The Lions had a terrible year, but they lost when it mattered – right at the end of the season. In the 2017 wooden-spoon clash, the Lions did the right thing and allowed North Melbourne to claim a win. In doing so, they gained the number one draft pick. They also added a veteran to bolster their defensive stocks in Luke Hodge, and a young goalsneak to bolster the forward half. It wasn’t enough to get past the Saints.
St Kilda needed to win here. While other teams will have an excuse if they lose (Adelaide with injuries, Carlton playing the premiers), the Saints were expected to win. It was toward the end of quarters that they demonstrated their class, and maturity to get the win over the Lions by 25 points.
1 – Jack Steven
I’m not a fan of crumby moustaches, but I’ll give Steven a pass. His run, hardness, and more than anything, his consistency en route to picking up 34 touches, 10 marks and 2 goals led the Saints. He could’ve had three goals but allowed the ball to bounce through for debutant, Ben Long.
2 – Lions debutants
You think the Hawks couldn’t have used another year of Hodge patrolling the defensive fifty? His play down back was integral in setting the Lions up. At points, the Sainst struggled to penetrate the Lion defence, and a fair bit of credit must go to Hodge here. He was forever barking instructions and organising teammates.
What was excellent was his body work. His one on one contest with Jack Billings in the second quarter was a genuine highlight. As they chased after a loose ball in the Saints forward line, Hodge shifted his weight into Billings and knocked him over. He was then able to gather the ball and aid the Lions in clearing the zone.
Charlie Cameron was excellent up forward. He finished with three goals, but it was his clean hands that were most impressive. There are those players who are natural footballers, and Cameron is just that. He one grabbed ground-balls and looked very lively all game.
Cam Rayner managed to snap his first goal in league footy, but didn’t have a pronounced influence. In a first game, he was serviceable, but he was no Dean Polo – look it up.
3 – Jack Billings
I am a big fan of Billings, and think he could kick 40-50 goals as a forward if he spent more time patrolling the fifty. He finds the ball so easily, and uses it well. Not only did he kick two goals in the first quarter, he was also responsible for the direct assist to Hunter Clark for his first.
The question mark around Billings has been his accuracy in front of goals. He kicked 23.36 in 2017 and will be hell-bent on correcting that this season. Kicking 2.3 today… I guess we’ll wait and see.
1 – The big Brisbane forwards
The St Kilda defence had the number of Eric Hipwood and Josh Walker all day. Relying on Charlie Cameron to not only kick goals, but also be their marking target, Brisbane showed that they have very little faith in their talls to a) beat their opponent, and b) break even in contests.
In addition, the inability of Hipwood to stick a tackle is a concern. Built like a particularly think toothpick, he has a bit of work to do to be able to restrain the bigger bodies that oppose him. Whilst I am sure Brisbane has visions of Hipwood becoming the next Joe Daniher, perhaps a role where he leads up the ground more might suit until he can hold his own in contests more often?
They did have to deal with quality defenders like Jake Carlisle, Nathan Brown and Dylan Roberton… so maybe that’s why they failed to produce?
2 – Hodge left alone
It appears to be a bit of an issue to me when you have this old bloke as your last line of defence. Yes, he’s a champion of the game, and yes you’d back him a lot of the time, but at his age, he’s not going to be able to do the improbable and single-handedly combat attacks.
Hodge plays the floating role as well as anyone, and he has a Norm Smith medal for doing it on the biggest stage. If he’s gonna teach some Lions about defensive structures, he needs to have them closer to help a poor old guy out.
3 – Daniel Rich injury
The Lions missed Rich’s kicking off the half back line. His ankle injury looked a little nasty, but hopefully isn’t too serious. I was hoping to see him return,. All strapped up and ready to unleash some long bombs down to the Lion forwards. Alas, he remained on the bench – not a great sign.
1 – Red time scores
The Lions would be kicking themselves for the way they allowed the Lions to score with the clock ticking down. Giving up three shots to the Saints as time ticked away in the third quarter. Jack Steven banged through a goal, then McCartin hooked one badly out on the full. Moments later, the Lions botched a kick-in and Steven kicked another goal with eight seconds remaining.
The Lions need to get better at shutting it down as quarters need their conclusion, but at times it appeared as though they were running out of gas quicker than their St Kilda counterparts.
2 – Another dangerous tackle
This has the potential to get out of hand. This free kick went to Dayne Beams. He was struggling to get the ball onto his boot as he was tackled. As he was falling, he swung around to kick at the ball, missed, and was taken to ground in a natural tackling motion. It looked like dropping the ball,. No - free kick to Dayne Beams for a dangerous tackle!
It was garbage. The only other option the tackler had was to allow Beams to kick the ball unimpeded, and that is not in the spirit of the game. The line between a good tackle and a dangerous tackle is a fine one. This decision stumbled over the line awkwardly.
3 – The role of Paddy McCartin
It was a bright start, with Paddy kicking the first goal of the year for the Saints. I received a text from a friend soon after stating “Only 99 to go”.
You might be waiting a while. Earlyon, he looked as though he was handling a bar of soap as opposed to a football, and when he did get the ball in a two-on-one situation, he tried as hard as he could to stuff it up before Hodge gave a free kick to Josh Bruce.
In another instance, and perhaps it was telling, Jack Steven broke out of the centre and had McCartin open inside fifty. He didn’t pass it off. He beat a tackle and set sail for home. The end may justify the means here, as Steven slammed home the goal, but Mccartin hardly moved from the spot he was standing, waiting for the ball.
There’ll come a time this season the Saints will need more from McCartin. They’ll expect him to step up and do something to aid them win a close game, but it’s unfair to expect that when they don’t go to him in situations like we saw today.
OTHER BITS AND PIECES
Jarrod Berry – he just finds the ball and finds it in the right spot. 3 goals to match Charlie Cameron for the Lions but it was the way he found space that was impressive.
Tim Membrey’s return of 2.3 could’ve easily been more. He is a beautiful reader of the ball in flight. If given space, he will hurt a lot of teams this year.
I’m not sure whether it was the Saints reading it extraordinarily well, or the Lions hacking it forward, but in the second quarter it seemed as though Brisbane was kicking it only to Brisbane players as they crossed the centre. Lower your eyes!
I think it may have been the longest score review I’ve seen to determine whether the ball grazed the behind post or went through for a behind. Why’d it take so bloody long?
Finally, the game of Jack Steele will probably not get a lot of plaudits. I really rate Dane Zorko. He’s a workhorse and tackles like a demon. Steele sacrificed his game to nullify him. The result? Zorko had 14 touches. Last season he averaged 21.4. Great tagging job.
Allen Christensen's return to footy was more than welcome. Great to see him out there again. Looked like he was genuinely having a ball in the first quarter in particular.