The Saints made a bold statement at Marvel Stadium in Round Three, knocking over the Tigers with a blistering second half that made Richmond look flat-footed and unfit.

That’s a damning assessment of a team that was supposed to hit 2022 with renewed energy after missing the finals in 2021.

The Saints were first to the footy, ran harder to make position, and outworked the Tigers, who simply could not go with the “rampaging” Saints down the stretch. This meant that with Richmond’s mids and half-backs failing miserably to get back and help inside defensive fifty, the table was set for Max King to dine out on the ageing Robbie Tarrant in the last quarter.

And boy… did he ever feast!

The Saints kicked ten of the last eleven goals to turn a four-point deficit at three-quarter time into a 33-point win, with King, Jack Hayes, and Rowan Marshall all hitting the scoreboard. King finished with four for the quarter, but with six marks inside fifty in the last quarter alone, could have really stepped on the throat of the Tigers.

Plenty to get through in this one, with the Saints exposing some glaring weaknesses at Richmond after looking as though they were on the ropes halfway through the third. Let’s jump in.

 

ON THE CROUCH

Last season, Brad Crouch had a few pretty impressive games for St Kilda.

38 touches against the Swans.

36 against the Crows.

36 more against Port.

All in losses. This game was his best effort as a Saint, for it was in this game that he made his disposals count. In this game, he burrowed in, won the hard footy, and worked so hard that, between him and Jack Steele, the Tigers simply had no answer.

Check out what he did in this game – 29 touches, 11 clearances, nine tackles, nine score involvements. This may have been the most complete game of Brad Crouch’s career – not just his tenure at Moorabbin.

It’s funny – I have always looked at both Crouch Brothers as accumulators. They get plenty of the footy, but they’re not the type that cuts a team to ribbons.

Well, I may just have to change my tune on Brad Crouch, at least, following this encounter. His 15 contested touches worked the Richmond midfield over, and made some of the young Tigers look weak when opposed to him. If this is what the Saints get from Brad Crouch on a weekly basis, then this team will be on track to emulate, and possibly better the results of the 2020 team that gave sides nightmares.

 

GETTING WOOD

I bet a few of you felt that way when you saw what Mason Wood was getting up to in this game, huh?

I have to admit, when he was at North Melbourne, he promised so much and delivered so little that it came as no shock when they cut ties with him. I’m not sure whether he ever spoke about it, but to me, he looked lazy, barely interested, and the type of guy who was coasting, reliant on talent and doing none of the hard work required to go to the next level.

And none of the work to even retain his spot in the team.

What a difference a change of scenery can make, huh?

Wood showed signs of improvement in 2021, but he knuckled down in 2022, showing up to preseason training in career-best shape, and that effort in the off-season is reaping rewards right now. Wood was one touch away from a career-high in this game, notching 23 touches and slotting a goal playing most of the contest from the wing. His hard run and great mix of both offensive and defensive efforts in this game gave the Saints plenty of run.

Do you know when you can see hard work come to the fore?

In last quarters. If we have a look at the way Wood continued to motor around the park deep into the last quarter, you get a good indication as to just how hard he worked over Summer. He had 12 touches as he aided the Saints in burying the Tigers and looked completely at home in their system.

This is the version of Mason Wood North Melbourne were waiting for. Chances are if they continued waiting he would never have come along, but the Saints are the beneficiaries of the foot in the backside his departure from Arden Street gave him. There have been many games where Wood could have and possibly should have stepped up to the plate. He did it today, and made a huge difference for the Saints.

 

DO THE TIGERS HAVE THE TANK OF A VESPA?

A longer off-season, a refreshed playing group, kids coming through… the script dictated that we were about to see a Richmond revival in 2022, but the Saints obviously didn’t read it.

And when it comes to being in the best possible condition, the Tigers may not have been paying too much attention, either.

For the second time in three weeks, Richmond was completely and utterly outworked by their opposition. A hungrier, harder working St Kilda team simply put them to the sword from halfway through the third quarter, with the Tigers having no answer for the avalanche of goals from their opponents.

Many will look at this last quarter as a massive failure on the part of Robbie Tarrant, who was completely and utterly destroyed by Max King, but we need to look further into this situation to get to the bottom of it.

Losing Dylan Grimes was a huge structural blow for the Tigers, who fell to pieces without their defensive general. Part of me wonders whether the option of pushing Noah Balta back into defence immediately was something that crossed Damien Hardwick’s mind? The defender-turned-forward had a couple of good early moments, but faded from prominence with just one touch after halftime. What would it have hurt to throw him into defence, particularly with Lynch and Soldo patrolling attacking 50?

Alas, he remained forward, and Tarrant was forced to combat King all by himself, as the help Grimes was giving, and the complete neglect of defensive assignments from the Tiger mids and half-backs meant that King had huge… tracts of land to move in.

