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The Big Questions - St Kilda v Carlton

In a battle of the coaches under pressure, it was Alan Richardson’s Saints that got the job done in a gritty, hard fought contest against the plucky, undermanned Blues. Here are the big question’s stemming from St Kilda’s 13-point victory.

 

Does Brendon Bolton deserve more time?

After last week’s debacle against the Giants, Brendon Bolton must’ve felt hopeless. His side is still so young, but the effort from his side would be unacceptable from the local C-grade team from Snowtown. When Patrick Cripps kicked Bolts out of the team meeting, you’d be forgiven for thinking the players had moved away from Bolton’s philosophies. Today’s effort would’ve definitely eased his mind. Flying out of the blocks, the Blues had all the energy and played with a spark rarely seen from men wearing navy blue.

While a loss is still a negative no matter which way you spin it, Carlton fans must be patient. Starting from rock bottom is hard, but as teams have shown, not impossible. It took Melbourne 12 years to make it back. Hawthorn was insignificant before Clarkson overhauled the club, and Brisbane is entering the next exciting phase of its own regeneration.

It seems that the media is very keen to push Bolton out the door, possibly for Brad Scott, but this is a cycle that is destined to repeat itself. Look to Geelong and Richmond. Both teams could’ve easily moved Mark Thompson and Damien Hardwick on, but both stuck by their men and were richly rewarded. Mark Lo Giudice must be willing to sacrifice the inevitable backlash, and for Carlton’s sake, Bolton needs the clear air to mould his team into a successful outfit. He has the knowledge from his apprenticeship under Alastair Clarkson and it only hurts the club that his future is up in the air.

 

What about Alan Richardson?

With the Saints sitting just outside the top eight at 5-5, Alan Richardson’s charges have set themselves for a tilt at finals, something that looked unlikely coming into this season. It seems that Richardson’s position has been put on shaky ground a touch prematurely, as their list lacks the star power to push the competition heavyweights yet. But given time, these men have the capabilities to return St Kilda to the top of the ladder.

They still have holes on their list that need fixing ASAP (key defence, key forward and midfield are all good but not great), and landing a superstar in free agency will help significantly, but if Richo can keep the bulk of his side together, they can grow into a formidable unit as one. Like the Blues, St Kilda also needs to ride the patience train, and ease the pressure on Richardson by signing him to a new deal.

 

How does Stephen Silvagni fix this list?

First things first, stop looking at the Giants! There’s more players out there SOS, they don’t have to have played for GWS to make it into the Princes Park rooms. Looking at Carlton’s list, while they are so young they could still play in the NAB League, they don’t appear to have many glaring deficiencies. Besides Matthew Kreuzer, the Blues lack a decent back up ruckman to take over once the former No.1 draft pick retires. Their forward stocks are ready to explode, their midfield is young and vibrant, and they suddenly have a decent defence that just needs the time to gel together.

When the Blues traded their first pick in this year’s draft, little did they know they have likely let the best young talent in the country walk to the Crows, and it rests on SOS’s shoulders to let go of some of the dead weight to get back into the top end of the draft.

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Who were best and worst on ground for both teams?

St Kilda:

Best – Jade Gresham

Perfect game from Gresham, who is clearly enjoying his move into the midfield. Recording 29 possessions, Gresham was influential in the Saints forward thrusts, with six inside 50’s, six clearances, and seven score involvements. I am sure Richo would love to clone Gresham, as his absence from the forward line was plain to see.

Stiff: Jack Steele

Wore Patrick like a glove and still managed to find the ball 28 times himself. While Cripps gathered 27 disposals, Steele limited the damage he was able to achieve. His defensive work would’ve pleased Alan Richardson the most, with Steele recording 10 tackles. Always working hard up and down the wings to provide a target for his teammates, Steele was one of the Saints’ absolute best and relished the chance to go head to head with Cripps.

Worst – Robbie Young

The 24-year-old, playing in just his second game, went unsighted all day. Only troubled the statisticians five times, and doesn’t look like an AFL player yet. The door is still open for Young to find his feet at AFL level, but the Saints have a lot of young talent fighting for a spot in the 22. Once St Kilda gets players back from injury, it is likely that Young will make way. 

Lucky: Dean Kent

Given a lifeline by the Saints after being on the outer at Melbourne, Kent’s main weapon is his effectiveness as a medium marking forward. While 14 touches doesn’t necessarily lend itself to being the first casualty when a team needs changing, Kent was a non-factor when St Kilda went forward, and only did a few things of note when he drifted into the midfield. Much like Robbie Young, Kent has not yet cemented his place in St Kilda’s best 22, and could make way when players return.

Carlton:

Best – Sam Walsh

It continues to amaze that wunderkind Walsh has played just 10 games. Averaging 25 disposals, and gathering 28 today, Walsh, together with Cripps will lead the Blues for the next 15 years. He reminds this reporter of Scott Pendlebury, always seeming to have so much time when he has the ball. The Rolls Royce to Cripps’s tough as nails Jeep, this is a partnership that can rival the best in the competition. The only knock on his performance is he turned the ball over more than Brendon Bolton would’ve liked, but this will correct itself over time.

Stiff: Ed and Charlie Curnow

The Curnow brothers put on a show at Marvel Stadium, with Ed providing his brother ample opportunities in front of goal. Ed was his side’s best in the first half, and Charlie wasn’t far behind, as he worked his way up the ground to provide a target, and contributed two goals in the process. While both players faded out of game slightly, the Curnows showed that the Blues, if given time by fans and the media, have the tools that they can finally return to their glory days of the past.

Worst – Mitch McGovern

While it may seem unfair to target a player who went off the ground with an ankle injury, the fact remains that McGovern simply has no impact on the contest before his injury. Recording just five disposals before he came off in the early stages of the last quarter, McGovern could be forgiven due to Carlton’s deplorable skills, particularly going inside 50, but when that happens, it is your job as a forward to venture up the ground, get your hands on the football and assert yourself on the match. A word of advice, Mitch. Take notice of Harry McKay’s movements and try to emulate them. There’s a reason Carlton gave up pick 11 to get you. It’s time to start showing it.

Lucky: Jack Silvagni

I simply cannot understand why Carlton’s midfielders insisted on going to Silvagni more than their plethora of key forwards, and more so why they chose to put the ball on his head, making it so much more difficult to mark. Having said that, when Silvagni did have ball in hand, he made countless errors under not much pressure and gave away three free kicks. It puzzles Carlton fans that Silvagni continues to get a game, and with efforts like today’s, he will find himself back in the Northern Blues locker room sooner rather than later.  

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Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

 

Stray thoughts:

-          It was so nice to see many Carlton players remonstrate with Ben Long after his late hit on Levi Casboult. After last week’s effort when Murphy was flattened, Carlton fans will be happy that their players finally showed some spirit and fight to come in and bat for a teammate.

-          Speaking of big Levi, his efforts in defence were fantastic today. With Liam Jones out of the side, Casboult has shifted behind the ball and proved how talented he is. Taking a game-high seven marks, Casboult’s strength in the air was on show as he continually cut off St Kilda’s forward thrusts. When Jones does eventually return to the backline, it will be interesting to see how the match committee will fit them both into the team, as Casboult has made himself a lock.

-          The recruitment of Matthew Parker should serve as a beacon to other clubs looking at drafting a mature age player. Playing in the WAFL last year, the 23-year-old has been a revelation in the Saints forward line, and he always shows an enthusiasm that inspires his teammates. With the Mid Season rookie draft just hours away, clubs with the option to take a ready-made player should take it.

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