ON A NIGHT where it was all about Toby Greene, Leon Cameron and Greater Western Sydney, St Kilda has stood up under the bright lights of Friday night football at Manuka Oval and ground out a 17-point win to notch up a fifth straight victory for the first time since 2011.
The Giants piled on the pressure in the final quarter, but the Saints were able to hold on to emerge victorious in the 8.12 (60) to 10.17 (77) contest.
The Saints haven’t been 5-1 since 2010 when they ended up getting as close to an elusive second premiership as they have ever been, drawing the Grand Final against Collingwood before losing the replay seven days later.
But they are now.
It might be too early to start dreaming about September, but after starting 2022 as one of the hardest sides to get a read one, St Kilda have been one of the most impressive teams across the first six weeks, banking the workmanlike win in the nation's capital.
GIANTS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats
Greene returned to the AFL for the first time in 237 days in Canberra, returning to a sport that is officiated differently since he made contact with umpire Matt Stevic in the Giants' elimination final win over.
That was clear when St Kilda utility Daniel McKenzie conceded a contentious 50m penalty for umpire dissent after gesturing to the ground, not the umpire.
All eyes were on Greene from the opening bounce. The dual All-Australian started the game in the centre square standing next to Jade Gresham then spent most of the night inside 50, where he had an almost night.
Greene almost kicked the first goal for the Giants and almost kicked a few, with the rust of no match practice showing at times, finishing with 1.2 from four shots at goal and 14 disposals.
While everyone came to see the Toby Show, it was another crafty forward at the other end of the ground that stole the show.
Six rounds into 2022 and Jack Higgins is mounting a case to be the in-form small forward in the competition after producing another dazzling performance.
After kicking a career-high five goals against Gold Coast last weekend, three rounds after kicking four against Fremantle in the west, the mercurial forward was in absolutely everything in Canberra.
This time the 23-year-old slotted four goals and should have kicked a few more, missing two set shots from within 20 metres in the first quarter much to his disbelief. He finished with four goals from 17 disposals and nine marks in another All-Australian quality performance.
Higgins now has 14 goals on the board after six rounds – three of fColeman Medal leader Max King, who missed the opportunity to kick a big bag – putting him ahead of Rising star contender Josh Rachele (12 goals), young Hawk Dylan Moore (11) and former first-round pick Cody Weightman (10).
King had a nearly-night of his own, almost leaving Greater Western Sydney defender Lachie Keefe with nightmares.
The 2018 No.4 pick kicked five behinds before he finally kicked straight in the third quarter, finishing with 1.7 from 11 touches.
St Kilda lost mature-age recruit Jack Hayes just before quarter-time with a potentially season-ending knee injury and No. 1 ruckman Rowan Marshall was forced to spend more time in the second half on the exercise bike on the bench than on the ground.
Marshall gritted it out late and so did the Saints who continue to deliver in 2022.
Devastating blow for feel-good signing
Jack Hayes has been one of the great stories of the AFL in 2022, but is now one of the most gut wrenching. After being overlooked for years, the 26-year-old finally got a shot in March via the pre-season supplemental selection period. His debut was remarkable and generated plenty of attention. Now the Jack Hayes story has reached heartbreak status after the Woodville West-Torrens product suffered a suspected ACL tear just before quarter-time. St Kilda didn’t take long to relay the news after the South Australian underwent a test at quarter-time.
Tom Green fan club
You know you've made it when a stand is named in your honour. What about when a marquee is emblazoned with your name? The Tom Green Fan Club was perched on the far side of the ground, filled full of his Canberra mates and family. Local boy Jack Steele may have won St Kilda's past two best and fairests and have two All-Australian blazers hanging in his wardrobe at home, but Green is king in this part of the world right now.
Big Giant makes an impact
Two suspensions and two games isn’t the ration Braydon Preuss pictured when he moved from Melbourne to Greater Western Sydney in search of greater opportunity at the end of 2020, having moved from North Melbourne to the Demons in a similar pursuit. But in the nation's capital on Friday night, the 26-year-old made a strong return, amassing 47 hit-outs, 13 disposals and a goal.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 3.4 7.7 7.9 8.12 (60)
ST KILDA 4.5 5.8 9.12 10.17 (77)
GWS: Flynn 2, Ward 2, Greene, Hill, Preuss
St Kilda: Higgins 4, Crouch 2, King, Gresham, Hayes, Marshall,
GWS: Ward, Kelly, Preuss, Green, Kennedy, Coniglio
St Kilda: Higgins, Steele, Crouch, Sinclair, Battle, Ross
St Kilda: Hayes (knee), Marshall (quad)
GWS: Matt de Boer (unused)
St Kilda: Jarrod Lienert replaced Jack Hayes in the second quarter