Another heartbreaking loss for the Saints brought questions from the Monday Night Panel Shows about their ability to maintain their position in the top eight until the end of the season. Of more interest however was the controversial goal to Christian Petracca that ultimately proved the winner in the three point thriller in Alice Springs.
Gerard Whateley expressed concern about the Saints position on AFL 360. “St Kilda sits seventh Robbo, they have bought themselves the undesired tension, is they have lost two weeks in a row by less than a kick,” he said before being interrupted by co-host Mark Robinson.
“Three of the last four,” he interjected.
“They sit still needing that one win to make sure they are going to be part of it and the longer you go without it the more tension starts to creep in,” Whateley continued. “They didn’t play particularly well to me on Saturday night,” he said.
“No. At the same time I don’t think Melbourne allowed them to play particularly well,” Robinson responded. “It’s been spoken about several times, so when you look at St Kilda and you think ‘god when they move the ball quickly they’re really, really good but I would think that part of developing and coaching a team is ‘right how do we next react when a team denies all that space to run to?’ ‘They give us the ball, but they deny it?'”
“We keep saying everything’s a learning experience. Brett Ratten and his team will say ‘right, if this happens again we’ve got to come up with a better plan, or use better people, to break what happened on the weekend. They’re a bit wobbly and it wasn’t lost on me watching the game on the weekend. I really enjoyed the game it was a slog game. It was full of heart. Just get your body in and stop that ball getting out and get up again and fight and get up again and Melbourne had a few examples of that.”
“Alan Richardson was sitting in the [Melbourne] coaches box and when Richo was sitting next to us on the desk here Gerard for a couple of years, by the end we were to scared to bring up goal kicking weren’t we. ‘Don’t mention the war’. On the weekend, the last couple of weeks even, St Kilda’s been wasting their opportunities. They are so hard to get – a shot at goal – then to miss so much, it just kills you,” he declared.
On The Couch looked at the contenders for sixth, seventh, and eighth on the ladder and their strengths and weaknesses. Jonathan Brown made a less than compelling case for the Saints based on the fact they rank second in the competition for playing on from a mark,
“Their speed has been a real strength this year. It’s been terrific,” he enthused until challenged by Gerard Healy who questioned whether it remained a strength. “They need it to be a strength. Butler has been a revelation but has probably dropped off the last month or so. Hill’s coming on, so he adds good speed but they have dropped away a little bit which has been a concern,” he said.
“Sinclair going into the midfield has given them a bit toe around there when he does go in there. We just need to see a bit more consistency and their scoring. I look at Membrey , he’s kicked three goals in five games and Marshall’s kicked two goals in five games. Obviously King’s had his struggles he can’t take a mark aswell,” he said seemingly forgetting that he was meant to be talking about their strengths, not their weaknesses.
He agreed with Healy that that they the speed with which they are attacking is leaving them exposed on the way back out. “There is a little bit of that because that is a weakness, so the ball does transition reasonably quickly back the other way,” he said.
As Brown began to wonder whether he was talking about the Saints strengths or weaknesses, Gary Lyon interjected. “That strength is not really big strength. That doesn’t fill me as a St Kilda supporter with any…” he said before Brown interrupted his interruption.
“No, they have had troubles the last month or so. The other problem for them is they have been beaten by the good sides around the midfield. Scores from stoppages has been a real concern for them. Jack Steele has been really good for them he’s started to move up into the A-Grader category, obviously we need to see that for the whole year. Ross tried to play on Petracca when he was in the middle.”
Conceding the seventh most scores per inside 50s, the Saints defence was nominated as their weakness in the run to the finals. Despite only minutes earlier listing speed as their greatest strength, Brown agreed that they needed to slow down to protect their defence. “I think they probably do. Just take it off a little bit but you’d just love to see the key forwards start to take some more marks. I think at the moment we are seeing dropped marks, the ball hitting the ground and getting swept out.”
Nick Riewoldt had a different opinion on the teams recent form, believing it lay in the way teams played against them. “I think when sides have gone slow against them, that ‘s when they’ve really struggled to find control,” he said.
The former skipper still believed that they would play finals in 2020. “I think they can win two of those games. The Hawthorn game and the GWS game [but] they probably only need one because they have banked enough wins,” he said when asked if the Saints would make it.
He and Brown also took time to discuss the potential of young forward Max King. “I like Max, I like where he is heading,” Brown said. He is certainly getting his hands to the football enough isn’t he Rooey?
