MATCH REPORT: St Kilda vs Sydney | Round 13, AFL 2023

Matt Tiffen
June 9, 2023
Article Round 13

The general football public slammed the opening quarter on Reddit and Twitter, but if you’re a defensive purist, it was an absolute dream. High-pressure, intensity around the contest, the ball slipping around like a bar of soap, bodies crashing into each other, it might not have looked like much was happening, but it was. It was the Swans first scoreless quarter since 1997, and we didn’t do a hell of a lot better, but at least we scored. In what could be the strongest side we have fielded this year; the lads came out with a fire in their belly looking to avenge the disaster of a fortnight ago.

The Swannies dominated possession early, but failed to do a single thing with it. When we started to gain an ascendency, we also couldn’t do anything with it. Chapter 1 of the Ross Lyon textbook had been memorized and embodied by all 36 players on the field. Our entries into the forward fifty were bordering on abysmal, with Crouch and then Windy each absolutely butchering it within the space of a minute, landing the pill on the chest of a Sydney player. Lucky for us, they were doing the same thing, but on another level. Ro and Byrnes were combining well early on, and we got a few clearances because of it, and down back Wilkie was a brick wall. Out of his forty-four one on one contests prior to this round, he had only been out-marked three times.

The second term provided a more free-flowing, high scoring affair. Unfortunately, for most of it, it was not in our favour. The Swans booted five consecutive goals and were rolling easier than a wheel of a cheese down a hill. When Buddy put through their second of the game, you could feel the momentum swing and all we could do was brace for an onslaught and pray it was escapable. It was. Sydney got twenty points up at one stage, but we managed to kick the last two goals of the half to draw the margin back to nine points.

Gresham provided a spark in the middle, and oftentimes appears our only player capable of weaving through traffic in the center. It was only after another Gresham clearance that we were able to stop the bleeding and hit the scoreboard again.

Hayden McLean, a player right out of our own backyard in Sandringham was clunking any ball that was kicked above knee height. The man was colossal and for stages we weren’t able to remedy his influence. He’d look pretty damn good if you added some black to his jumper, don’t you think?

There was a very tantalizing passage of play on the wing in this quarter too. Nas, with ball in hand on the boundary after receiving it from Ronnie, danced around some players, sold a candy factory, then sent a bullet down the throat of Owens. It was a glimpse at how promising the future looks. It was also great to see Windhager back and not playing as the sub. He was strong overhead and provided a much-needed outlet at times, looking big and imposing on the tellie and probably even more so in person.

In a reversal of standard rolls, the Saints kicked as goal in the opening minute of the second half. Usually we are the team giving up quick goals. This was followed up with a Mitchito snap and it was game on for all involved. We could have gone even further in front, but Gresh missed a set shot, which is standard. His runup looks completely unhinged, he zigs left and zags right then throws the ball on his boot while standing on his head. It’s an unusual approach. Sydney made us pay for this, nailing their set shot opportunity a couple minutes later. It was a quarter much like the first, tough and hard and difficult to get any smooth play going. Some Windy desperation on the boundary late in the piece led to a Butler goal just before the siren. A nice way to bookend the term.

Our young guns delivered us victory in the final quarter. Owens from the goalsquare, and then perhaps the most beautiful goal all night – Nas from 50 out kicking it straight through the eye-diddle-diddle for his first major of the year. Sublime. From this point on we never gave up the lead and we left the SCG victorious for the first time in fourteen years.

Nassiah played the best game of his career. Career high possession count of 30, going at 80% efficiency, as well as a few tackles and a snag. His last quarter was mammoth too, notching up twelve touches and a tackle.

Ro was yuuuge. The smiling giant finished with FIFTY hitouts, beating his previous best tally of 49. At the end of the game his stat sheet read 51 but the rats at champion data took one off him. We should be up in arms about this.

Our backline was instrumental, without having huge numbers stat wise. Half of Sydney’s goals came from backmen and midfielders, and their forwards besides Buddy and Papley, were largely unsighted. Sincs was his usual beast self, and looks invisible in the midfield. Battle, Dougs and Stocker fought hard all night and barely let up an inch to their opponents.

Brad Hill made some costly errors at crucial times, and while I was fuming at the time, having slept on it, I can see the positives. He is a playmaker. The only reason we notice when he stuffs up is because he is usually taking the risky option and it was more glaring when it doesn’t come off. We need players to take the game on.

Jack Steele in the first half looked like a shell of himself. There is something very wrong going on here. He was losing one on one contests, and was unable to put much pressure on. When he did get the ball, he seemed rushed and was prone to turning it over. In the second half he really ramped up his intensity, but that comes down to the sheer nature and tenacity of the man. There is something going on here. The final sour note of the evening was all the speculation surround Dan Butler’s tackle on Blakey. I think the worst haircut in the AFL summed the situation up better than anyone when he said to the umpire “But I didn’t sling him?” the game is officially broken and I am switching to the NRL if he is suspended.

I’m still mad about Hawthorn, but this helps.

Go Saints.


3 –          NWM

2 –          Sinclair

1 –          Wilkie