MATCH REPORT: St Kilda v North Melbourne | Round 8, AFL 2023
Yep. That was a… game. In U12’s I once played a match where it hailed for the entire second half and they didn’t call it off. Even with that in mind, I have never been happier for a game to be over than I was when the final siren sounded on Sunday. Holy moly. That was the worst gave I have ever seen since Good Friday 2018 where at half-time we were 2.8 and North 2.10 – before eventually Kangas piled on seven unanswered goals in the last quarter and we were banished from that timeslot for eternity. Let’s get stuck in.
Firstly, on a positive note, at the same time we were playing, Collingwood and Sydney were also playing, so we can find solace in the fact that only our two supporter bases bore witness to the circus at Marvel. It was not pretty. We kept North goalless for an entire half, but that didn’t feel like a true representation of us – it was more that North could not hit the side of a barn if they were leaning against it. We couldn’t either, to be fair. Butler kicked our only goal for the term, and we went in 1.6 at the break.
Cooper Sharman kicked 0.2 in the first, but he was everywhere. He finished with 18 touches and 8 marks. He should not be dropped again this year. He runs, he creates, provides a target, is skilful, it was so good to see him back. In seven games this year, Zaine Cordy has had a combined 38 touches. Sharman is halfway to that number after one game.
The third quarter belonged to Nick Larkey. He kicked three straight goals (North’s only goal scorer for three quarters) and we struggled to stop the momentum shifting for a while there. Again, we were terribly wasteful in front of goal, kicking 3.6 to 3.0 – we could have been miles in front if we were switched on. It was a game of who could out-clanger who, and if you didn’t laugh then you would cry.
We failed to score from a defensive transition all game. We were ranked third in the comp for this coming into the game, but probably aren’t anymore. The 98 combined points was the lowest total score for the season from any club. Clarko v Ross turned into who a game of who could deprive the other team’s movement more. It was at times brutal to watch. A lot of Saints people I have touched base with since the game are nervous about us bringing that level of polish next week against the Crows. The question floating around seems to be – have the other teams worked us out already? The past three weeks have delivered two losses and one win that feels like a loss. Has the shine begun to fade already? This is pessimistic, but I only echo what I’m hearing and reading.
Callum Wilkie had career high disposals, with nine marks and eight spoils. This man is a lock for the Best & Fairest and All Australian team if he continues the way he is.
Liam Stocker, boy-oh-boy. Kid is a jet. Sixteen marks. Let’s just recap that: Sixteen marks. A lot of those were uncontested, but if you’re not working hard and getting yourself in the right positions, you’re not getting those uncontested marks. He hustled all day and had a big influence over the game.
Sharman we already touched on, but how good was that hanger? The boy can leap. Ross, if you’re reading this, which you probably are, please let the boy play.
Matteus: If Himmelberg didn’t take that screamer in Round 1, then Phillipou could very well have walked away with a new car. Do they still do cars for Mark of the Year? Regardless, what an absolute ripper grab. If Bruce hit the roof, how high did Pou go? He oozes star quality in every which way you look.
Byrnes: Ronnie was electric, especially early. You couldn’t look at the ball without seeing him either holding it or chasing it. This year is feeling like a real breakout year for Ryan Byrnes. He strikes me as the type of player Ross absolutely loves. Gut running, full of effort, a little unpolished at times, he’s really coming into his own.
Gresh and Ro finished the game on the bench, but all reports are they should be right to go by next week. Two other players could also be right to go next week, one definitely, and one maybe. Hammer and King. We badly need one or both in our forward fifty because more often than not, Higgins is our main target and also Membery hasn’t caught up to the standard yet. Do we bring Max straight back in? Is there room enough for Hammer and King in the same forward line? We will be eagerly awaiting Thursday’s selection news.
This game was painful to watch and painful to write about. But that’s footy. And that’s our Saints. Let’s hope that North just bought us down to their level and we don’t have a repeat performance like that next week. If we do, Crom will decimate us, but if we bring our a-game, I’m confident we walk out of Adelaide Oval triumphant.
3 – Wilkie
2 – Byrnes
1 – Stocker