Going into 2013, St Kilda was in an uncertain position. They had talented players to have another crack at September, or they had to bottom out and rebuild. After missing the finals in 2012 for the first time since 2007, it was highly tipped that the Saints would fall drastically down the ladder.
Their season began poorly when they lost to the Gold Coast Suns and Richmond in the first two rounds. They only managed three wins in the first 13 games but won the last two games of the season. Plenty of youth was put on show throughout the season and three club icons of Justin Koschitzke, Stephen Milne and Jason Blake retired in the last game with a fashionable 71 point win against Fremantle.
Blooding their kids. The Saints debuted nine players in 2013, the highest figure since the early 2000’s. Tom Lee was the pick of the crop and the tall forward kicked 17 goals from 10 games. Nathan Wright (eight games) added some flair to the backline while rookie Tom Curren gave the Saints fans some hope with the exciting midfielder playing the last seven games of the season.
Jack Steven took his game to another level and he led from the front. The 2013 Best and Fairest winner played every game and kicked 16 goals and his gut-busting run emulated his determination to lead a young team.
Dylan Roberton was picked up as a delisted free agent in November 2012 after three seasons at Fremantle. The lanky defender played 20 games and was a standout all season.
Signing Alan Richardson as coach will bring a new found enthusiasm to the club after two difficult years with Scott Watters. Richardson is swimming with football knowledge after numerous stints at several clubs as an assistant coach.
There is still an enormous gap between their senior and junior players. Their draft periods from 2007 to 2010 have come back to haunt the club and 2013 showed this, falling from 9th in 2012 to 16th last season.
The Saints lacked a tall defender all year and this destroyed their fragile defence. While they did have Jason Blake (7 games), Sam Fisher (9) and James Gwilt (13), they played limited games and it was nearly effortless for teams to kick goals.
The loss of experienced players Ben McEvoy and Nick Dal Santo for draft picks will hurt them for years to come. McEvoy is a huge loss as they now have three inexperienced ruckmen of Tom Hickey (24), Lewis Pierce (0) and Billy Longer (9), but their potential is promising.
St Kilda’s off field issues were evident again when Clint Jones set a dwarf on fire during Mad Monday. The Saints also sacked troublesome coach Scott Watters but the decision to terminate Watters in November may not necessarily be a horrible decision.
Key signings and Departures
The Saints were bold during the trade period. They traded McEvoy in a complicated trade to Hawthorn in exchange for higher draft picks and fast midfielder Shane Savage. They also lost fan favourite Dal Santo to North Melbourne as a free agent, while Koschitzke, Milne and Blake retired.
They finally boosted their defensive stocks with Josh Bruce from GWS and Luke Delaney from North Melbourne. They were daring in the trade period and this allowed them to have three picks in the top 20 of the draft.
The Saints came out of the draft period licking their lips. They played smart and picked up three versatile midfielders in Jack Billings, Luke Dunstan and Blake Acres.
Billings is an excellent goal sneak and he can also use his pace in the midfield. Dunstan is terrific at gathering the ball and using it well and is tipped to be ready for round one. Acres has great endurance and is very flexible. The Saints also elevated Tom Curren from the rookie list and picked up Eli Templeton, Maverick Weller and Jason Holmes in the rookie draft.
Templeton was a steal for the Saints as he was expected to be picked up in the third round of the national draft. Weller had been training with the Saints for weeks and had played 32 games with the Gold Coast Suns across three seasons. Holmes is an international rookie who can pinch-hit in the ruck but still has years of development left.
Overall grade – D