“He is. Probably another five or six on the weekend where he gets two [hands] to it and can’t complete the mark,” Riewoldt agreed.
On AFL 360, Simon Goodwin had his say on the Decision Review System and whether standard equipment should be at every game. “It just makes sense. I think anyone that’s in the game just wants consistency in what’s delivered,” the Melbourne Coach told when asked. “Goal-line technology is one of those things that it needs to be at every ground and we saw on the weekend that it was obviously fairly important to make sure that we can get the decision right. The ARC is a system that has come in, it’s much improved, but it needs to be at every ground,” he said.
An outspoken critic of the Decision Review System, Gerard Whateley also made clear his opinion on the lack of goal line cameras in Alice Springs. “I want to have 30 seconds on on the score review because this needs to be said regarding the game with St Kilda and Melbourne. This was a foreseen disaster for the score system. It was a choice not to have cameras on the post and it was a risk that the AFL’s been prepared to run for a couple of years,” he said.
“For what reason,” Mark Robinson asked.
“Of course it comes back to money. There’s always been an issue between the broadcaster and the AFL as to who should be providing the cameras. So this, I take it, was just regarded ‘well it’s in Alice Springs its third division. Its like the back courts at the start of a Grand Slam tournament, they don’t need all the gear that’s applied to prime time football.”
Except that it was prime time Saturday night, and it was absolutely vital and the broken window that has been there for a couple of years finally revealed itself and what do the AFL do? They fix the broken window. Which we all know shouldn’t have been there in the first place. It is beneath the status of the competition and it treats two teams in a lesser manner than what they deserved and for one, it might have a material impact when the season’s done at the end,” he said.
On Footy Classified, Craig Hutchison believed the financial costs outweighed the benefit. “It’s $100K a throw is it a good use of AFL money?” he asked.
His was a lone voice.
“How can you have some games with some vision and other games not? It’s just not right,” Caroline Wilson opinioned but Hutchison was unmoved.
“I have no problem with it. We went for 100 years without it and it’s better to have it than not but if there’s a circumstance in the middle of a pandemic in Alice Springs that we can’t have it well we can’t have it,” he expressed.
“I think once you establish it at a ground, the AFL wants to go forward with games in Cairns, in Darwin, in Alice Springs, it’s got to be at all football venues,” Wilson responded.
“Or get rid of it all together but we can’t go back to the Tom Hawkins days where balls hit the post,” Matthew Lloyd suggested while bringing up the ghost of another goal umpiring decision that haunts St Kilda fans.
“No, we’d much rather have it and at 90% of the games great but if it can’t be in one venue or another it’s not the end of the world,” Hutchison responded riling up Lloyd further.
“Kane [Cornes] believes that was the wrong decision yet your saying…”
“It probably was but,”
“So you don’t care about that?” Lloyd asked.
“Through history we got by without it and we built a great game,” answered Hutchison unmoved.
“And you don’t care if St Kilda missed out on playing finals?” Lloyd pressed further.
“It’s not the end of the world,” he said in complete opposition to the thoughts of this particular St Kilda supporter.
“For you it’s not,” Kane Cornes interjected.
“Luck of the draw. The rub of the green,” Hutchison responded.
“It is for Saints fans, Cornes exclaimed. “It is for Saints fans who have so long to win a premiership and to watch their team play finals and is it $100 grand? I can go and a get a go pro for $300 bucks, put two of them on each goal post and that’s better than what we had on Saturday night so I’m not sure its $100 grand. That’s the top of the tree but they could have done something better than what they showed for a marque game,” he said.
“I’d like to be the supplier,” Hutchison conceded. “It did cross my mind that was a little over the odds when I read that in the paper.”
Gerard Healy was also unhappy with the Petracca goal and nominated it as his ‘Ugly’ in On The Couch’s The Good The Bad and The Ugly for Round 14. Yet the subject of the Brownlow Medalists ire was the way in which the Saints defended the scoring opportunity believing it should never have required a score review.
“My ugly goes to the match winning kick up at Alice Springs and it’s a defensive blunder,” he told Brown, Riewoldt and Lyon. “You’ve got to realise when you’ve got the outnumber. It turns into a two on four, count these St Kilda jumpers and count the Melbourne jumpers. Now the deepest defender for St Kilda didn’t he need to be up that close he can go to that goal kicking region just see match position, match situation and adjust accordingly.