ST KILDA coach Brett Ratten has leaped to the defence of prized recruit Bradley Hill, saying the Saints had to use him more when he was in space.
Hill had another quiet outing in Monday night's thumping from Geelong, registering just seven disposals in the 59-point loss to continue a slow start to his St Kilda career.
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Ratten conceded there were still on-field "connection" issues, but said the real problem lay with the Saints not finding the hard-running winger when he was clear.
"Maybe if we give it to him a little bit more when he is free," Ratten said post-match.
"So, when he is out in the open and has five, 10 or 20 metres on his opponent maybe give him the ball, because there is times there when he should get the ball and we are scratching our heads saying 'why aren't we giving it to him?"
"I think he worked to some good parts of the ground and we didn't give him the footy."
Hill has averaged just 15 disposals this season and topped 20 just once, a far cry from the 24 a game he racked up for Fremantle last season.
"He is working extremely hard and the connection piece we will keep pushing, but I think we can give him the ball more, especially the obvious ones when he is completely out," Ratten said.
The flat performance came on the same day Saints CEO Matt Finnis told AFL.com.au his club would be searching to "attract another quality player" in the midfield this off-season.
The Saints were flat against the Cats, leaving Ratten extremely disappointed with his team's performance and defensive pressure.
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"I think a lot of our game fell away in the second half," he said.
"We may not play the way we want to when we are getting beaten, but we don't want to get beaten by 10 goals, that's the disappointing part of it … you might go down by three or four or five, but you don't go down by 10."
St Kilda lost 11.4 percentage points to slip into fourth place, while Geelong leapfrogged them by gaining 8.5 percentage points – a fact that didn't escape Cats coach Chris Scott, who said he didn't want to rest players late in the match.
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"We almost never focus on percentage, but in this season it looks like it's going to be even more important, so there's a bit of a balance there," Scott said.
"We didn't want to let them in late by resting a few players.
"Percentage could well and truly be worth a game this year. With only 17 rounds, there's not much chance to catch it up if you miss your chances."
The win sets up a showdown with competition leaders Port Adelaide on Friday night.
Scott said ruckman Esava Ratugolea would return to the line-up, while Nakia Cockatoo might be available but would likely have to bide his time in the reserves with a host of players still higher up the pecking order.
"It's going to be a huge challenge against Port," he said.
"Port are the best team in the comp at the moment on exposed form so far.
"I don't think it will be a challenge to get ourselves up for it because the opposition is so good and the danger is so clear."