ST KILDA has capped a promising pre-season campaign, edging past the Western Bulldogs by 14 points at Mars Stadium in Ballarat on Sunday.
However, the win was soured by another concussion scare for Paddy McCartin, sitting out the second half as his forward teammates did the damage in the 14.9 (93) to 12.7 (79) win.
The result leaves the Dogs winless from their two JLT Community Series hitouts, with question marks hanging over their forward make-up and ruck division leading into round one.
INJURY SOURS SAINTS' WIN Full match coverage and stats
Aaron Naughton, switching into attack after impressing in defence last week, provided a presence with three majors, while the returning Josh Schache booted two goals.
At the other end Tim Membrey kicked three goals, supported by two each for McCartin, Josh Bruce and Jack Sinclair.
Ben Long, who sat out St Kilda's win over North Melbourne last week, kicked the sealer late in the contest and was lively throughout with two goal assists.
Dylan Roberton proved why the Saints were so desperate to see him return with a commanding role in a young defence alongside forward-turned-defender Josh Battle.
However, Roberton, who collapsed on the field with a heart problem in round four last year, sent a brief scare through the Saints rooms after reporting he felt "a little bit off" in the wake of the match.
He was assessed by the club doctor, who told players that Roberton was OK. He will be monitored further during the week.
SAINT SCARES Roberton 'wonky' after match, Paddy concussed again
Veteran defender Nathan Brown, suspended from round one selection, was pulled from the named team with an eye to the season opener as Darragh Joyce played a key back role.
Dogs coach Luke Beveridge admitted he was "surprised" at the 40-14 free kick differential in favour of his team but conceded the Saints were hungrier for the contest.
The Saints' early ball movement was methodical – kicking the first three goals of the game.
Mature-age recruit Matthew Parker took the mark of the pre-season inside two minutes, standing on four players' heads deep in the forward pocket.
The Dogs started to work into the contest in the second term as travel partners Marcus Bontempelli (24 disposals) and Josh Dunkley (29) asserted their influence.
Jackson Macrae picked up 11 of his 29 disposals in a dominant third term as the Dogs started to control proceedings.
Sam Lloyd kicked two of his three goals in the space of 90 seconds early in the term, with a Bruce major on the stroke of three-quarter time placing scores level at the final break.
As the game opened up more in the final term, the Saints' speedsters made the most of opportunities, goals to runners Long and Sinclair sealing victory.
Entering with 25 players each, both teams opted to hold players back in the first half to resemble a proper hitout.
Saints Ed Phillips and Callum Wilkie, who played a half in the VFL curtain raiser, sat out the first three quarters before they were thrown into the fray late.
Dogs' No.7 draft pick Bailey Smith sat out the first quarter, Tim English replaced Jackson Trengove in the ruck after half-time, while Lachlan Young entered after the main interval.
The Saints were also buoyed by the sight of Jack Steven in Ballarat, the four-time club best and fairest watching alongside Alan Richardson and the Saints' coaches.
What we learned
Western Bulldogs: Ditching the AFL-issued LED screen on the bench, the Dogs reverted to a board held by football operations manager Ben Graham with different numbers on a dice to relay messages. Aaron Naughton commanded a key role in attack alongside Josh Schache, while the Dogs only played Jackson Trengove and Tim English in separate halves. With premiership star Tom Boyd sidelined for the first half of the season, Naughton could be used more in front of the ball.
St Kilda: The Saints applied a board of their own on the bench with different colours used to communicate to players. In the absence of the injured Billy Longer and Lewis Pierce, who was concussed last week, Rowan Marshall led the ruck division with assistance from Josh Bruce. Darragh Joyce staked his claim for round one selection, holding down a key post in defence in the absence of Jake Carlisle (injured) and Nathan Brown (rested).
Western Bulldogs: Former Tiger Sam Lloyd was the Dogs' most dangerous forward, kicking two of his three goals in the space of 90 seconds in the third term to bring his side into the contest. First-round draftee Bailey Smith sat out the opening term, while rookie Lachlan Young was introduced in the final term. Will Hayes played as a high half-forward but failed to provide much impact, while Taylor Duryea was solid in defence.
St Kilda: The game was just two minutes old when mature-age draftee Matthew Parker stood on four players' heads in the Saints' forward pocket. He was joined in a lively attack by Melbourne recruit Dean Kent who also spent time rotating through the midfield. Nick Hind backed up his impressive game last week with more dash from the back half. Callum Wilkie, who played a half in the VFL practice match pre-game featured as a key back late in proceedings.
With Dan Hannebery set to miss round one, Jade Gresham (FWD $531,000) appears to have picked up key minutes in midfield. The small forward attended 13 centre bounces.
After JLT Series games in the elements at Mackay and Ballarat, the Dogs return to Marvel Stadium for their season opener in 13 days against Sydney. The Saints host Gold Coast at the same venue a day later, with their fringe players also getting the chance to push for selection in a VFL practice match against Port Melbourne on Friday night.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.2 5.4 10.6 12.7 (79)
ST KILDA 4.2 7.5 10.6 14.9 (93)
Western Bulldogs: Naughton 3, Lloyd 3, Schache 2, Liberatore, Hunter, Bontempelli, Wallis
St Kilda: Membrey 3, Sinclair 2, McCartin 2, Bruce 2, Gresham, Clark, Newnes, Kent, Long
Western Bulldogs: Hunter, Macrae, Dunkley, Naughton, Wallis, Lloyd
St Kilda: Roberton, Billings, Steele, Newnes, Battle, Marshall
Western Bulldogs: Nil
St Kilda: McCartin (concussion)
Umpires: McInerney, Stevic, Rosebury
Official crowd: 4384 at Eureka Stadium