MATCH REPORT: St Kilda vs Geelong| Round 23, AFL, 2023.
What a weekend. What a time to be a Saints fan. An incredible performance on Saturday night spread elation through the streets of Moorabbin and beyond, and then, on Sunday, when many of us were recovering on the couch from a well earnt celebration the night prior, the mighty West Coast Eagles, and Saints legend, Jaime Cripps, cemented us a spot in September. Crazy. All of us fans would have spent the next week stressed, thinking ‘if we drop out from here, it’ll be so St. Kilda of us’ but no, that’s not happening. The two seasons and sixteen games we invested into Cripps have come back to save us eleven years later. As he lined up for goal deep into the last quarter, from fifty out with the game on the line, there was one thing going through his head: “I need to sink this for the Saints.” And sink it he did. Has anyone celebrated so hard for an opposition team before?
No matter what happens from here, 2023 has been a massive success. Only us and Collingwood have spent the entire season inside the top eight, and despite being ranked as the fourth worst team in the competition as recently as last week by FoxFooty, we are playing finals and we deserve to be. Football is an emotional game, and at times this year this author, reflective of the wider of Saints community, has questioned whether we are any good, whether we can play out four quarters, whether we can shake it with the leagues best, whether we are even better than North Melbourne… but emotion is what makes this game great, and I admit to being too early to jump on the gloom and doom bandwagon at times. We love this club, and it’s not because of a winning culture, we love it because we are the most passionate and loyal fans in the league. We have all been on a rollercoaster this year of ups and downs and more downs and now finally up again. Take a moment to really soak it up, Sainters, we are playing finals football in three weeks.
The game could not have started any better. Within twenty seconds Mitch Owens had put through our first goal and the atmosphere at the ground was pulsating. The supporters had come out in their droves to cheer the boys into September. King and Butler found the goals soon after and it was three goals to nothing before we knew it. Kingy kicked another to have two at the first break. We were absolutely dominate, smashing the cats in clearances, inside fifties, possessions, pretty much everything, but there was a problem. We were wasteful, and every time Geelong went forward, they scored. They were 2.3 from 5 inside 50’s and we were struggling to capitalise. It wasn’t Hawkins and Cameron who were causing us grief, it was some unusual suspects, like Zach Guthrie and Mitch Duncan. This in itself is testament to how good we were going, with Geelong unable to utilise their weaponry.
Thirteen minutes into the second quarter and we were only one goal in front, despite leading the inside fifty count 24-8. Geelong barely went into their half of the ground for the first half of the second quarter, yet the first time it went down there they kicked a goal. When Hawkins kicked a goal at the midway point, it would be the closest the Cats got to us for the rest of the night. The main negative to arise from the match started to really hurt us – inaccuracy. We kicked 2.5 for the quarter and missed easy opportunity time after time after time. It was excruciating because you knew there was every possibility it would come back to haunt us. Hill, Marshall and Higgins all missed incredibly easy shots at goal in the dying stages of the half and it was deflating. But we were so dominate it was not time for panic. At times, the players got too cute or too cocky, and when Dan Butler tried a look away handball that came unstuck very quickly it was a display of arrogance that isn’t needed.
In true Michael Gardener fashion, Mason Wood started the third quarter by flying in from the side of the pack and clunking a mark 15m out. Unlike big Mike though, Mason sprayed his shots and the groans around Marvel were audible even on TV. The rest of the quarter would follow this trend, as we smashed them in every facet but kicked 3.6. After Wood missed, Gresham kicked two points in a minute before Max Holmes drilled one at the other end. It took some magic from Phillipou to get the blood pumping for the boys. He gathered a loose ball, pirouetted around some defenders, and snapped truly. What was better than the goal though was his celebration – pure, passion-driven jubilation. That goal meant everything to him and everything to the team. One play that will go unmentioned, is Liam Stocker in the backline directly leading to a shot at goal from King. King missed it, but Stocker’s efforts were elite. He was on the ground, surrounded by Cats players, and he beat three of them through sheer grit and determination. He got the ball out and a few seconds later max was having a ping.
The fourth quarter was the only quarter where we scored more goals than behinds, finishing with 3.2 courtesy of Marshall, Butler and Higgins. Higgo hasn’t kicked more than two goals in three months, but he is getting chances and just not converting. Since the Eagles game Jack has kicked 9 goals and 16 behinds, if you switch that up to 16 goals and 9 behinds, we are talking about him as a possible AA squad member, as he’d had over 40 goals already. He needs to tidy up this part of his game. The last two goals of the match went out way and everyone at Marvel was carrying on, as they should, like pork chops.
Some points of interest from the game:
- Jack Sinclair had a career-high for disposals. (38 at 81% efficiency)
- Callum Wilkie took Cameron to the cleaners, again.
- Zaine Cordy did well on Hawkins and had 10 intercept possessions.
- Crouch had 6 centre clearances and 29 touches.
- Brad Hill hurt his knee but still managed to run all day and get 31 disposals
- Jack Steele was back to his best with 27 and 7 tackles.
- Marshall is better than Tim English. Give the man a blazer.
3 – Sinclair
2 – Wilkie
1 – Marshall