ST KILDA coach Brett Ratten has lamented his side’s ball movement in Saturday night’s 51-point loss to Sydney, claiming not even Tony Lockett or Jason Dunstall would’ve stood a chance.
The Saints slumped to their third straight loss since their mid-season bye, leaving them with an 8-6 record and sitting outside the top eight after a poor display against fellow finals contenders Sydney.
St Kilda only managed two goals until three-quarter time, finishing with 4.8 (32) which was the lowest score ever by a Ratten-led side in his 180 games as an AFL coach.
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The Saints only trailed Sydney nominally for possessions (388-375) with the Swans winning inside 50s 55-44, yet the margin was significant.
Key forward Max King, who booted 32 goals across the first 11 games, was kept goalless and managed only eight disposals, with five clangers and three free kicks against but Ratten leapt to his defence.
"Good luck to Max," Ratten said. "If you kick the ball like that to anyone, if it’s Tony Lockett or Jason Dunstall, you’ve got no chance.
"I felt for him tonight. He had to wear the brunt of our ball movement. It would’ve been pretty frustrating.
"He’s only a third-year player. We kicked the ball so badly tonight. It’s not about him. We didn’t kick the ball well to anyone. Most of the forwards would be frustrated with our delivery."
The result leaves St Kilda perilously placed outside the eight ahead of difficult fixtures against fellow contenders Carlton, Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs.
St Kilda is winless since the bye, losing to Brisbane when players went down injured before a "reality check" against Essendon, but Ratten couldn’t pinpoint one specific issue.
"Looking back at what we did in the front half, since the bye we haven’t captured that," he said.
"Our ball movement at times throughout the front half of the year hasn’t been A1 but it’s been solid, where our defence has been really good and our contest work.
"There’s aspects to our game we’ve just got to go back and look at how we did it, why we did it and the roles people played in it. That’s the part we didn’t get right again. It’s a couple of weeks in a row, really poor.”
He added: "Our ability to find a target inside 50 (tonight) or use the ball to advantage it was probably at the lowest it’s been for a while.
"We created 20 front-half turnovers and scored one goal. Sydney had 24 but scored 5.2. We had 12 clanger kicks in our attacking mid, kicking efficiency and clangers combined we were -10."
Ratten praised captain Jack Steele who had 29 disposals on his return from a shoulder injury, while he said Ryan Clarke’s tag on Jack Sinclair, who was kept to 17 touches, was a sign of respect but impacted by Bradley Hill’s absence.
The Saints coach indicated Hill, who was managed following personal leave during the week, along with veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder, would likely be available to face Carlton.
Sydney coach John Longmire hailed his side’s pressure throughout the game, particularly following their disappointing round 14 loss to Port Adelaide.
Longmire reserved special praise for his backline led by Jake Lloyd (39 disposals and eight marks) and Nick Blakey (31 disposals) along with ex-Saint Paddy McCartin, who hauled in eight marks with 13 disposals.
"I thought our back six-seven were really good," he said. "They defended really well, to keep them to two goals with about 10 minutes to go was outstanding.
"They also gave us plenty of bounce. We had a good mix tonight, we had blokes playing their roles offensively and defensively."
The Swans were without Justin McInerney and Harry Cunningham along with assistant coaches Don Pyke and Brett Kirk due to health and safety protocols, leading to some role juggling within the Sydney backroom staff.
"We had players, staff and coaches (out), this game chucks up many things," Longmire said. "It chucked up a few curveballs.
"Tonight we had the footy manager (Charlie Gardiner) as the runner, we had the CEO (Tom Harley) as the bench coach, we had Josh Kennedy sitting in the box as the stoppage coach. We had to improvise tonight. To everyone’s credit they did it really well."