ST KILDA coach Brett Ratten has praised Brad Hill for his much-improved performance against Hawthorn on Saturday, and says some of the criticism levelled at the maligned wingman has been unfair.
Hill has been under fire this season for several sub-par performances, including a 10-disposal effort against Port Adelaide last week, but he regained some of his mojo playing the Hawks, finishing with 27 disposals, five tackles and a game-high 571 metres gained.
Ratten defended the speedster post-game, highlighting Hill’s strong defensive efforts in particular.
“I thought he was very good. I thought some of his defensive acts were outstanding. That smother early in the game, that was a real sign of how invested he is,” Ratten said.
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“He’s copped some criticism, and I think sometimes unfairly. He’s been working extremely hard, but for him to bounce back tonight was great.”
St Kilda’s 69-point victory was desperately needed to keep the Saints from falling out of finals contention, and Ratten said it was pleasing to see his players being unselfish and looking after each other.
“The care for each other and the desperation and the little things – it actually made other players better in the game … as a group every player was doing something to help their teammate, which was great,” he said.
But Ratten added he was not getting carried away, noting Hawthorn had key players out such as Jaeger O'Meara, Chad Wingard and Shaun Burgoyne.
"There was aspects to our game [that show] we've still got some work to do. We're still really improving as a team, but that was a shot of confidence for us,” he said.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said his undermanned team struggled to compete with a “very capable side” in St Kilda.
He said the Saints were simply “more experienced, older, stronger in the contest”.
“We’re disappointed when you lose by 10 goals, but you’ve got to give credit to the opposition, they were pretty good,” Clarkson said.
“We lowered our colours to a good side. We lowered our colours to a really experienced and strong St Kilda side in that space.”
Clarkson said O’Meara and Wingard should be fine to return against West Coast next week after missing with general soreness, but he said Burgoyne was unlikely to return from his ankle injury.
“[With] Wingard and O’Meara, if it had been a really big game I’m sure they would have played,” he said.
“We’ll be hopeful they’ll both be available next week … Shaun may be touch or go for next week with that ankle, I’d say more unlikely than likely.”