A bit of Monty Python there…

Sure, Tarrant was beaten, but he signed up to be part of a defensive system – not left one-out to battle a lanky giant going after the footy at its highest level. Without  Grimes, Tarrant was forced to lean on Nathan Broad, who had his hands full, and Josh Gibcus, who is learning the caper. Neither could impact anything when it came to defensive fifty. It became every man for himself, and when that occurs, team defence dies.

Looking further afield, the Tigers had players missing everywhere. Shane Edwards is not the player he was. Trent Cotchin can no longer be everything to everyone, and Shai Bolton, though exciting, needs more consistency when playing in the guts. The Tigers became a team of joggers, looking to corral and had their own tactics, or strangling the forward handball employed against them.

They were powerless to stop it.

Where they go from here will be interesting. Teams will be watching them, thinking that if they’re close enough after three quarters, they can run over Richmond with superior fitness. And to be honest, I haven’t seen much to dissuade me from thinking they’re correct.

 

KING OF THE LAST QUARTER

Before the season commenced, I received a question from a reader asking whether the King Brothers were the real deal.

I found it… odd. Ben was coming off 47 goals, and Max, despite missing his rookie season, had shown plenty in 2021. I kind of understood where the question came from – they’re beanpoles and an experienced defender should be able to move them off the spot with a bit of bodywork, right?

Great in theory.

In practice… not so much.

I’ve got to say, for the first three quarters, when the Tigers seemed willing to work for one another, they had the mix right. Tarrant played the role of gorilla, muscling King out of the contest when stationed deep inside 50, and he would happily handover responsibility for King when the big bloke decided to go any further than 55 metres from goal.

You could picture Damien Hardwick smiling maniacally, as the Saints’ main avenue to goal was held to just two behinds through the first three quarters. It was working! It was really working… mwahahahaha!!!

And then… it wasn’t.

King ripped the hearts out of the Tigers’ chests, with a forward display that completely ruined any chance Richmond had of making a game of it in the last quarter. Left in one-on-one contests against Tarrant; for reasons I outlined above, King received some great service from the persistent St Kilda midfield, getting a free run at the contest and launching at the footy without two or three dropping into his way.

The results were brutally beautiful.

There is a very good reason we’ll never see teams go man-on-man in defence again, and what King was able to do in the last quarter emphasised it. He took Tarrant to the cleaners, launching at the footy and taking marks in places Tarrant had no hope of reaching. He did get a little overexcited after one grab, thinking he had an open goal in front of him, and his subsequent miss, combined with one more poor shot robbed him of an all-time great quarter of footy.

Still, it was the type of display that had Saints fans up and about, and had Tigers fans wishing David Astbury had given it one more go around. He would have been handy…

 

TURNING POINT?

I hate staging.

No matter what team does it and at what stage of the game it occurs, seeing a player take a dive is a blight on the game. Some may enjoy the theatre of it all – of a player provoking a response from an opponent and throwing himself to the ground like he’s been shot, but I see it as possibly the weakest way to pick up a kick.

And Dan Butler was guilty of it in the third quarter, when he pushed Marlion Pickett and prompted the Tiger wingman to give him a shove in the chest/midsection.

Butler collapsed at the knees, awarding teammate, Ben Long, who was lining up for goal from around the fifty metre arc, to walk to the goal square and slot a goal. It was effective, it helped swing the fortunes of the game, and it was as cheap as one of Joe Ganino’s dates from about ten years ago.

So yeah…pretty cheap.

Was there contact? Yes, there was.

Was it forceful? No, it wasn’t.

Did Butler milk it for all it was worth and take a complete dive?

Absolutely he did, and I hope he cops a fine for it – it makes the game look weak, and really, umpires need to be a bit of a wake up to weak crap like that.

 

OTHER THAN THAT MOMENT…

… I had Marlion Pickett as one of the best Tigers on the park.

His attack on the footy and work ethic to get back deep in defence to aid his back six was one of the few highlights for the Tigers.

Is he the best defensive wing in the game?

He’d be close. I’m not sure any other wingman, sans perhaps Mitch Robinson, take as much pride as Pickett in their ability to nail a tackle. I reckon he may be close to leading the Jack Dyer Medal at this stage of the season. Possibly second to Jayden Short, now I think of it.

 

TOP HEAVY?

It was interesting to hear the commentators yap on about how they though the Saints would have agonised about going into this game a little too tall.

Did they not have a look at the team opposite them?

Whilst there was an apparent worry about the Saints playing three big blokes like Rowan Marshall, Paddy Ryder, and Jack Hayes, it was the Tigers who looked cumbersome, with Ivan Soldo a complete non-factor five disposals and four free kicks against. Yeah, it’s great for him to get back, but perhaps it is time the Tigers bite the bullet, play one ruck and have Lynch handle ruck duties inside 50 the way Tom Hawkins does at Geelong?

