BRETT Ratten was only half joking when he suggested asking the AFL to double the premiership points on offer at the SCG this Saturday night, but the St Kilda coach knows how important the trip to Sydney is in the race to September.

After emerging from the mid-season bye in a commanding position at 8-3, the Saints have been brought crashing back to earth across the past fortnight, losing to Essendon last Friday night after being overrun by Brisbane at the Gabba a week earlier.

Bradley Hill and his St Kilda teammates look dejected after a loss to Essendon in round 14 at Marvel Stadium on June 17, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Now St Kilda heads north to face John Longmire’s men as it fights to retain its status in the top eight after drifting to eighth spot on the ladder at the end of round 14.

Sydney is level on eight wins with St Kilda but narrowly ahead on percentage, creating an eight-point game amid a round 15 that is stacked with evenly matched fixtures.

Collingwood is level with the Saints but just outside the eight on percentage, while the Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast are further down the ladder but capable of catapulting into the eight by the end of the weekend.

Max King (left) celebrates with Jack Higgins after the Saints kicked a goal during round 14 against Essendon at Marvel Stadium on June 17, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

“It does (feel like an eight-point game), can we ask for eight points in this game?” Ratten quipped at his press conference at RSEA Park on Thursday.

“You do look at the round and who is playing each other. Everybody is close; it’s a fantastic weekend of footy, but next week will be the same for us and moving forward.

“This year, more than ever, it is so tight. You have to be up, you can’t have a bad night because if you do, you lose. That’s what we did last week.

“We know where it sits for us. Sydney will be a great opportunity for us. It will be interesting to see the wins and losses and where the ladder sits at the end of the round.”

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Ratten revealed the football department delivered some home truths to the playing group during a brutal review at the start of the week in the aftermath of last Friday night’s 35-point loss to Essendon.

“There were a lot of things broken on the weekend. We probably didn’t see it coming like that. We were really surprised. Defensively that was the worst we’ve gone for a long time, just allowing the ball to flow from one end to the other so easily. You don’t win games of footy doing that,” Ratten said.

“It was a poor night, a really poor night. You can keep reflecting on it and go over Spud’s night – it was a poor performance, which it was – but there are no excuses for how we played. But can we improve from it? If we can’t then there are some bigger issues.

“We need to get back on the horse. We should respond with a real intensity and attitude; it doesn’t guarantee us a win or anything, but it puts us in the game and last week we weren’t in the game.”

St Kilda captain Jack Steele will return from shoulder surgery on Saturday night after missing the past four games, while wingman Daniel McKenzie is also expected to play after recovering from the concussion he suffered against Brisbane in round 14.

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Ratten praised Steele’s commitment to his rehabilitation program – which will see the two-time All-Australian return to play within 43 days – and said his return will provide the group with a major boost in the harbour city.

“He has worked extremely hard. He has tried to do everything possible, pushing the limits on the next stage of the rehab,” he said.

“He wanted to play last week and was going to break all records to get back, but we needed to make sure he is right; there is a lot of footy to be played and a lot of important footy to be played. We took the extra week to get a little bit stronger. Get a little bit more rehab into him.

Jack Steele leads the Saints out ahead of the clash against GWS in round six, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

“With his leadership I think he’ll influence others with confidence as well and I think that will help the group. Some of the work around the stoppage and contest has been down in the last couple of weeks. For him to come back as a leader of our football club, he excels in that part of the ground. It’s not like we get Jack back and it fixes it. He is one part of it.”

First-year midfielder Marcus Windhager has given the match committee in Moorabbin plenty to debate this week after producing an emphatic response for Sandringham after being the unused medi-sub against the Bombers.

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Ratten said the Next Generation Academy graduate will be closely considered for a recall after collecting 32 disposals, 12 clearances, six inside 50s and two goals against Essendon’s VFL side.

“He is a young man who is ambitious. He shows AFL qualities in the way he goes about it,” he said.

“Probably his form just tapered a little bit, we could have probably pushed on but it was sort of like 'go back and get a bit of ball in your hand and feel good about yourself'. He went and had 32 and played really well. It will be a good debate at match committee this afternoon. He is right in the mix.”

Ratten was also asked about errant Magpie Jordan de Goey, who has been linked to St Kilda – a move backed by Saints great Nick Riewoldt.

Coming out of contract at the end of the season, the 26-year-old's talks with Collingwood have been put on hold after his controversial antics in a video filmed on a Bali break during the bye.

Ratten didn't rule out recruiting the gun midfielder but said St Kilda would have to do its due diligence.

"We'd have to do our homework and have a look at exactly what has happened and taking in all the evidence," he said.

"When you bring in any player you're looking at the on-field performance and you're looking at what you're trying to build as a football club and culture as well.

"So we take in both sides of the equation, and then we make decisions around there."