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Jack's back, but frees disparity puzzles Richardson

Richardson 'frustrated' by umpiring Alan Richardson says he was a 'bit surprised' at some umpiring decisions and feels his club have been 'on the wrong ledge' of late

EXPECTATIONS couldn't have been too high on Jack Steven coming into Sunday afternoon's clash with Gold Coast.

After a difficult pre-season which involved a break to deal with a mental health issue, the four-time best and fairest had a starting position he wasn't used to – on the bench.

He spent 71 per cent of the game on field, lower than usual, much of it spent forward.

However, the 28-year-old did what he has done so often, willing himself to exhaustion and being an influential contributor for his side.

SAINTS SHADE SUNS Full match coverage and stats

"Jack Steven's ended up having 10 clearances, nine groundball gets, really high in terms of pressure acts as well," Saints coach Alan Richardson said after the one-point win.

"He means a lot to our group. He's had a tough period.

"That was really good for Jack to bounce back and play strong footy."

Richardson expected the star onballer to improve as the season progressed.

 

"Whilst he's had a reasonable training prep – it wasn't totally surprising today that he performed strongly – we didn't have him in the middle of the ground as much as we normally would," Richardson said.

"We had him forward. I like him as a forward anyway. He'll benefit greatly from this game."

Richardson acknowledged his team needed to improve after narrowly defeating the lowly Suns.

"We were a bit rusty. We've changed a bit in terms of the way we defend and the way we attack. At times, we were really too conservative with the ball and we were easy to defend," Richardson said.

Darragh Joyce had a tough job on Peter Wright in his third career game and conceded six free kicks.

The Saints lost that count 29-18.

"There was a couple that I was a bit surprised with," Richardson said.

"We've had a lot of free kicks paid against us in the back end of last year, JLT and this game again. I don't know what the number was.

"I demand that the coaches don't tell me the free kick count so I don't get caught up in that, but I reckon we were on the wrong end of the ledger again. That's just the way it felt, and certainly some inside 50.

"That's frustrating, so we've got to get better. We'll seek some clarification if we were a bit stiff or a bit uncertain about things."

Other topics covered by Richardson
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  • Rowan Marshall, Hunter Clark, Blake Acres and Robbie Young in contention for promotion after impressive VFL outings
  • Defender Nathan Brown will "go pretty close to coming back in", with his suspension served