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Season review: St Kilda

The 'distressing' lowlight for the Saints What went right and what went wrong for St Kilda in The Wash-Up

In a nutshell

A disaster. St Kilda aimed for finals and won four games. Inconsistency was a problem for the young side, ball use in general play and in front of goal was lamentable and injuries to important players hurt.

What we said in the pre-season 

Having St Kilda at 11th was too optimistic, since it ended up third-last. Neither of the Saints' first-round draftees from last year – Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield – were in AFL.com.au's pre-season best 22. Clark, however, established himself in the best side. The absence of Ben Long was a glaring omission, because before his right foot injury, the tough forward showed star potential.


Have your say: Give your season verdict on the Saints using the form at the bottom of this article.


What worked

Jade Gresham's emergence. In a team lacking flair and sheer brilliance, the young gun has those qualities in spades. He's one of the best kicks in the team and won the club's goalkicking with 35, despite spending plenty of time in the midfield.

Steele the stopper. Jack Steele showed why the Saints offered him a four-year contract to come to the club at the end of 2016, finding his niche nullifying opposition midfielders while racking up plenty of the football himself.

Signed them up. Having Jimmy Webster, Tim Membrey, Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield all extend their deals, despite having been contracted for 2019, was a coup considering St Kilda's struggles.

What failed

Foot skills. In short, they were terrible. In all facets too, whether it was in front of goal, bombing it into the forward line or turning it over coming out of defence.

Players stalling. Way too many Saints underperformed or stagnated in their development. Former first-round picks Luke Dunstan, Billy Longer and Jack Billings were among them, although Billings did improve in the second half of the season. 

Injuries. The Saints had some shocking luck – Koby Stevens was forced to retire after a career-ending concussion while it was season over for Dylan Roberton when he collapsed against Geelong in round four with a heart issue. Plenty of others were sidelined, including Webster, Membrey, Jarryn Geary, Blake Acres and Shane Savage.

Overall rating

F. After posting 12 wins in 2016 and 11 the following year, 2018 was nothing short of a debacle. 

The coach

Alan Richardson has been under plenty of heat, which was bound to happen after such a disappointing season. Following the inept performance on Good Friday against North Melbourne, the Saints lost confidence and struggled to move the football well. Some very odd selection decisions were questioned externally, including David Armitage being dropped for a third time despite showing impressive form. If Richardson survives the off-season, he probably has to lead the side to finals next year to keep his job, even though his contract lasts until 2020.  

Alan Richardson will be under the pump in 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

The leaders 

Jarryn Geary has not had an easy time of it as captain. Losing the experience of Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna at the end of 2017, and then having so much go so wrong, must have been tough to deal with. His form held up well and the 30-year-old is likely to feature prominently in the best and fairest for a third straight season.

MVP

Jack Steven: There was a flat patch late but when the team struggled badly in the first half of 2018, Steven shone brightly. His tireless effort was always evident, even if there wasn't always a lot of support.

Surprise packet

Jack Steele: In hindsight, the big-bodied onballer's emergence as a stopper makes so much sense, considering he is a tackling machine. Perhaps more impressively than his list of scalps is how much football he won. 

Get excited

Ben Long: Before suffering a right foot injury, the exciting hard nut was lighting up St Kilda's forward line and was named the round five NAB AFL Rising Star nominee. A clutch goal in the draw with Greater Western Sydney was a highlight.

Disappointment

Jack Billings: After a 2017 when only wayward goalkicking kept the left-footer out of the Virgin Australia All Australian squad, Billings was poor in the first half of the season. He improved afterwards, but never looked the match-winner he was last year.

Best win

Round 15: St Kilda 18.11 (119) d. Melbourne 18.9 (117)

After producing a comeback win from nowhere over Gold Coast before the bye, the Saints made it two in a row with their highest score of the season.

Best individual performance

Jack Steven. Round 23 v North Melbourne

The triple best and fairest burst out of a minor form dip to post 34 disposals, 14 contested possessions, 631m gained, 12 inside-50s and two goals in the 23-point loss to the Kangaroos.

Low point

Roberton collapsing on-field against Geelong in round four was perhaps the scariest moment of the season, partly because no one knew what had happened. Thankfully, he's fine and is expected to return in 2019. 

The big questions

1. Is Alan Richardson the right person to lead this club?
2. Can the Saints recruit elite talent?
3. Will the core of this list eventually be good enough to contend for a flag?

Season in a song

Highway to Hell – AC/DC

Who's done?

Retirements: Koby Stevens

Delistings: Ray Connellan

Unsigned free agents: Sam Gilbert

How should they approach trade and draft period?

With intent to bring stars in. The Saints need help all over the ground, other than the backline. Their forward line is too inexperienced, the midfield lacks speed and class and the ruck set-up might be the worst in the competition.

Early call for 2019

It depends on who they can acquire in the off-season, but the Saints should improve regardless, especially considering they will have an easier fixture. Whether that is enough to make the top eight is doubtful.

Saints fans: what's your season verdict?

Share your views via the form below and we'll publish the best responses on Monday, September 3. 

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