ST KILDA’S exhilarating 2020 form has returned with the Saints crushing Hawthorn by 69 points to put life in their stuttering season.
Entering Saturday's clash at Marvel Stadium under the pump at 2-4, St Kilda immediately hit top-gear by booting 5.4 before the Hawks managed their first score early in the second quarter.
Despite some brief periods of resistance from Hawthorn, the Saints basically did as they pleased to win 19.14 (128) to 9.5 (59) in a crucial percentage-boosting result.
Without key trio Jaeger O'Meara, Chad Wingard and Shaun Burgoyne, Hawthorn was no match for a team determined to back up its first finals campaign in nine years.
It was the Hawks' worst loss since round six, 2017.
In heavy defeats to Richmond and Port Adelaide during the previous fortnight, St Kilda managed to kick a combined tally of 12 goals.
But their attacking spark, which became the Saints' trademark during their run to last year's semi-final, was back in spectacular fashion.
St Kilda's ball use through the middle of the ground was exceptional, putting Hawthorn's defence under such pressure returning star forward Jack Gunston was thrown back at stages to stem the bleeding.
Midfielder Zak Jones had a career-best outing, picking up 24 possessions and kicking two goals in the first-half alone on his way to 37 touches for the match.
Perennially under-fire Brad Hill enjoyed one of his most dominant games since joining the Saints last year, setting the standard early with 11 first-quarter possessions.
Former Richmond forward Jack Higgins was St Kilda's leading goal-kicker with four, while veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder made a classy return to reignite his successful partnership with fellow big man Rowan Marshall.
SAINTS v HAWKS Full match coverage and stats
St Kilda will head to the Gold Coast next Saturday to face the Suns, who will be buoyed by an outstanding win at the MCG against Collingwood.
Hawthorn (2-5), meanwhile, will host West Coast at the MCG on Sunday.
Saints midfield buys starting to pay off
St Kilda has invested a lot of time and money building its midfield through targeted trades the past couple of years, and on Saturday the returns looked on track. Bradley Hill (27 disposals) responded to recent criticism with his best game in red, white and black, as did Zak Jones (37 disposals, two goals) and Brad Crouch (32 disposals). It took a lot of pressure off former Giant Jack Steele, who sat back and enjoyed not having to shoulder an unreasonable load as has been his burden lately. Former Richmond small forwards Jack Higgins (four goals) and Dan Butler (three goals) also stood out.
Little wins in a big loss
Saturday’s result may send Hawks fans straight to the pool room to lock themselves away with the three-peat memorabilia, however, while there’s no guarantee of things turning around any time soon, they can at least take comfort knowing their club is devoted to the future at the expense of the now. A dozen players faced the Saints with less than 50 games under their belt, eight with 25 or fewer, and with potential stars like Jacob Koschitzke and Changkuoth Jiath in their number there’s no need for supporters to start buying Melbourne Storm memberships just yet.
Will it be Saints or sinners?
There’s no doubt St Kilda at its best is an unstoppable force, but it’s near impossible to predict which Saints side will front on any given day. Hawthorn copped them at their best, an unrecognisable outfit to the one dominated by Essendon, Richmond and Port Adelaide, but similar to the St Kilda of 2020. If the Saints want to be any chance of playing finals again this year they need to maintain the intensity, and with the red-hot Suns on the Gold Coast, followed by Geelong and the Western Bulldogs, their fate should be lot clearer by the end of round 10.
ST KILDA 5.4 10.9 14.11 19.14 (128)
HAWTHORN 0.0 4.2 6.3 9.5 (59)
St Kilda: Higgins 4, Butler 3, Jones 2, King 2, Membrey 2, Marshall 2, Clark 2, Coffield, Sinclair
Hawthorn: Koschitzke 2, Breust 2, Hanrahan, Lewis, Shiels, McEvoy, Moore
St Kilda: Jones, Clark, Hill, Crouch, Butler, Ross
Hawthorn: Worpel, Scrimshaw, Hardwick, Mitchell
St Kilda: Nil
St Kilda: Mason Wood (unused)
Hawthorn: Damon Greaves (unused)
Crowd: TBC at Marvel Stadium