St Kilda has brought down the curtain on its wretched campaign in widely expected fashion, going down by 79 points against the Crows at Adelaide Oval.
After a slow start, when it appeared many of the Crows players were flat after being eliminated from finals contention by the resurgent Richmond a day earlier, the home side took the ascendancy midway through the opening term and effectively snuffed out any chance of a real contest well before half time.
For the Saints, the day was mostly about Lenny Hayes and his pursuit of the all-time tackling record. Despite recent trends indicating he may fall short, the retiring champion passed one more test with flying colours by racking up six of the required eight tackles in the opening term, before ultimately overhauling incumbent leader Jude Bolton in the third quarter. Hayes ultimately finished with 13 tackles, a number he reached just three other times in his 297-game career. Hayes was also one of the Saints’ best on the day, finishing with 21 possessions and team-highs in contested disposals (12) and clearances (six).
Hayes also confirmed the Saints’ worst-kept secret after the game by handing over his no. 7 to first-year midfielder Luke Dunstan. It would surprise nobody if Dunstan, who plays like a young Hayes in many ways, were to captain the Saints one day.
[quote]Hayes ultimately finished with 13 tackles, a number he reached just three other times in his 297-game career. [/quote]
Unlike retiring Crow Ben Rutten, Hayes was unable to sign off with a goal, mainly because the Saints had put the cue in the rack long before the final siren. St Kilda won the third term by 10 points, bringing the three-quarter time margin back to 40. But the deficit nearly doubled in the final stanza on the back of Adelaide’s seven goals to one.
Coach Alan Richardson wasted no time in announcing list changes for next season, confirming that James Gwilt and Clint Jones would not be offered new deals. These changes were flagged last week, but it was still surprising to see the haste with which they were declared. That said, given that these decisions were made last week, there seems little point in keeping the news private. Moreover, it’s fair to say Richardson went about delisting players after the last game in a more dignified manner than the guy who now coaches Fremantle.
Above all, however, Gwilt and Jones deserve our appreciation and gratitude. Both were plucked from different kinds of football obscurity, and both exceeded all reasonable expectations in playing key roles in some of St Kilda’s greatest ever teams. Jones left everything out on the field each week, while Gwilt was often assigned tough matchups on bigger and stronger opponents. By and large, both players beat their direct opponents more often than not and undoubtedly qualify as unsung heroes. Thanks guys.
Who was hot?
Others to impress against the Crows included Jack Steven, who finished with 30 possessions, five tackles and four inside-50s. Importantly, his disposal efficiency was a far more respectable 80% following his recent slump in that area. Midfield mate David Armitage signed off on 2014 with a 22-possession display that also included four tackles and four clearances. Armitage was also the team’s sole multiple goalkicker with two.
Veteran defenders Sam Fisher and Sean Dempster were reasonable in the besieged backline, hauling in a combined 18 marks and finishing with six rebounds from defensive 50 apiece. Youngster Brodie Murdoch also put in a nice cameo after replacing Billy Longer as the substitute at half time. He picked up nine possessions and a goal.
Who was not?
On the flipside, Nick Riewoldt had one of his quietest games of the season. Needing just one goal to reach the half-century, the skipper was held goalless for just the second time in 2014 as Adelaide defender Daniel Talia completely shut him down. Riewoldt had just 10 possessions and seven marks.
Forward protégé Spencer White kicked the first goal of the game but was completely blanketed after that, while young defender Nathan Wright flailed opposed to Adelaide goalsneak Eddie Betts, who paced the Crows with five goals. It was fitting that another small forward, the position that gave the Saints’ defence the most grief this season, would dominate in the season’s last game.
There won’t be a Summary post this week, but stay tuned to The Wobbly Point. In the coming weeks and months we’ll be posting player reviews, news and significant events and, most importantly, trade and draft news and rumours.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What did you make of St Kilda’s last game? Do you agree with the decision to delist Gwilt and Jones?
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