The Saints meritorious victory over West Coast in Round Four brought the level of praise you would expect on the Monday night panel shows. That is to say that On The Couch and AFL360 were full of praise but Kane Cornes, on Footy Classified, found a way to be contrary instead. We will get to Channel Nine’s ‘Dial A Quote’ a little later. First, we’ll touch on the positives.
“Gee it was a big swing wasn’t it,” Craig Hutchison gushed on Footy Classified. “The Saints [are] back on track [after answering] will the real St Kilda please stand up.”
“Absolute heaven at Marvel for Saints supporters,” Gerard Healy opened On The Couch. “Who produced one of the great comebacks,” he said. “I don’t think there was a football person alive that didn’t enjoy the Saints comeback on Saturday night.”
Critical of the team’s performance against Essendon, former skipper Nick Riewoldt was one person who particularly enjoyed the events of the second half. “I thought it was symbolic that it was the captain, he was the one, who came out before the game and he declared emphatically that there was going to be a response,” he said. “So that’s taking a big emotional risk as a player, to put yourself out there, but they did. They responded the boys and I thought Brett Ratten summed it up really well after the game. It’s never as bad as you think it seems and its never as good as it seems,” Riewoldt enthused.
While the headlines post-match were rightly about the second-half turnaround, Nick Riewoldt and Gary Lyon discussed whether the Saints were in the match more than the scoreline suggested. “They had 36 [forward] entries, the West Coast Eagles, and their efficiency was unbelievable,” Gary Lyon said. “Every time they went in [forward fifty] they marked or kicked a goal.” This was reflected in the fact that the Saints actually led the inside fifty count 43-30 at half-time.
You can have your game plan, your ins and outs, your fat sides and hitting zones. It doesn’t matter if you don’t bring, everything that Nick asked for last Monday night, that was the basis of this victory. I got excited as a commentator, I got immersed in it, because before your very eyes they stared down disaster. They stared it down, they looked it in the eye at 33-points down and this happened (see Saints Pressure Flip table) they made a decision.
“They were ok in this earlier in the piece by the way,” Lyon continued. It sort of ebbed and flowed their runs of goals but at 33-points down they made a decision. [Dan] Butler, whether he made his own mind up or whether one thing went his way but, he took off. Then somebody else jumped on. I thought Brad Crouch was great right from the word go, because we questioned their tackling ability, he had 12. Steele had six, Bytel had seven. So then you go, over to you West Coast. They kicked the last three goals of the third quarter and got themselves in to a position that they were competitive and overwhelmed them with heart, and run, and energy,” Lyon enthused.
“This was St Kilda last year,” Jonathan Brown added. “St Kilda won a final last year, they were fantastic, it was their MO [to put an] enormous amount of pressure on teams. Get up the field. Pressure them up and beat them back to goal. So they had that. They had that for all to see and they were able to get that back. Sometimes it just takes something to click and hopefully their season can continue on,” he said.
“The Saints on the weekend, and in contrast to the weekend before, is the greatest one week snapshot of the power of the mind in footy and the importance of effort and we don’t address it enough,” Riewoldt suggested.
Gerard Whateley and Mark Robinson, on AFL 360 were both full of praise. Robinson declared it his favourite performance of the weekend. While Whateley, whose pre-season prediction was that the Saints would be near unbeatable at Marvel Stadium this year, believed it was a performance worthy of this big call.
“They took the spirit away from the Eagles,” Robinson thought. “And pressure and work rate are contagious. If you’re working hard Gerard and I see you, and you, and you, laying tackle after tackle when it comes into my area I’m going to do the same and then suddenly everybody is up and about. That’s what happened. I don’t know if there was an exact moment where that game changed….but once it happened they were just brought together in one cause. Then when the game opened up, everybody had their fun. Everybody had their fun but it wouldn’t have opened up if that contagious spirit hadn’t been grabbed. It was awesome to watch. It was a shock to watch. “
“They’re two and two and I’m back on them at Marvel,” Whateley declared.
Kane Cornes on the other hand was determined to find the negative side of the story. “Whilst we are complimentary of what they did and what they produced,” he told the Footy Classified panel before adding a kicker. “[But] It’s almost an indictment on the footy club when, in a week, you turn it around like they did.”
He was also upset at Geelong’s Josh Jenkins who had taken a pot shot at those in the media who had written the Saints eulogy after the Essendon loss. “Obviously we are going to say that,” Cornes responded. “For them to turn it around in the space of one week is, I think, an indictment on the club. Why don’t they not bring that pressure and intensity every week.”
Bristling at claims he was taking Jenkins tweet personally he doubled down. “Why would a rival player chip in with that,” he asked. “I wasn’t actually that critical of St Kilda, I think the coach was the most critical out of anyone,” he said oblivious to the fact it made it clear he had taken it personally. “Why would they deliver 32 tackles one week and they can turn it around and lay 25 in a quarter? How can your effort fluctuate so significantly in the space of one week?”
“I think that was directed at Wayne Carey,” Sam Maclure interjected. “Who, I think, said on Triple M that if they lose they are gone.”
In fact, Carey had gone much further than that. “Joey, they (St Kilda) are cooked. Saints are done,” Carey told Leigh Montagna on Triple M Footy’s Mid Week Rub. “And I tell you why they are done, have a look at the next three weeks. They’ve got the best three teams in the competition over the next three weeks. There’s no way they are winning any of those.”
Cornes, perhaps unaware that Carey’s commentary was more outlandish than simple criticism of poor performance, was undeterred. “Rightly so,” he bit back at Maclure. “I think the criticism had to be there once your coach calls you embarrassing.”
“That’s ok,” Maclure responded. “You’re allowed your opinion and Josh is allowed to say what he said.”
Rowan Marshall’s impact did not go unnoticed by the On The Couch team. “I think St Kilda was most effected by the loss of the big men Marshall and Ryder,” Brown suggested. “That sort of tag team punch in the middle.”
“Yep, we thought they were going to get smashed,” Lyon replied. “With Nic Naitanui and their [West Coast’s] ability to score from centre bounce clearance [but] it was all St Kilda’s way. Carlisle went in and rucked as well, they pushed Battle back. He fought hard. There was some science to it. We’ve been talking about the emotional stuff, and that was the key but they were kicking the ball down the line to Barras and McGovern who were marking everything. So they changed the angles. They went less predictable. They went to a spot where they [the Eagles defenders] couldn’t zone off and it just added to some loose ball inside 50.