St Kilda Saints cross Fremantle Dockers at Marvel Stadium
“Basically a new coaching panel… [and] We worked very closely with the players. I couldn’t have asked for more from the attitude of the players.
“We have 14 on the injured list. The biggest concern was probably our front half, with experience running out so just to see how a group that works really hard and bought in is rewarded [was pleasing].
“[It’s our club’s] 150th year. [Legendary coach] David Parkin used to say, “It’s really important to win the first one to get confidence and confidence,” and we know it’s going to be tough from here – we’re already looking at the Bulldogs.
“But we got together, sang the song and celebrated. We’ll probably start preparing as coaches from tonight – review the game and move on.”
But not everything went to Lyon. His decision to replace Ben Paton with Dan Butler in the third quarter backfired almost immediately when Jimmy Webster (eardrum/hamstring) was involved in a serious collision that handicapped him for the remainder of the game.
Fremantle defenders Brennan Cox and Luke Ryan kept their team in contention when they were besieged early on, with Cox raking in an exceptional 20 marks – just four short of Brian Lake’s league record.
Sean Darcy was the best big man around, but ex-demon Luke Jackson failed to make a name for himself as Rowan Marshall bravely battled the Dockers’ two-headed jerk monster.
It was an early blow to Fremantle manager Justin Longmuir’s hopes of helping last year’s finals appearance.
The Saints accept the reality of the understaffed forward line
The Saints’ worst-injured list, which stretches to an unenviable 14 players, meant there were ample opportunities in the first round. The absences of Max King and Tim Membrey left two debutants — Mattaes Philippou, top 10 draftee, and Anthony Caminiti, who was recruited before the season — to join veteran recruit Zaine Cordy in attack. None of the teenagers had an overly productive day, but each shared insights that suggested they could play a role once reinforcements arrive.
Philippou scored a goal in the second quarter, while Caminiti made an early impact with several strong dogfights and Mason Wood assisted in the last quarter. Cordy, who seemed set for a defensive role when he was signed as a free agent, endured a quiet evening but his goal in the last quarter gave St Kilda a 14-point lead with barely nine minutes on the clock. Life without King and Membrey will be tough, but they might have a few fixes by the time they get back.
“I know how good [Alex] Pearce and Cox and Ryan are, and they moved and surpassed them, but in the end I thought we went on and fulfilled our role,” Lyon said. “So we found something as a club. Ideally, you’ll have King there, and of course Membrey, but that’s not meant to be for a while.
Lyon unfazed by poor discipline
The tide turned when St Kilda scored two own goals in their second season after leading 3-1. Dockers duo Matt Taberner and James Aish hammered home much-needed goals from the pitch after the Saints conceded 50-yard penalties in quick succession. The first offender was defender and last year’s club champions runners-up Callum Wilkie, who was disappointed to give a free-kick. Fremantle grabbed the lead by four points. A quick glance at the coaching box was enough to understand the frustration of St Kilda manager Ross Lyon.
Better Days Ahead?
Two-time Brownlow medalist Nat Fyfe’s new football life as a stay-at-home forward got off to an awkward start on Sunday. Fyfe only had a touch after halftime in the first quarter and finished the game with just nine dismounts and a single deficit. His long set shot midway through the last quarter fell short when it looked like he might be able to face the situation. Minutes in midfield will be hard to come by for the veteran in 2023 so he needs to find his niche as a forward. There wasn’t much to celebrate for Fremantle’s taller forwards, with Matt Taberner even being substituted last term.
ST KILDA 3.3 5.4 6.6 10.7 (67)
FREMANTLE 2.1 5.4 7.7 7.10 (52)
DESTINATIONS – St Kilda: Owens, Gresham, Wood 2, Higgins, Bytel, Philippou, Cordy.
Fremantle: Schultz 2, Frederick, Taberner, Aish, Treacy, Switkowski.
BEST – St Kilda: Byrnes, Wood, Steele, Sinclair, Crouch, Wilkie, Gresham.
Fremantle: Cox, Darcy, Ryan, Young, Brayshaw, Serong.
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