For the Saints, Marshall started forward, allowing Ryder to use his athleticism to jump over the more body-to-body oriented Tigers. Marshall managed to slot two goals, whilst Hayes was serviceable again with 12 touches and a goal.

 

THE MOST UNDERRATED DEFENDER IN THE GAME?

I made a big error last season. Maybe it was the year before. If it was… I just made another one.

Anyway, as part of the hundreds of articles I write for the site each season, I knocked up an All-Underrated Team… and I neglected to put Callum Wilkie in it. Oh yes, I heard about it from St Kilda supporters, and I will cop that one on the chin.

I suppose the upshot of that misstep is that it forced me to take note of Wilkie a little more than I had been, and under extreme duress in 2021, in a defence that was under siege at points, his positioning, one-on-one defence, and timing were exceptional.

And that was the case in this game, as well.

The league has its marquee defenders – it always will. I doubt we’re going to see Cal Wilkie have his name mentioned alongside Harris Andrews, Jeremy McGovern, or Jacob Weitering, but having watched him go about his business with a minimum of fuss and a heap of efficacy, I have found a new appreciation for what he brings to the Saints.

Hell, I may even rate him too highly to make the All-Underrated team again this season.

 

OTHER BITS

 

I’m a Jack Higgins fan and he looked bloody dangerous early in the game before a desperate tackle from Hugo Ralphsmith saw him subbed out of the game under concussion protocols. Part of me wonders, given his medical history, whether Jack was subbed out as a safeguard in case anything went wrong? It didn’t look as though he had his head slammed into the ground, or that he had a whiplash effect.

Anyway, he misses the next game due to the 12-day sit-out rule… which is an arbitrary number, by the way. The game is worse off with him on the sidelines.

That said, St Kilda may choose to move Jade Gresham into a forward role for a week. He is working into form beautifully further up the ground, but I would love to see him hitting the front of packs inside 50 and create some real havoc.

The Tigers did a very solid job of limiting the run of Brad Hill in this one, in what should be a blueprint for other defensive forwards. He just hates body contact – I reckon he’d make love with his pants on.

What an inspired move to give Jack Sinclair the chance to operate from half-back last season. He has really embraced the role, and looks completely at home gathering the ball across defensive fifty and darting up through the guts. He is the type of player that can create chaos for an opposition defence… and instinctive forwards thrive in chaos.

Might be some apologies in order from Saints fans when it comes to Seb Ross. I, too, was critical of him in Round One, but he really lifted a gear in the third quarter of this one. Maybe he is not a “complete waste of sperm” as one St Kilda fan stated to me. I have to admit, it made me smile – his mum probably didn’t think it was a waste.

 

But wait… there’s more!

Due an idiotic mistake on my behalf, we ended up with TWO reviews of this game. Below is the take of our much-loved Slugger as he was originally supposed to cover this game and I completely botched up the scheduling. Enjoy – two for the price of none… since the first one was free, anyway.

Head-up. It’s 11:30pm on a Sunday night and this is going to be a quick one. You want more depth, get local footy out of Sunday afternoons.

I’m not going to lie to you. I enjoyed this game.

And not just because it was a good game, but because I am a desperately bitter Geelong Cats supporter who was left looking at Richmond’s stirring win last week with a frustration mirroring the level of Commodus stating “You simply won’t die” to Maximus, in Gladiator.

So let’s get stuck into some stuff about this game…

 

Big First Quarter

When Richmond kicked the first two goals in 30 seconds to start this game, you knew it was a hot start. You can’t call yourself a footy fan if you didn’t enjoy the goal-fest that was the first quarter. End to end footy. Big centre bounce breaks. Clean skills and hard running. It’s how football is meant to be played. By the end of it, 12 goals had already been kicked and the teams were only separated by a couple of behinds.

The hard data analysts say to not get too comfortable with the more attacking style we’re seeing from some teams, but I for one embrace our new attacking footy loving overlords.

 

Is this your King?

It’s a question many a fan could potentially be asking as this season rolls on. Sure, there are many suitors for football’s crown, but only player currently taking the field has the name for it.

Max King was beaten for three quarters in this match. He had not hit the scoreboard. He had no marks inside forward fifty. He was really a non-factor at three-quarter-time. Then, in the following 18 minutes of football, King absolutely ripped the contest out of this game. King had seven disposals, took six marks inside forward fifty and kicked four of the Saints’ five goals in that time.

As the old proverb goes… “Big guys don’t get any smaller as the game goes on”.

This is now two weeks in a row where King has blasted a hole in an opposition’s defence that left it looking like a Halo ring once he was finished.

