A QUICK GLANCE AT 2010:
St Kilda’s 2010 season was one good bounce away from ending in perfection.
If Lenny Hayes’ last minute kick in the first grand final had gone through for a goal or bounced perfectly for an open Stephen Milne in the goal square, the Saints would’ve finally earned what they had been yearning for. The match, however, finished in a draw and unfortunately for their loyal supporters, the Saints were totally outplayed by a far more superior side in Collingwood in the grand final replay the next week, losing by 58 points.
Before the finals series, St Kilda had endured another terrific home-and-away season, finishing third at the completion of the 22 rounds. The boys in red, white and black were the best defensive team of the competition yet again, conceding the least amount of total points.
They did this without captain Nick Riewoldt, who missed the majority of the regular season with a serious hamstring injury, and back pocket Steven Baker, who was controversially suspended for 12 matches. Players such as Lenny Hayes, Brendon Goddard, Sam Gilbert, Sam Fisher and Leigh Montagna all took their games to new levels, while Milne proved his doubters wrong with a standout 57-goal year to win the club’s goal kicking award in Riewoldt’s absence.
Overall St Kilda had a brilliant year in 2010 and proved it is still one of the best teams in the league. However it also proved it struggles to close out matches in the finals, meaning its loyal supporters will have to wait a little longer to capture its first premiership since 1966.
Both Brendon Goddard and Lenny Hayes are outstanding players and are too hard to separate if we’re trying to find a key player for the upcoming season. Goddard is one of the most versatile players in the competition. He organises the defensive unit, runs effectively through the midfield and can push forward to kick outstanding goals and take spectacular marks. Hayes just tackles, tackles and tackles some more. He is always the first player to the ball and always puts his body on the line, no matter what the situation is. Both players inspire their teammates and if either one of them miss games this season, the Saints will find it hard to play at their best.
THREE MOST IMPORTANT GAMES IN 2011:
Round 1 – v Geelong, Friday 25 March at MCG
The Saints desperately need to start the year off with a win, and who better to do it against than one of their great modern day rivals. Their recent games against the Cats have been relatively close — and controversial too.
Round 8 – v Hawthorn, Sunday 15 May at MCG
The last game between these two teams ended in a thrilling draw. The Hawks are keen to emulate their 2008 season this year and would love to prove themselves against a class team such as St Kilda. So the Saints better be ready.
Round 11 – v Collingwood, Saturday 4 June at MCG
The grand final replay will be a must win game for the Saints in order to prove they can still match it with the best. There is no doubt it will be one of the most watched games of the 2011 season.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2011:
There is simply no excuse for St Kilda this year. A flag must be won – otherwise 2011 will be considered a failure.
For that to happen, several Saints players need to have an injury free year. If Justin Koschitzke, Michael Gardiner, Raphael Clarke and Jason Gram can stay fit for the majority of the home-and-away season, their presence will undoubtedly enhance the team’s chances of a premiership.
An improvement from the younger brigade of players will also be of great value to the team. A solid season from players such as Jarryn Geary, Tom Lynch, David Armitage, Ben McEvoy, Jack Steven, Jaime Cripps and Rhys Stanley will give their older teammates a lot of confidence leading into the finals series.
Finding a medium sized forward and a speedy midfield will help the team progress, as this is what they have lacked in the past few years. New recruit Ryan Gamble and defender-turn-forward Sam Gilbert might solve the first issue, while Brett Peake needs to use his pace to his advantage to solve the second.
The only way the Saints are going to shake the monkey off their back is to win the premiership and prove they are a great team.