MATCH REPORT: St Kilda vs Melbourne | Round 17, AFL, 2023.
Demons vs Saints, a biblical battle in which the underworld came away triumphant at Marvel Stadium. In a game that was never too far out of reach, but at the same time always just out of reach, injuries struck hard and came early, and we were out of puff before half time. All week, the media has been hyper-focused on Melbourne’s inaccuracy in front of goal, but the remedy for that is a game against us. You saw it last week against the Eagles – slammed all week, play St Kilda, then almost win. This time it was Melbourne’s turn to take advantage of our status as the kings of helping teams and players regain the form they’ve lost. On the other hand, our kicking for goal for not great, which is something we’re unfortunately accustomed with. Our fight and our endeavour were there all night, and if we kicked straight, we could have won, but we did not, and our journey into the top 4 has been blocked, but we’re still alive for the 8.
James Sicily and Harris Andrews took the micky out of us in recent weeks, and we can now add Steven May to that list. Our forward line and entries inside of it are a big area of concern and opposition teams are able exploit it. We are easy to intercept and we are easy to read when moving the ball forward, we’re letting our opponent regain the ball with too much ease. With Max King now injured for the rest of the season, we may need to revert back to our early season forward line, with Cordy looking likely to stay in the seniors for the remainder of the season. I am a massive Tom Campbell fan and would love to see him take a bulk of the ruck work and let Rowan impose himself up forward.
Before halftime even started, we were three players down. King, Ross, and Cordy all sitting on the pine dejected in their tracksuits. With only two fit rotations remaining for half the game, it was always going to be a hard ask. We lost, but we dominated everything: inside 50’s, possessions, tackles, marks inside fifty and most surprisingly we were equal for clearances. We had the game on our terms even with two less players, yet our failure to convert proved our downfall. Losing a game when inaccuracy is a big factor stings.
There were some massive positives to come out of the night, let’s chat about them because it’s been a few weeks since some overwhelming positivity has graced our performances.
- Rowan Marshall: coming up against the colossal assignment of Gawn and Grundy, big Ro stepped up the plate and showed the competition he needs to be spoken about in the top tier of ruckman. Equal career high possessions with thirty, second most marks of his career with ten, and his third most tackles ever with seven. The big fella was enormous.
- Nassiah is looking like a ten-year star, not a second-year player. Another game with over thirty touches to go with seven tackles and five marks. He has gone to a whole new level this season after having a fantastic debut year, and looks all but sure to continue that rise.
- Jack Steele: Jack knows, we all know, that his output this year has been well low of what we’re used to, and this is because the captain is banged up and strapped up more than a mummy. But on Saturday night he returned to his All-Australian form. A huge twelve tackles and a goal to go with his 31 touches. Steele is such a safe set shot he should be running goal-kicking drills for the whole team after training.
- Jones & Billings: It has been so long since we’ve seen these two play a game, I almost forgot what they looked like. Jones looked real nice bursting out of packs, using his pace from the start. If he can get back to his best, he will be a wildcard/weapon for the rest of the year. He had twenty touches and only one turnover. Jack Billings made a successful return as well, kicking a nice snag and finishing with 18 touches. If these guys can get their bodies right, they will be a huge asset for the team.
- Jade Gresham: He has been down for a little bit, but against the Demons he was on. Two goals and twenty-four touches was a huge outing for Gresh, and when he’s on fire the team dynamic is totally different. He did have eight turnovers though, which is something that may never leave his game, but if he’s kicking goals and setting up play we can excuse the turnovers.
The loss against Melbourne felt better than the win against West Coast and North Melbourne, and who knows what would have happened if we didn’t sustain any injuries, but unfortunately a loss, no matter how valiant it may be, is still a loss. We leave Marvel Stadium wounded and without the four points, but pride intact.
Next week is a difficult assignment. Gold Coast on their day can beat anyone, as we’ve seen this year on multiple occasions. It’s an even harder assignment on their turf. We need a bit of Gresh Gold Coast magic to light up the field next round.
3 – Marshall
2 – Steele
1 – Nas