Hunter Clark leaves the field with a shoulder injury against Essendon in the AAMI Community Series on March 5, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

ST KILDA held off a fast-finishing Essendon, but the 11-point win in Saturday night's AAMI Community Series clash came at a cost with injuries to Jack Billings and Hunter Clark.

Billings' night was ended in the third term with a left hamstring issue that saw his leg iced on the interchange bench before more injury misery came the way of the Saints when Clark left the field in the hands of trainers with an AC joint shoulder injury that is expected to rule him out for at least a month.

Clark was hurt after a fierce contest with Essendon's Darcy Parish, with the young Saint's characteristically fearless approach again on show after last year's broken jaw that interrupted his campaign.

BOMBERS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats

It was a shame for the Saints and Clark, who had been one of the highlights for the club in the first half with 15 disposals. Others to impress in the Saints' 12.10 (82) to 9.17 (71) win were Bradley Hill, who starred off half-back with 28 disposals, ruckman Rowan Marshall (24 disposals, 17 hitouts) and Jade Gresham, who showed some of his trademark burst with 18 touches and an exciting early goal. 


The Bombers were messy at times going forward and inefficient in front of the scoreboard, but Essendon big man Peter Wright kicked three goals and star midfielder Zach Merrett (18 disposals) sat out the second half ahead of the Bombers' big round one clash with Geelong. 

After trailing by 20 points at three-quarter time, the Bombers got back to within four points of the Saints before a late goal to Max King, who took five first-term marks, sealed St Kilda's victory. 


Midfielders Darcy Parish (26 disposals) and Jye Caldwell (24) were busy for the Bombers, while Archie Perkins was creative, tough and smart, including kicking two last-term goals and finishing with 17 disposals in another promising effort to show he is ready to develop again after his exciting debut season. 

New faces
In the second half the Saints blooded Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, their first pick at last year's draft, with the silky wingman lively. Wanganeen-Milera was classy on the wing and finished with seven disposals for the half, with the South Australian talent already a fan favourite. Next Generation Academy product Mitchito Owens came on in the final term for the Saints. Essendon also has been involved in the pre-season supplemental selection period, signing Tex Wanganeen and Nick Martin last week. Martin came on in the second half and was involved on the wing, gathering 12 disposals in the third quarter alone before finishing with 16 in the half. 

Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera celebrates the Saints' win over Essendon in the AAMI Community Series clash on March 5, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Round one chance
St Kilda this week officially added marking swingman Jack Hayes to its list and he looks a good chance for a round one debut after impressing with 12 disposals and a goal. He offers good versatility for the Saints' coaches. Essendon is looking at Kaine Baldwin as an option for round one in the forward line and he did his chances no harm for a debut against the Cats. The marking forward, who joined the club last year as a pre-season signing, took a couple of strong contested marks, competed well inside-50 and kicked a goal. He looks a natural player who attacks the contest, while Brayden Ham, who missed out on the end of last season for the Bombers including the elimination final, had 17 touches and performed well. 

Medical room
The Billings and Clark injuries will be frustrating for the Saints. They were already without Dan Hannebery and also ruckman Paddy Ryder, who is being managed through an Achilles issue. Former skipper Jarryn Geary (shoulder) also missed and is unlikely for the start of the season, but the club appeared to get through the game unscathed. The Bombers also looked to end it without any injury concerns, with match-winner Jake Stringer expected to overcome his groin injury and face the Cats in two weeks. Recruit Jake Kelly missed as he deals with concussion symptoms while Dylan Shiel was managed. 


Fantasy watch
If Rowan Marshall (RUC, $752,000) was St Kilda's No.1 ruck, he'd be knocking on the door of being a top-three Fantasy ruck. His 100 came from 24 disposals and five marks, but this was all without Paddy Ryder. Last year Marshall was a 26-point better player when Ryder was out of the side. Long-time Fantasy favourite Zach Merrett (MID, $925,000) started the game strongly with a 42-point first quarter. He was rested after half-time on 62 points. Jye Caldwell (MID, $488,000) was a beneficiary of Merrett sitting out the second half, scoring 71 of his 98 in that time. The rookie stocks may get a boost with Essendon's Kaine Baldwin (FWD, $190,000) and St Kilda's Jack Hayes (RUC/FWD, $190,000) who scored 51 and 50 playing approximately 80 per cent time on ground. Nick Martin (FWD, $190,000) was exceptional when he entered the game after half-time. The recent SSP signing racked up 16 disposals, two marks and three tackles for 57 points to show that he can step up for the Dons if required.

ESSENDON                2.4   5.7   7.11   9.17 (71)
ST KILDA                 5.1   8.5   11.7   12.10 (82) 

Essendon: Wright 3, Perkins 2, Baldwin, Draper, Langford, Redman
St Kilda: Membrey 3, Butler 2, King 2, Wood 2, Crouch, Gresham, Hayes

Essendon: Perkins, Parish, Caldwell, McGrath, Wright, Ridley
St Kilda: Hill, Marshall, Membrey, Gresham, Steele, Sinclair

Essendon: Nil
St Kilda: Billings (left hamstring), Clark (right shoulder)

Reports: Nil