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The Big Questions - Brisbane v St Kilda

In what should’ve been a fast paced shoot-out, the Lion cubs came of age to put a dagger through Moorabbin hearts and give Alan Richardson some Centrelink nightmares. Here are the big questions stemming from Brisbane’s 56-point demolition of the faltering Saints.

 

Can Brisbane win the premiership?

Once Brisbane finds itself challenged by a better opponent, this question will be much easier to answer. However, home field advantage is like gold to the non-Victorian sides, and if the Lions can consolidate their position, a home final is well within their grasp. As the Western Bulldogs showed in 2016, once a team makes the top eight, anything can happen, and Brisbane has shown at various stages this season that it is capable of taking a big scalp.

It still feels that Brisbane is in same boat as Fremantle. Both teams at their best are capable of toppling any giant, but right now lack the maturity to be a threat when the whips start cracking. It will also be interesting to see how Brisbane’s young brigade manages once Luke Hodge moves off the field and into the coaches’ box, as his on field leadership and been instrumental in fast tracking the Lions into a future flag contender.

The next hurdle to overcome this season is winning away from home against a quality opponent, and Brisbane’s next venture out of Queensland is a trip to Western Sydney. If they can claim victory over the Giants, Lions fans will start to believe that a somewhat premature flag is within reach. Having not made finals since 2009, any September action this year should warm the hearts of long suffering Brisbane fans, and experiencing finals will galvanise this group, propelling them to the ultimate success in the future.

 

Is Alan Richardson’s job still safe?

At the start of round 14, it had been an average year for the Saints. Sitting 11th, fans would be disappointed their side were not making the inroads suggested in the last couple of year, but could take solace in a fairly decent run home, and the fact that they were only a game outside the top eight. Fast forward 48 hours, and a completely listless performance has Alan Richardson staring down both barrels.

Suffering from a severe lack of star power, St Kilda looked totally out of their depth in a game they should’ve won. A young Lions team travelling to Melbourne, in a game that could define a season, and what was served up will make Saints supporters rightfully furious. Now in his sixth season at the helm, Richardson’s coaching statistics make for horrifying reading. 123 games coached, for 43 wins, 78 losses and two draws. For those interested, that is a winning percentage of just 34%. To put this in perspective, Richardson’s predecessor Scott Watters was sacked with a winning percentage of 38%.

In an industry that is measured by success, Alan Richardson’s failure to secure a finals berth in any season under his watch, coupled with St Kilda’s stagnating development, will be difficult to mount a case that he should be offered another contract at Moorabbin.

 

Was Dan Hannebery worth it?

At the end of last season, Dan Hannebery requested a trade back to Victoria, and after missing out on Dylan Shiel, St Kilda jumped on the opportunity and parted ways with pick 39 and next year’s second pick to land the former Sydney superstar. Today’s loss shows that the Saints aren’t ready for finals for at least a year or two. So was it worth bringing a banged up veteran into their system?

While today Hannebery was among St Kilda’s best, it is perhaps better for the Saints that their next wave of midfielders have the freedom to develop, and Hannebery takes a spot away from young kid who needs to grow his game. Giving away two draft picks for a player who took until mid-June to find his way onto a footy field will also be scrutinised in the coming years, with media pundits sure to compare Hannebery to the players drafted with the picks St Kilda gave up.

 

Who was best and worst on ground for both teams?

St Kilda:

Best – Seb Ross

Very hard to find a best player amongst a group of collective failures, but a standout was improving gun Seb Ross. Leading the Saints midfield in Jack Steven’s absence, Ross was at his best on Saturday, collecting 30 disposals as he tried unsuccessfully to get his team back in the contest. Working up and down the ground, Ross was equally at home behind the ball as he was going forward, with a team high seven clearances to go with five marks and three inside 50’s. Ross still needs to improve on his disposal efficiency, as 70% is disappointing for a player of his talent.

Stiff: Rowan Marshall & Nick Hind

Quickly becoming one of the best ruckmen in the competition, Rowan Marshall engaged in an epic battle with veteran Stefan Martin, and only Brisbane’s midfield strength gave Martin the edge in their duel. Had more hit-outs than Martin and managed to collect himself 12 possessions. Marshall’s name has been spoken of in debates for the second ruck position in the Mongrel AA Team, and if his improvement continues upwards, we could be looking at a bona fide star of the future.

