The match was of fairly high quality considering what we’ve had so far this pre-season. It was played in Albury and both teams played pretty strong teams. During the week Alan Richardson said this would be very close to their best 22, and the main player missing was through injury (Montagna). The Swans had a few more out but all were essentially out through injury (McVeigh, Heeney, K Jack, Aliir, Papley).
What we learnt?
Nick Riewoldt: Played mostly on the wing as has been mooted. Played on the left wing quite a bit actually, to the extent that he had to kick left-footed much of the time. It didn’t bother him too much though, slotting an amazing left foot snap from the pocket. Riewoldt looks as good as ever and certainly looks like he’ll be one of the top scoring forwards again.
Jack Steele: He looks like a big lad compared to some of the Saints’ slighter brigade and was found at the bottom of many a pack. Loves a tackle too, hit double figures by three quarter time in this game. Looks like someone who the Saints will want in their contested ball brigade & given Alan Richardson said this would be essentially their best 22 I couldn’t see his role changing. I have to think his role and scoring will continue in the regular season so remains another one to choose between from the mid-priced forward armada.
Jack Billings: There are too many Jacks at the Saints these days, however some of them are pretty handy & Billings is another one of those. Playing on the wing again and getting involved quite a bit. Nothing to dislike in this game and, like his namesake above, remains in the mid-priced forward harem.
Tom Hickey: The best ruckman on the ground and arguably the best player. Won around 40 hitouts and the rest of the Saints’ team got only 2 hitouts combined so you know that Hickey played not only as sole ruck but he really didn’t even share the duties that much. He also racked up in the vicinity of 30 touches, had 5 tackles and gave every indication that he will increase his scoring from last year by a fair amount. Richardson also said in the same interview during the week (mentioned above) that he didn’t see how St Kilda could ever play two rucks during the season – partly due to their talls already (McCartin, Bruce, Riewoldt, Membrey) but also because their two rucks were not fit/aerobic enough to be able to make it viable yet. So since this is their best 22, since Hickey played and Longer didn’t, one can extrapolate that Hickey is the main ruck – notwithstanding Richardson saying after the game that they’d “have a decision to make” (between Hickey & Longer).
David Armitage: Armo looks back in form! Played like he did in 2015, running and linking up everywhere. A timely newspaper article this weekend with him also went through the debilitating back injury he’s had since early 2015, effectively meaning that he went 18 months without training properly/at all. He’s finally on top of it though and has had a full pre-season and, in this game, it showed.
The Saints looked really good to me. They seem to have a more well-balanced, fit and skillful midfield this year, they seem to have the key position pieces largely in place now and their ruck division looks pretty handy with Hickey playing like he did tonight. The Saints could really be anything this year – it could still be a year too early for them or it might be their best chance (with Riewoldt, Montagna etc still in their prime), who knows. For fantasy footy though, they are on the up and that means some players will jump up in their averages – pick who that will be and you may be onto a good thing.
What we learnt?
Buddy Franklin: Looked as good as ever in this match & gave every indication he’ll be a good choice again across the formats this year. May not be the top scorer but should be a safe pick.
Zak Jones: Looked pretty lively through the midfield again and had some nimble footwork at times; caught players with one of his six tackles at others. Does look a definite option as a mid-priced defender for us this year, especially playing this role.
Oliver Florent: Looked good early then went out of the game until the fourth quarter. Only had 59% TOG though so it’s possible that he simply wasn’t on the ground much in the interim. Was getting a bit of it on the wing and through the middle as well as up forward, though you’d expect him to not get much midfield time in the main season. With a few players out early though, he is looking very likely to start in Round 1 and he’s another rookie option to consider.
Jake Lloyd: Played a lot in the backline and coming out of defence as usual and got a hell of a lot of the ball.
With a few players out it’ll be interesting to see both how the Swans structure up in Round 1 and how they structure up once everyone’s back. Guys like Florent, Mills, Cameron etc didn’t have a very high TOG in this match so be careful in how you rate their games purely from stats. Their main midfield guys were all pretty solid again – Parker, JPK & Hanners – though JPK did appear to get a bit dazed from a knock briefly. Next stop, Round 1!