Looking about as flat as a Test Match pitch at the Adelaide Oval, Brett Ratten was horribly disappointed post-match. “The mood of the rooms was sombre,” he told reporters. “As it should be. That second quarter where we just got beaten around the ball, whether it was in the air or on the ground. They flipped the first quarter into the second quarter their way and that really changed the momentum of the game and gave them a huge advantage,” he said.
|AFL 2020: Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory – Round 17 v West Coast.|
|AFL 2020: Monday’s Experts – Round 17 v West Coast.|
Ratten acknowledged that his team had missed a golden opportunity to secure a finals berth with West Coast undermanned through injury. “Then they lose McGovern and that was in our favour,” he explained. “I think in the period that he went off we got scoreboard momentum but when he came back on it stiffened them up again, then they lost him. It was extremely disappointing. I think maybe the [Brad] Hill goal might have got us there. The one right at the top of the square but it didn’t and then we just allowed two or three goals. [Nic] Natainui’s influence at the centre bounces late in the game was pretty inspiring,” he lamented.
The coach was unequivocal when asked to nominate a decisive factor in the contest. “I thought contested ball in the second quarter, I think we were minus 15 or something for the quarter, or 16,” he said. “We just gave them the ability to win the ball in the air or at ground level. I think they were plus eight in contested marks and then roughly plus seven at ground balls. We just got beaten in the contest. That’s where the game flipped on its head. We had five or six inside 50s to their 14 or 15 and they have 39 for the day so we just let ourselves down when that’s a space that we’ve been pretty solid in. But that’s another thing that’s happened in our year, where we’ve been inconsistent through games, and it’s hurt us.”
Despite the sombre mood, Ratten remained bullish about the Saints chances to play finals. “The good part about all this is that the ball is in our court,” he told reporters. “We don’t have to rely on anyone. It’s up to us, and we spoke about that after the game. We just need to do what we have to do to get up to put a performance in that we like. Not one that we play bits and pieces and today we played bits and pieces against a team that was undermanned and lost players in the game. It was disappointing.”
Ratten refused to buy into suggestions that the weight of the club’s extended finals drought was weighing the team down and affecting performance. “We’ve spoken about putting yourselves into position and concentrating on each game as it comes,” he said. “That’s the aim for every team. You go out there and you want to play finals footy. I think when you talk about that at the start of the year I think every club has those ambitions. We’ve put ourselves in a spot that we can be close to it but we’re not guaranteed, huge game for us coming up, but I don’t think it’s been weighing on the blokes minds.”
It was good news for the club’s returning forwards with Ratten confirming that Tim Membrey and Max King had gotten through the game unscathed. “He’s [Tim Membrey] fine,” he said. “He tested it [his injured finger] out during the week, wore the glove and [has] got a bit of a guard there, but he’s fine. It was a management call with Max and he got through today so those boys are fine,” he said.
With eight days until their next match, Ratten agreed that it was an unusual luxury in 2020. “Yeah it is,” he said. “We’ll be back here Friday week and we’ll find out where our fate is. Our destiny is in our own hands.”
Despite the season now hinging on one game, the Coach still has belief. “Oh yeah, we can rebound from that loss,” he said while admitting improvement was required. “We just can’t be inconsistent for long periods of the game. Momentum might shift but it doesn’t have to last a whole quarter and that’s what we did in the second quarter. It was just virtually ‘here you go, here’s some confidence West Coast’ and we gave it to them and to their credit they were doing a lot of things right and we didn’t match it. So full credit to them and hats off to them they did a good job, but we let ourselves down in that space.”
He admitted that like all clubs, the Saints look to their leaders to try and avert these momentum shifts. “I think our leaders have grown,” he told reporters. “Some of our emerging leaders have really grown in [Jack] Steele and [Rowan] Marshall and [Callum] Wilkie and [Dougal] Howard but it is a question that all clubs ask. When the momentum shifts you probably turn to your leaders. We tried to tag [Tim] Kelly and we had a watch on [Andrew] Gaff and they got off the chain and they led the way for the West Coast Eagles.”
Ratten explained that he had tried a number of different players in his attempts ‘to find a way’ to curb Kelly’s influence. “It was trying to find an answer to stop him and still win the ball ourselves. We had [Seb] Ross, Steele, and went back to Ross but he played a pretty good game, Kelly. Probably he and Natainui were probably the most influential on the ground and probably Gaff as well.