WHILE we wait for play to resume, and with the little bit of knowledge we've gleaned from round one, we're taking this opportunity to put the microscope on every club.
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The biggest lesson from round one was…
No crowd, no pressure? Think again. The Saints' goalkicking still hasn't improved. They had a chance to kick the Roos out of the contest in the third quarter but could only manage four behinds. It came back to bite them, losing by two points despite having three extra shots on goal and a 29-point half-time lead. With 7.12 performance, the Saints have now kicked more behinds than goals in 27 of their past 45 games.
What’s their weapon in 2020?
The decision to recruit Paddy Ryder meant the Saints wanted to expose other clubs' big men by partnering the veteran with Rowan Marshall and playing with two genuine ruckmen. It had little impact in round one as the Roos beat the Saints for clearances and Marshall and Ryder combined for just one goal. Their outside speed will also be a factor as Bradley Hill and Zak Jones assume the wing roles.
What could be their downfall?
Does the midfield have the same polish as some contenders? Outside of Jack Billings and Bradley Hill, the rest of the Saints' onball brigade – Jack Steele, Seb Ross and Luke Dunstan – are more ball hunters. It's an area that they'll hope Dan Hannebery and Hunter Clark can provide in. Jones adds spark but his ball use has long been a question and he kicked three behinds – including two on the run – in round one.
Who missed out on round one and what does it mean for them?
Given the return of Dylan Roberton and recruitment of Dougal Howard, Josh Battle was left out despite a breakout 2019. His athletic prowess allows him to play anywhere but he'll be in a fight for a wing and half-back role when footy returns. Jack Sinclair, Nick Coffield, Doulton Langlands and Ed Phillips were other victims of the new faces arriving. Jake Carlisle had a back complaint in the lead-up to round one and wasn't risked.
Which players could benefit from the break between games?
Jade Gresham is slowly working back to running after hurting his knee in round one. The extended break should allow the livewire to be ready for round two. Ben Long has headed home to Darwin after injuring his ankle against the Roos. He's borrowed a bike from the Michael Long Centre and is dealing with a physio who is reporting back to the Saints in order to have him cherry ripe for a return.
Who looked set for a breakout season?
Midfielder Hunter Clark showed glimpses of it in the second half of last year, now the Saints are relying on him to become a genuine star in 2020. His dashing style and ability to distribute by foot is what the Saints are crying out for. Small defender Ben Paton played 13 games last year and will be hoping to form a key part of the defensive unit after selection ahead of Battle and Coffield in round one.
The market place
After making a big play for Jordan De Goey with deep pockets in 2018, the Saints will have a little less room to move in their cap this time around. Having acquired Hill, Howard, Jones, Ryder and Dan Butler last year, plus Hannebery at the end of 2018, it will be interesting to see how much spending money remains. Steele is a priority signature after back-to-back podium finishes in the best and fairest, while Battle will be hoping to solidify a senior spot before resuming talks.