TENSIONS are simmering between former colleagues Alastair Clarkson and Brett Ratten, who traded barbs on Sunday after the Hawthorn coach questioned whether St Kilda's tactics would hold up in bigger games and against better opposition.
The pair spent seven seasons working alongside each other at the Hawks, with Ratten acting as Clarkson's senior assistant throughout the side's three-peat premiership era before moving to the Saints.
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However, with St Kilda on the verge of booking its first finals berth since 2011 under Ratten's reign, Clarkson assessed that a stalemate between the two sides after quarter time at Metricon Stadium was a result of the Saints' style.
Nine goals were kicked between the two teams in the first quarter, with St Kilda trailing by three points at the first change. But just four goals were managed in the next two terms, as the Saints gradually gained control over the contest.
"At quarter-time, St Kilda said, 'we need to control the ball more' … so they would've been concerned at quarter-time that it was five goals to four and the game was being played in a ping-pong sort of fashion," Clarkson said.
"They slowed it down. From their coaching box and the way they strategized from that point of view, they'd say that was a success because they arrested the momentum of the game a little bit and got themselves back into the contest. From that point on, they were never headed.
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"From that point of view, they win a game of footy. In terms of trying to win big games and score heavily, it'll be interesting to see whether that works for them in the long run. But it worked for them today because they slowed down our momentum a little bit in the second quarter.
"While they didn't score a lot, we didn't score either. That's good coaching and good play by them to change mid-stream."
Clarkson said St Kilda could "get away" with such tactics against a Hawthorn side that made seven changes for the clash on Sunday, but suggested they might not be so lucky should they need to score heavily in the future.
"They were playing an interesting game, where it's a game of keepings-off," Clarkson said.
"Especially in the second quarter, I think they took 42 marks and kicked one goal. They might be able to get away with that against us, but I don't think the method itself is going to lend itself to kicking a lot of goals."
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When asked about Clarkson's critiques afterwards, Ratten was blunt in his response.
"That's his comment," he said.
"We'll focus on what we can do and maybe they could too."
St Kilda finished the match with 112 marks, significantly more than Hawthorn's 71. But Ratten said his team didn't plan to slow its ball movement down as much as they did after quarter-time.
"They gave us the opportunity to move it around and we did," Ratten said.
"It was something that we wanted to explore, but to that degree maybe it was just a little bit too far.
"We wanted to control the ball. We probably overdid it slightly and we were going into a slight breeze, so we thought to build the ball up it was a way that we could control the footy.
"But our first quarter let us down a fair bit. Contested ball, I think it was +15 to the Hawks. It was probably an area where they didn't do so well last week, and they really came out and we were second to the footy. They got an advantage."