I must also make a special mention to second gamer Nick Hind, who was his side’s biggest forward threat in an encouraging display. Only recorded 13 disposals, but that will improve with experience, Hind’s ground ball work was excellent, with 8 score involvements to go with three goals.

Worst – Jonathan Marsh

Realistically there could’ve been several names that fell into this category, but ultimately it was 23-year-old former Magpie Marsh that takes his place as St Kilda’s worst. Only bothered the statisticians five times, and recorded the solitary mark and tackle, Marsh’s disposal efficiency of 40% was the lowest of any player that took to Marvel Stadium on Saturday. When a team suffers defeat of this magnitude, coaches will often swing the axe the next week, and Marsh did not put forward any sort of argument that he should remain in the side long term.

Lucky: Take your pick

Where to begin? Jack Newnes had eight forgettable touches at just 50%, Dean Kent was largely unsighted as a forward, Jack Billings had 23 disposals but turned the ball over way too often, Jake Carlisle’s return was average at best, Dan McKenzie’s eight disposals only included one kick in an error riddled performance, and St Kilda’s forward pressure on the whole was atrocious, with the Saints only recording six tackles inside forward 50.

Looking ahead, reinforcements Steele and Webster are both at least two weeks away, and courageous Jack Steven is still battling a mental health issue and won’t be rushed. For now, it was completely obvious that far too many Saints had dirty days for their club, and this could be looked back on as a career killer for Alan Richardson.

 

Brisbane:

Best – Daniel Rich

He isn’t the flashiest Lion. Nor did he have the most possessions. But purely and simply, when the game was in the balance and Brisbane started to pick apart the Saints, it was the penetrating kicking of veteran Rich that was the most important. Racking up 24 disposals (including 22 kicks at 87%) and 11 marks, Rich’s connection through the midfield paved the way for ample entries inside 50.

Stiff: Many of Rich’s teammates

In stark contrast to the disappointing Saints, it was almost too hard to pick a best on ground for the Lions, as there seemed to be a different match winner every minute. Stefan Martin had a great duel with young Rowan Marshall, Charlie Cameron kicked five goals in a livewire performance reminiscent of idol Eddie Betts, Hugh McCluggage’s midfield brilliance showed the competition why he was spoken of so highly in his draft year, skipper Dayne Zorko lead the way for his team, contributing nine score involvements, five of those coming in a barnstorming third term, Jarryd Lyons contributing everywhere with 24 disposals and two goals, reminding everyone why Gold Coast and Adelaide should never have let him go, and ever improving defensive rebounder Alex Witherden repelling many St Kilda attacks, with his disposal efficiency (21 possessions, including 19 kicks at 90%) the most pleasing aspect of his game.

Keeping all of this in mind, what will surely please Chris Fagan the most is so far, I have listed a third of the team that took to Marvel Stadium on Saturday, and I haven’t mentioned Lachie Neale, who was at his usual gathering best, but today was overshadowed by many teammates.

Worst – Noah Answerth

It may seem unfair to label any player in a 10 goal winning team as its “worst”, so take this paragraph as such. In a team that decimated its opponent, young Lion Noah Answerth had no impact on the game, gathering just 8 disposals, in what is sure to be a valuable learning experience. The 19-year-old has shown in patches this season that he can be a fantastic player for the Lions long term, but for now, experience is key, and if Answerth keeps plying his trade, whether here or in the NEAFL, he will develop his game that he can be a consistent force in a building Brisbane team.

Lucky: Rhys Mathieson

Another player it would be unfair to label “worst”, I have placed Mathieson in this category as I feel he has more talent than his output suggests. Touching the ball 13 times, Mathieson is getting to that stage in his career where he starts to dominate, and it seems that he has stagnated, and in some cases regressed from previous years. Easy to spot due to his shotgun goal celebration, Brisbane has an array of young talent and Mathieson could find himself squeezed out of the Lion setup if he does not improve.

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