As was to be expected after the Saints fluffed their lines in Round 17, they were the Washington Generals to West Coast’s Harlem Globetrotters as far as the Monday Night panel shows were concerned. The nature of their position within the top eight also playing a part in this, with the expectation high that they will qualify regardless of Round 18 results meaning that they were not featured as heavily as they had been in recent weeks.
|AFL 2020: Ratts Post Match Presser – Round 17 v West Coast.|
|AFL 2020: Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory – Round 17 v West Coast.|
Footy Classified barely mentioned St Kilda during their program, in fact they only came up in passing twice, in conversation about other topics. Matthew Lloyd mentioned his belief that the ‘Saints were just scratching the line’ in preparation to praising the Western Bulldogs. The other instance was of more interest. When talking about the recent extension of Giants Coach Leon Cameron’s contract, Caroline Wilson mentioned an interesting clause in his contract stipulated by the AFL that would also apply to Brett Ratten.
“Every recipient [of covid assistance from the AFL] club has to submit the coach’s contract…every contract the AFL tells me has a six month out clause,” she told her fellow panellists. “That is Stuart Dew, it’s Chris Fagan, I imagine it’s Brett Ratten, every club that is in major debt and is supported by the AFL. So I don’t think the AFL will have to pay out Leon Cameron, if something was to go horribly wrong.”
Given the nature in which the last quarter of the match with West Coast was umpired, just five free kicks awarded ,two of which being deliberate out of bounds and two free kicks in the goal square, it was no surprise it prompted comment from Nick Riewoldt on On the Couch. “We are a week out from finals boys, so we want the game to be umpired appropriately,” he told Gerard Healy, Jonathan Brown and Gary Lyon. “I’m sick of umpires paying free kicks on a whim just because they feel like it. That [Brad Hill’s contact with Tom Cole] happened 100 times that night but this umpire, he felt like it at the time so he paid it. Pay them consistently. Please.” Riewoldt implored.
“Geez, that’s a bit of look at me time from the umpire there,” Brown agreed before trying to even up with the officials. “They do a great job though the umpires,” he said.
The Race for the Eight.
With the season poised for an exciting conclusion to the race for the final positions in the top eight, it was no surprise that AFL360 and On The Couch devoted time to this fact. Of more surprise was that Footy Classified’s discussion on the matter was little more than a discussion on whether the Bulldogs could replicate 2016. Conveniently forgotten in this kind of talk is that, while they finished seventh that year, they did not spend a single week outside the eight and finished closer to first than they did eighth.
With that pettiness aside, lets focus our attention on what was said about the Race for the Eight. “Just one round to go in 2020 and the final eight could still see some twists and some turns but its the Bulldogs’ and the Saints’ to lose,” Gerard Healy opened On The Couch, seemingly not as concerned by the mathematic permutations that Saints fans have discovered that could see a finals place lost this weekend.
“It’s been a tough year but Nathan Buckley and the Pies have consolidated their spot in the final eight which brings us to the final round of 2020, round 18 and what’s in store. There are a couple of live chances but ultimately the whole thing spins on whether or not the Bulldogs and Saints, well the Bulldogs in particular, whether they can beat Freo and the Saints. If they lose, by how much they lose is the key question.” Healy said.
Unlike Healy, Gerard Whateley on AFL 360 spoke of the torment that faced the Saints and their supporters after losing four of their last six. “Now St Kilda have done what you don’t want to do and that’s introduce the unwanted tension,” he told Mark Robinson. “Two point losers to Brisbane. Three point losers to Melbourne. They had the West Coast game won and got over run and now they are still looking for the final touch to make sure they are part of it. They might make it without it, but it would be a bit hollow if they did,” Whateley said.
Robinson was having none of that. “Hollow, schmollow. You get in, you get in. You don’t get in, you don’t get in,” he said.
“I like that. No points for style. Nothing about worthy or merit. Just win the games you need,” Whateley replied.
The Equation is Simple.
Gary Lyon was equally matter of fact on On the Couch. “They both win, the Bulldogs and Saints win, they play finals,” he said. “That’s as simple as they need to make it and Melbourne just have to sit back and hope, and so do the Giants. You reap what you sow and that’s why they are down in ninth and tenth. So it’s a real simple equation for the two teams in it. It could come down to the last game, I think Bulldogs is the last game against Freo.”
“Which will be an absolute beauty,” Nick Riewoldt enthusiastically replied. “There are some great games this weekend.”
“Freo are in good nick,” said Lyon.
“They’ll be no pushover,” Brown agreed.
“It’s up in Cairns too by the way,” Lyon suggested. Most likely in reference to the two upsets we’ve seen in the three games played there this year, that have turned the finals race on its head.
“You have to grow to fight.”
Mark Robinson admitted to conflicted emotions watching the Saints and West Coast slug it out at the Gabba. “For so long (sic) of this game I was looking at a St Kilda team under Brett Ratten saying ‘they’ve [West Coast] got a couple of injuries, but how well are they [St Kilda] playing? How they are connecting, their running, they are really threatening they just couldn’t kick goals,” he told Whateley. “By the end I’d completely turned around and said ‘you so frustrate me, you are playing an Eagles team without five of their best players and you still couldn’t get it done when you had control of the game,” he said.
“They had them on the ropes,” Whateley agreed.
“They are a growing team and you can grow to win but you have to grow to fight and put that sword through ’em and kill ’em and they weren’t able to do that. They didn’t have the players forward of centre say ‘I will take responsibility’. ‘I will kick that goal’. Like Petracca, pick up goal from 45,” Robinson said.”
“Bradley Hill would like his moment back at the top of the goal square,” Whateley said invoking memories of the missed opportunity from the Saints star that was followed by a coast to coast Eagles goal and another from the resulting centre bounce.
“Absolutely. A lot of them will,” Robinson agreed. “We’re not picking on Bradley. A lot of them will. It would be interesting if we could sit here for an hour with Brett Ratten and delve a little bit deeper. No blame but what could you have done differently. The game goes so quickly, 16 minute quarters. I wonder what in hindsight St Kilda could have done differently. Did they do what was required on Tim Kelly.?No they didn’t. That was one of the best performances we’ve seen this year,” Robinson opinioned.
“It was,” Whateley agreed.
“By any individual,” Robinson emphasised. “Against Jack Steele. Who’s going to be an All-Australian. Jack was on him for part of the game, not all of the game,” he said.
Possession is 9/10ths of the law
Jonathan Brown disputed the accepted wisdom that it was a race in 10 for the final eight. “I put a line through GWS, I think we’re down to nine teams,” he said.
“Don’t say that,” Riewoldt pleaded in hope that this wouldn’t jinx the Saints who play them this weekend.
“I just can’t see them making up that percentage. That’s a big jump up on percentage there that is required,” an unmoved Brown continued.
“Not if the Dogs lose,” Riewoldt responded.
“Freo are the big wildcard but you’d rather be backing in those sides that have got possession at the moment,” Healy suggested.
“That’s right. The sides that have their destiny in their own hands, that’s who you want to be at this stage of the year,” Riewoldt agreed with all Saints fans hoping that he is proven right this weekend.
|AFL 2020: All The Goals – Round 17 v West Coast.|
|AFL 2020: Magic Moments – Round 17 v West Coast.|
|AFL 2020: Tough As – Round 17 v West Coast.|