Having become a talking point in Alastair Clarkson’s press conference, Ratten was asked about the Saints approach in the second quarter that saw them take 45 marks. “We wanted to to control the ball,” he explained. “We probably overdid it slightly and we were going into a slight breeze but we thought to build the ball up was a way that we could control the footy. Our first quarter let us down a fair bit. Contested ball I think was +15 to the Hawks, probably an area they didn’t do so well in last week and really came out and we were second to the footy, and they got a real advantage.”
Ratten denied that the response was in response to Hawthorn’s structure. “No. it was the way we moved the ball. No. It wasn’t really,” he explained. “They gave us the opportunity to move the ball around and we did. It was something we wanted to explore but to that degree? Maybe just a little too far.”
Despite this, he then refused to be drawn on Clarkson’s assertion that the style wouldn’t stand up in big games. “Well, that’s his comment,” a clearly surprised Ratten responded. “We’ll focus on what we can do and maybe they could to,” he said.
|AFL 2020: Monday’s Experts – Round 16 v Hawthorn|
|AFL 2020: Saints Summary. Round 16 v Hawthorn.|
Ratten bristled at suggestions a difference in experience favoured his team. “The Hawks are young but so are we,” he said. “They bring in players that have been there for three and four years and we’ve got players that have been running around all year. I think if you have a look at their age and where they sit I think they’re older than us probably. So I think for our group, to have the spell was really important but Max needed a spell. He was right on the edge.”
“We’ve said it all year, it’s tempting to play him because he influences games. Timmy would have played but because of the finger and we couldn’t get the surgery done from that point of view we had to leave him out. To get the job done without those boys and have 25 shots at goal from 43 entries, that’s a lot of shots at goal. So I think we did a pretty good job. Hit the post four times so it might have been out even further.”
Ratten was full of praise for Rowan Marshall’s efforts up forward but admitted to half-time concerns about how his team was functioning inside their attacking arc. “Probably early, it was either they marked it or we marked it, there wasn’t a lot of ground balls in the first half. Then the game changed a bit and the ball came to ground a bit more but I think Marshall to go up there and to play the way he did was a key focal point for us.”
“I was really pleased with his efforts, he’s accepted a lot of things this year. Last year he was the number one ruckman all year, had a great season and trying to keep developing in that space, but no he’s sharing the ruck with Paddy [Ryder] and then today he played about four minutes of ruck work and other than that played full forward. So he’s done a great job and just shows that he is a pretty good footballer at 24-years of age. ”
Ratten agreed that Marshall had developed into an effective foil for him and could be the ultimate swing man capable of playing the ruck, forward and across half-back if necessary. “Yeah, he could hover around there and float around there,” he said. “He is going well and he is going to keep developing into a pretty good player.”
He advised reporters that both Max King and Tim Membrey would play against the Eagles and explained how close the latter had come to playing this game. “If we could have got the surgery booked in for the Monday, he would have definitely played,” he said. “The other part was, that on the Tuesday we thought it was going to be done around four or five o’clock but it was somewhere around nine or ten o’clock at night. So it kept pushing it back hour after hour which [meant], because of the healing and the scar, we just had to be smart about it. Had it opened up again [against Hawthorn] he would have missed the West Coast game as well [as be unable to continue the game], so we had to take that risk out of it.”
Pleased with the improved performances and output of Brad Hill, Ratten praised the growing connections within the team. “I think it’s not so much how we want him to play but the connection between all the new players we do have in the team. Paddy [Ryder] taps the ball to the rovers and the midfielders so its a little easier but Hilly’s a running type and receives a lot of the footy so for him, when he’s getting into positions, I think the connection is really starting to develop. Which is great. He’s an important player to us and we’ve got him here for a long time and he’s going to play some great footy for us.
“But it probably took a while and next week it might be difficult again but everyone’s trying to work and contribute and that’s what they did today. Blue Ribbon Cup Day, it’s a special day and to win is always nice and it’s great that we did that, especially for our fans at home. I know that the lockdown has been extended and it’s tough times down there and I feel for everyone. To all footy fans, but mostly to the Saints supporters, hopefully we put a smile on their face on Father’s Day aswell.”
Ratten believed his team had shown maturity in the way that they won the match. “I think we did. Some of the things we’ve worked on, we’ve been in some close games and we’ve lost four games by a kick or less, to control that game towards the end. [Jack] Lonie could have passed that ball off maybe but he took some time off the clock. It’s just a bit of maturity we are starting to show as a young group.”
Asked whether the drive from Noosa might have played a part in the slow start, Ratten explained that the team had followed a different approach this week. “The players actually came the night before because it was an early game, where when we played at three we drove down on the same day,” he said. “So it was a little different again. I think that’s the season. You just be prepared for anything. When you think your understanding of what’s going on there will be a different challenge that will jump up. I think across the board our players have been outstanding at just adapting to anything and embracing what is in front of them because we don’t know. We thought we were here for five weeks and then it extended and things like that.”
“So I think when we look back at the end of the year and start to reflect through their pre-season we’ll look at it and say this was an enormous year for connection for us as a team and I think there will be a lot of growth. Even some of our players leadership wise, Steele’s leadership has gone to another level. Even [Rowan] Marshall, [Callum] Wilkie and [Dougal] Howard, outside the leadership group have developed as well. So I think we’ll look back and say ‘yep there were some hard times’ but there were some great rewards for our team.”
Told of conversations between the Metricon Stadium groundsman and AFL Footy Operations Boss Steve Hocking at halftime, seemingly over the damaged areas of the ground on the broadcast side wing, Ratten was sympathetic to the size of the task faced by the ground staff. “I feel [its] tough for the groundsman, I think the AFL has done an amazing job working with the Queensland Government and the other states and the grounds to get the games going,” he responded.
“I know there’s another game on here shortly and they can only do what they can do. This is an elite venue, and its copped a bit of wear and tear this year, if it could not rain this afternoon it might stay more healthy. That’s what it is and that’s what we’ve got to do. I think the AFL is doing a great job and I didn’t see the discussion but you can only do what you can do and that’s pushing out the games and playing.”
Was the AFL’s discussion sparked by player complaints? “No,” Ratten told reporters. “Not from our players anyway,” he said.