Mondays are never easy after a defeat on the weekend but the talking heads programs were relatively kind after the Saints Round 13 loss to Brisbane. With Brett Ratten on AFL 360, we were able to hear the coach’s thoughts on the performance and on staging and the pre-finals bye. Max King was highlighted on Footy Classified and On The Couch. The former also paid tribute to the club’s response to Robbie Muir over the weekend and the latter praised Jack Steele and Seb Ross. Unfortunately for Tim Membrey, a moment he’d like to forget was also the subject of conversation.
Caroline Wilson was full of praise for the club’s response to Russell Je’s article regarding the racism Robbie Muir faced during his VFL career. “The St Kilda Football Club took just hours to do for Robert Muir over the weekend what it took the AFL more than four years to do for Adam Goodes. They apologised,” she told viewers on Footy Classified.
“Unlike the AFL, the Saints apology was not transactional, there was no face saving, no backroom politics, no round table maneuvering, just a simple apology. Unlike the AFL, Matt Finnis, the St Kilda Chief but his name to that heartfelt mea culpa. He didn’t hide behind a nameless press release like Richard Goyder and Gillon McLaughlin did. The Robert Muir story over the weekend by Russell Jeffrey [sic] was harrowing reading and to his credit Finnis took all the shocking claims at face value.”
“So different to Collingwood’s treatment of it’s ongoing issues with Heritier Lumumba. There was no negotiation, no enquiry, no investigation, no fear of legal action. Take a leaf Collingwood. Take a leaf AFL.”
Craig Hutchison seconded Wilson’s sentiment. “It was heart-wrenching to read wasn’t it, it really was. It just made you reflect so much on footy and where it’s been and where it’s going, and life in general. I agree with you on the way the Saints handled it.”
Wilson was particularly impressed by Matt Finnis. “I just think it’s so important when a Chief Executive, I know I go on about this, but to put a name to something makes it so much more real. When you have the guts to say my club did this, even though he wasn’t there at the time Matt Finnis, I was really impressed. I know it doesn’t it doesn’t make anything better about what happened but at least both parties seem keen to get together again.”
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On AFL 360, Brett Ratten explained that feeling the day after the night before was somewhere between ‘pleased that they’d pushed a really good team at their home ground’ and ‘bloody hell we had the opportunity to win that game in the last quarter’. “A bit of both Robbo. I think the part that was early in the game they really could have put us away and got three to four goals out maybe five but we just hanged in there,” Ratten told hosts Gerard Whateley and Mark Robinson. We made some opportunities and made it count against the flow a little bit but by the end of the game I thought we were running on top of the ground and we missed some opportunities. So I think there’s mixed emotions but it was a good step for us and I thought that the way we fought the game out and the way we played I thought was a credit to the players.
He agreed that it was a big step in building belief in the team that they can win from anywhere. “Yeah that’s right, I think our skill was there. You could look at the technical aspect of the game and there were parts of it that we fell away in throughout the game but I thought the spirit was very strong and for players to be down and to have a big impact in the last quarter. I thought Billings’ last quarter was outstanding and Sinclair really got going as well and Hill, we shifted him behind the ball, and he got a fair bit of it. So I think some players down but the whole team got a lot of belief out of that.”
A couple of Saints midfielders came in for some praise from On The Couch. “Jack Steele, is he an elite midfielder in the competition right now? If he is out of contract, and I think he is, do you pay him like an elite midfielder?” Jonathan Brown asked Nick Riewoldt.
“I think you’ll want to see it for a bit longer but absolutely his form this year, if he is able to replicate that year on year like the elite midfielders do then he’ll be in that category absolutely, he’s having a super season,” Riewoldt opinioned.
Gerard Healy agreed. “Yes, indeed he has he had a great game on the weekend. Seb Ross got hold of Lachie Neale who didn’t have his best game so there’s a little bit of history if they meet again down the track,” he said.
With fellow AFL 360 guest Luke Beveridge having just coached his team to victory over Melbourne, Ratten was asked if he’d watched the Bulldogs game against Melbourne and reviewed how the Bulldogs were able to stop them. “We watched it live as a coaching group, there was a few of us watching it, and we just had our opposition meeting match committee,” Ratten responded. “So we’ve got it all on our computer and we’ll go through it in finer detail but there’s no doubt that the midfield of the Western Bulldogs really got on top and Bont and Co really got going. It was interesting how Bevo used the rucks and Dunkley did that so we’ll have a look at that aswell.”
As impressed as Ratten was by Beveridge’s lateral thinking, with two ruckmen at his disposal, he admitted he was a little more traditional with his ruck set up. “You could say that, yes with two but Bevo has always been inventive. Having worked with him before at the Hawks he’s always there to try something and he did a good job of that.”
