After a Semi Final appearance in 2020, St Kilda looked on the rise heading into last season. 2021 was nothing short of a nightmare season for the Saints, finishing tenth on the ladder. Can St Kilda bounce back into the eight? Or was 2020 a flash in the pan?
Jack Tobin will be previewing EVERY team in the lead up to the 2022 season, while PuntingInDanger and his crew will be back this year to give their betting tips on every game. Be sure to head to the AFL Tips page for regular updates!
St Kilda Season Preview
In: Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (Pick 11), Mitchito Owens (Pick 33), Marcus Windhager (Pick 47), Oscar Adams (Pick 51), Jack Hayes (Pre Season Supplementary Selection)
After two busy years at the trade table, St Kilda opted to go to the draft, picking up Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera who will add some much needed class on the outside. The Saints will be looking for continued development from within to improve on a disappointing 2021.
St Kilda started last season with a 4-6 record, with losses by margins of 75, 86, 54 and 111 inside the first ten rounds of the season. St Kilda did round into form during the middle of the season, but it was too little too late. With their first five games of this season coming against sides that didn’t make the top eight last year, it’s crucial St Kilda gets off to a hot start.
Jack Steele had a monstrous campaign in 2021 averaging 29 disposals, 8 tackles and 6 clearances on his way to finishing fifth in the Brownlow Medal. Steele had some support from Brad Crouch who averaged 26 disposals per game, however the Saints midfield production dropped off drastically after that. St Kilda lacks genuine A grade talent in their midfield and will be looking for former first round pick Hunter Clark to take his game to another level in the midfield this season, to help out Steele. St Kilda ranked 11th for disposals, 11th for inside 50’s and 12th for clearances in 2021.
The Saints 2019 trade class of Brad Hill, Dougal Howard, Paddy Ryder, Dan Butler and Zak Jones were huge contributors in 2020, but all struggled to replicate that form in 2021. If the Saints are to get back to finals, these five players need to get back to their best.
A big positive for St Kilda last season was the development of Max King. King finished inside the top 20 for the Coleman Medal with 38 goals, and he ranked 4th for contested marks in the AFL. Remarkable stats for a player in just his second full season in the AFL. King is a generational key forward talent and he’s only getting better, if he can improve his set shot accuracy, then he’ll be right amongst the Coleman Medal leaders.
Breakout Player: Hunter Clark
After being taken at pick 7 in the 2017 National Draft, Hunter Clark spent his first three seasons across half back and on the wing, showing an incredible ability to win the ball and use it smoothly. Clark was averaging 19 disposals per game across the first 13 games of 2021, before a horrific broken jaw cut his season short. Clark has spent the preseason training in the midfield and has been a standout in the Saints intra club games so far. Clark brings a much needed point of difference to the St Kilda midfield with his ability to get out of traffic and his precision by foot. With a full season in the midfield, Clark is set for a massive 2022.
What Do The Saints Need To Do In 2022?
St Kilda’s best is breathtaking - wins over Brisbane, Sydney and Richmond showed that. However their worst is as bad as there is in the competition, the Saints average losing margin was 37 points, with three losses above 75 points. Finding consistency will be key to St Kilda returning to the top eight, if they can bridge the gap between their best and their worst, the Saints will be right amongst the race of a finals berth.
The Saints will be in the race for a finals position in 2022, however their midfield just isn’t good enough to match it with the sides they are trying to leapfrog this season. Outside of Steele and King, St Kilda lacks the top end talent to vault themselves back up the ladder. They struggled to run out games in 2022 with the return to 20 minute quarters, and without making any improvements to the side during the offseason it’s hard to see them resolving the problems that held them back in 2021.