but it sprinkled rain for a couple of hours after lunch and it was enough to ensure the surface was slipperier than it looked.

By quarter-time, St Kilda had the only goal and the only two scores on the board, despite 13 inside 50s apiece. Sydney didn't score for the first time in an opening quarter since a trip to Princes Park at the end of 1997.

It took a contested mark from Hayden McLean and a poster five minutes into the second quarter for the Swans to score and then the game clicked into gear. And it had to be Tom Papley who produced a moment of individual brilliance from right on the paint to record Sydney's first goal 10 minutes into the quarter.


Franklin overtook Doug Wade on the all-time list when he slotted his first goal to level the scores halfway through the second term, adding a second eight minutes later to enjoy some rare wins against Cal Wilkie and Dougal Howard.


Then when Papley pounced on a crumb and nailed his second he wheeled towards the members and electrified the SCG, hoping they were starting to forget about what transpired in the first 30 minutes.

After conceding five consecutive goals in the second quarter, St Kilda kicked the first two goals of the third quarter to make it four in a row to put them back in the game, before the Swans wrestled momentum back but didn't capitalise.

Sydney coughed up two goals in two minutes in the last quarter on the back of two 50m penalties that almost ended up being the difference. Mitch Owens nailed the first, before Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera made Angus Sheldrick pay for running over the mark minutes later. Small margins that hurt, but not as much as the absence of Luke Parker.


The game was brought to a standstill for a minute with six minutes to go when a pitch invader ran from one side of the SCG to the other, evading more than a dozen security guards to leap the fence and out into the Bill O'Reilly Stand. 

By the time the final siren sounded, it was St Kilda who continues to evade more fancied opponents in 2023.

MRO watch for Saint
Saints small forward Dan Butler will attract scrutiny from the Match Review Officer for a crunching tackle on Nick Blakey. The Swans defender came straight off the ground and was immediately subbed out, although the 23-year-old passed a head injury assessment test on the bench. The tackle could divide opinion given it looked like he had caught Blakey holding the ball after tackling him side on, but given the consequence it could cost Butler. Seb Ross conceded a free kick for a dangerous tackle on Joel Amartey in the last quarter that could also be looked at. 


Low-scoring start
The first quarter couldn't have been much sloppier. Sydney recorded its first scoreless quarter since a trip to Princes Park in round 21, 1997. It was the first scoreless quarter for the Swans at the SCG ever and the lowest scoring quarter since 1999. 0.0 to 1.1. Not one for the those to watch again unless you're paid to do those things. 

Lance Franklin during the round 13 match between Sydney and St Kilda at the SCG on June 8, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Lenny stays home
St Kilda midfield coach Lenny Hayes missed the trip north to Sydney due to illness this week, with development coach Brendon Goddard stepping up in his absence to fill the game day role in Ross Lyon's coaching panel. The Saints great was still wired into the coaches box and had a say in moving Marcus Windhager to Chad Warner.


SYDNEY       0.0   5.5   7.10  9.12 (66)
ST KILDA     1.1   4.2   7.4    12.8 (80)

Sydney: Franklin 2, Papley 2, Campbell, Clarke, Gulden, Lloyd, Wicks
St Kilda: King 3, Butler 2, Owens 2, Caminiti, Higgins, Phillipou, Sharman, Wanganeen-Milera

Sydney: Florent, Rowbottom, Warner, Papley, Campbell  
St Kilda: Sinclair, Marshall, Crouch, Wanganeen-Milera, Wilkie, Owens

Sydney: Nick Blakey (toe)
St Kilda: Nil

Sydney: Joel Amartey (replaced Nick Blakey in the third quarter)
St Kilda: Cooper Sharman (replaced Anthony Caminiti in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 30,123 at the SCG