King has shown he only needs 15 minutes to rip a game apart, even if he’s having a down day to that point. He is invaluable to the Saints’ ability to once against drag themselves off the mat and propel them to a victory.

 

The Marching Saints Midfield

The Saints midfielders were the major winners in his match. Just a week after we started having to rethink our assessment of the Tigers midfield, following their resurgence against a much vaunted Giants outfit, after being bullied by Carlton in round 1, the Saints put the Tigers mids back in the heat of the oven (albeit after a bit of a shaky start).

Jade Gresham, Jack Steele, Brad Crouch, Daniel McKenzie and Seb Ross had a day out on the Tigers midfield. I could rattle off some numbers, but the important thing to know is that they effectively bullied the Tigers midfielders in the contest. They outhustled them and out tackled them. The Richmond midfielders were quick and linked up well, but when it came to the crunch in the last quarter, they had no answers for the Saints’ grit and determination in the middle.

The Saints Halfback Line

There is a lot to like about the Saints’ halfbacks this year. Jack Sinclair looks to have taken another step up. Josh Battle is enjoying a permanent shift to defence and a settled position. You can throw Callum Wilkie into that mix as well.

And then you add Jarrod Lienert, who is still in a Port jumper on the AFL website (Seriously, someone needs to update that). Lienert is 195cm and 90kg but still moves like a dashing halfback flanker. He has a mean sidestep and a strong presence in aerial contests. He really looks to benefit a defence in any role he plays.  He even started up on the wing at stages.

Yes, the plaudits will go to the Saints midfield and King for winning the match, but when the Tigers had the ascendancy during the second and third quarters, it was these guys who were keeping the Saints alive in the match.

 

A Tigers Section

Richmond fans, if you’ve managed to make it this far, I’m proud of you. First, this game wasn’t all St. Kilda. Let’s not forget that the Tigers were in front at three-quarter time! If we have learnt anything from this round of football, it is that leading at three-quarter-time means very little right now. However, Let’s not focus on that, let’s get into what you’re going to take away from this game.

What a hot start! At one point Richmond were on track to kick 60+ goals in this game.

What a first half by Matt Parker to give Tigers fans some encouraging signs that they may have found a steal outside the draft to inject some midsized marking into the team.

Shai Bolton continues to edge closer towards elite. It was a stirring performance today from Bolton and he looks to really be finding the midfield more his style.

Josh Gibcus continues to develop and looks to be a certainty to grow into a senior role.

Nathan Broad and Jack Graham provided the base for the team’s performance in this game. With Broad intercepting and rebounding out of defensive fifty and Graham working hard across the midfield and delivering forward.

In the immortal style of Peter Falk let me just ask one other thing for Tigers fans. Is Tom Lynch doing enough? Has he done enough? I mean he played some decent games in finals to deliver some success, but in terms of consistent output, particularly over the last 12 months, surely he is coming up short.

 

An interesting Tidbit.

WWE is in fashion

How’s Ben Long with the Spinebuster on Matt Parker late in the first quarter after he got rid of the footy? The Rock would’ve been proud, Not sure how much of a place it has on the footy field.

Dumb Hero

What was Marlion Pickett thinking!!!

The Saints were pushing hard and Ben long was lining up for a shot just outside fifty. Pickett entered some typical push and shove after Daniel got involved. He eventually drifted down towards the goal square matched up on Dan Butler. Sone more pushing and bumping before Pickett delivered a short strike to Butler’s midriff and down he went.

I don’t think there was near any enough force to knock Butler off balance, let alone off his feet. But the important thing to note is how stupid the decision by Pickett was. It handed the Saints more momentum and brought them within a goal of the Tigers on the eve of three-quarter-time.

What is with the Booing?

Do we just Boo champions now? I don’t know if it’s something historical, but I was left wondering why Saint fans so aggressively booed the Richmond premiership captain when he took a mark on halfback in the last quarter…

 

The Wrap:

The Saints have regained control of their destiny. They have moved to 2-1 and now face a tricky part of their season. They face the upstart Hawks and Suns before facing off against the GWS Giants under the bright lights of Friday night footy in round six. If the Saints are serious about finals, they have to win at least two of the next three.

The Tigers slip to 1-2 and have daunting tasks against the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne either side of a trip to Adelaide Oval to face the Crows. Frankly, with such a topsy-turvy season so far, I wouldn’t put it passed the Tiger to win two of these matches as well. They’re not the team they once were, but when they find their rhythm, they can still put on a show.

 

 

Massive thanks to our fantastic members for making all this possible. Huge apologies to The Slugger for completely ruining our game schedule.

I’ll be producing six members columns for you guys this week, because The Mongrel does the work for you. Always. – HB

 

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