Despite the Demons being outplayed by the Bulldogs, Matthew Lloyd told Footy Classified that he thought they were well placed to beat St Kilda. “On Melbourne, I think they had one bad quarter and I think they are a big chance to beat St Kilda this week. I think they’ve improved a lot in the last month, I know they were against lesser opponents in Collingwood at half-strength and Adelaide and North Melbourne, but I thought they were poor for one quarter and I think they are big chance to still go on and play finals and maybe possibly win one.”
Craig Hutchison disagreed. “They’d want to be good to beat St Kilda, they were tremendous I thought yesterday. They are the real deal and they’ll be a significant player in the finals. Brisbane while they were relieved to win there, there looked to be a bit of angst at the end of the game.”
Caroline Wilson felt the truth was somewhere in the middle. “I wouldn’t say St Kilda was super impressive there was so many opportunities to get over the line and they probably will be kicking themselves that they didn’t,” she said.
Gerard Healy asked whether the defeat would prove costly. “The Saints are hanging on, they should have won yesterday they so many opportunities they just couldn’t nail it. Clearly they’ll look back if they miss, and I don’t think they will but if they do they’ll look back and rue the opportunity that they had,” he said seeking comment from Nick Riewoldt.
“They had opportunities late didn’t they to almost steal that game,” the Saints champ respoded. “We saw Brisbane’s misses earlier and if Brisbane had of kicked straight earlier it could have been a four or five-goal lead to the Lions but I think if their good enough, and you say this about all teams, they should win three of those four games against Melbourne, Hawthorn and GWS. Based on current form you’d expect them to win those three games,” he said with displaying a much different opinion of the Demons than Matthew Lloyd.
On AFL 360 Ratten was asked whether he believed staging had been overblown by the media and fans or if it had no place in the game. “Probably in the middle there somewhere Robbo,” he answered. “We don’t want players staging for free kicks, we want them to play the ball but some of them are maybe blown up a little too far. So I sit in the middle a bit, I think when they are extreme and the player hasn’t been hit in the head I think we should do something about it but I think just blowing up some of the minor ones can overdo it as well.”
He was similarly in two minds about the value of the pre-finals bye. “I’m a bit two bob each way,” he said. “But I think to get the best players out there in the finals series is important and if it means to give the players an extra week I think that would be beneficial to make sure we can showcase our talent at the pointy end of the season.”
Footy Classified had a light-hearted look at Max King by gently ribbing his former junior coach Matthew Lloyd using a grab from the Saints forward on 3AW. “It [kicking for goal] is definitely something that I’m chipping away at each week. I probably haven’t nailed it this year but just hoping to keep getting better at it. Might have to give Lloydy a call soon and get a few more of his tips because he definitely knows what he is talking about,” King told 3AW.
“If Lordo [Matthew Lloyd] was generous he’d help him out,” Kane Cornes told the Footy Classified panel. “He’d pick up the phone this week and jump on the front foot and give him a call to try and sort it out,” he said.
The ribbing wasn’t done there though, Craig Hutchison had his say too. “He doesn’t get paid that much unfortunately, Max he can’t afford the type of sheets Lordo rolls with these days. Save up and you’ll be a chance in the future.”
On The Couch had a more serious look at the Saints young prospect.
Nick Riewoldt praised his ability to get his hands to the ball. “I think he’s going well. You could probably say half a dozen times this year, you’ve walked away from games with Max King saying ‘he could have kicked a handful today’. So either through missed shots or dropped marks but he is getting his hands to the ball. He is outreaching his opponents consistently and I think once he gets used to the physicality and the pace of the game he’ll start completing those plays,” he said.
“This is bad news for the rest of the competition this is the only way I could get this in,” Gary Lyon explained making Max King his ‘bad’ in The Good , The Bad and The Ugly. “Because once this guy starts clunking his marks then the bad news is for the fullbacks in the competition. So what is he doing wrong?” he asked Riewoldt and Brown.
“I think early in your career you don’t quite have an appreciation for the contact that’s coming,” Riewoldt explained. “Under 18 level you’re going up, your marking those and no one is near you. He’ll figure that out and he’ll be a great player,” he said.
“A lot to work with because of his positioning. I love his positioning,” Brown agreed.
“That’s the hard bit,” Riewoldt interjected.
“He never lets the ball get too high on him he keeps it in front of his eyes,” Brown continued.
“And his body’s up. He’s not going in sideways,” Gary Lyon added to make the trios admiration of the young gun unquestionable.