Ninth position always leaves question begging – what if?  The Saints’ 9th in 2012 comes with a record of 12 – 10, which was good enough for sixth spot and a home elimination final last year.  Were the Saints good enough to play finals this year?  No.  If the distance to eighth was less than two games a case could be argued, but if you can’t beat Port Adelaide, Richmond or Fremantle in Melbourne then you do not deserve to be playing finals.  The Saints did show that their best was good enough for almost anyone, with some impressive wins and close losses to top eight sides.  A 2012 ninth is a glass half full for St Kilda, with the Saints unveiling plenty of reasons for fans to be optimistic about 2013 and beyond.

Wins (12)

Gold Coast, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Carlton, Sydney, Gold Coast, Essendon, Brisbane Lions, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, GWS, Carlton

Losses (10) – Port Adelaide, Fremantle, Hawthorn, WCE, Richmond, Adelaide, North Melbourne, Sydney, Collingwood, Geelong

Six of the best

Round 7 – vs. Carlton

In the two previous Monday night fixtures the Blues had the better of the Saints and coming in to this years game Carlton were a warm premiership favourite, having won 6 of their first 7 games.  The game would again be a showcase of small forwards, however this time around they wore the red, white and black, with Milne, Milera and Saad kicking 9 goals between them.  Two more from Rhys Stanley, a typical Clint Jones shut down job on Marc Murphy and another solid game from young gun Jack Steven saw the Saints win by 4 goals and earning wide praise for their exciting and fast brand of football under new coach Scott Watters.

Round 9 – vs. Sydney

Was the result of this game ever really in doubt?  With St Kilda legend Lenny Hayes lining up for game number 250 the Saints were never going to let this one slip.  Once again, the Saints faced a premiership favourite and triumphed, in the end comfortably.  After being nine points down at quarter time, the Saints opened up a 21 point half time lead and controlled the rest of the match, thanks largely to winning the all important contested ball.  Hayes was amongst the best yet again as 35,000 came out to see one of the all time great Saints.

Round 15 – vs. Essendon

In another milestone game, this time for the ‘Tip Rat,’ Stephen Milne, the Saints took on a red, black and grey Essendon.  The Bombers, in yet another horrible AFL ‘clash’ jumper played grey football and were taken apart by a ferocious St Kilda team.  Five goals to Milne and 4 to old mate Nick Riewoldt saw the Saints move to 7-7 and back into finals contention.  The win over the Bombers was also a victory for the coach’s box.  Scott Watters’ decision to allow Dal Santo and Montagna to run with Watson and Stanton, instead of employing hard tags, proved a masterstroke.  Elsewhere Hird and Thompson had no plan B as the Saints old firm of Riewoldt, Milne and Hayes combined with young guns Siposs, Saad and Armitage ran rampant in a 71 point drubbing.

Round 16 – vs. Brisbane Lions

For the second time in 2012 the Saints posted back to back wins.  The ‘Gabba has never been a happy hunting ground the Saints and the Lions at home proved a challenge, especially without Jack Steven and Brendon Goddard.  With the lead changing six times in the last quarter the game was there for the taking.  In the end it was the Saints’ extra touch of class and experience, with two goals to captain Nick Riewoldt and one each to Milne and Siposs that got them over the line.  Their work came on the back of a sublime night for Ahmed Saad who kicked 4 goals, 3 of them from mid air.  The win put the Saints back into the black, at 8-7.

Round 22 – vs. Greater Western Sydney Giants

A win against the Giants can hardly be regarded as a highlight by any club who takes themselves seriously, however the Round 22 victory does come with something of an asterisk.  With a handful of stars missing, including Riewoldt, Koschitzke, Fisher, Gram and Armitage, the Saints gave a glimpse of the future with youngsters Cripps, Newnes, Siposs, Ross and Ledger given greater game time.  The resulting 128 point thrashing was pretty standard for the GWS this year, however for such an inexperienced Saints line up to do it promises a bright future ahead for the Saints.

Round 23 – vs. Carlton

In the final game for Carlton coach Brett Ratten the Blues were always going to come out firing and it started before the ball had even bounced, with Andrew Walker and Stephen Milne trading blows on the goal line.  A 65 metre torpedo from Gram set up the Saints first goal, to Milera, and right up until the final few minutes this spiteful affair could have gone either way.  Poetically, it was Milne who put the Saints in front, with a kick off the ground before Ahmed Saad sealed the win.  The final margin of fifteen points was as much of a lead as either team had all day.  The win saw the Saints finish the season with a 12-10 win loss record, good enough for sixth last year, only 9th in 2012.

Saints legend Lenny Hayes celebrating game 250

Biggest improvers of 2012

Sean Dempster – transformed himself from a trusty and reliable defender to arguably the Saints’ most important backman.  Dempster developed the all important ‘consistency’ this year, became a more confident contested mark and is able to play on both smalls and talls.  After a stellar 2012, he is in the running for all Australian selection and possibly a best and fairest.

Jarryn Geary – had a break out year in 2012.  Geary has always been brave and ok, without ever instilling real confidence in fans.  This year he turned it all around.  He improved his marking and kicking and coupled with his courage to fly back into packs and fill the holes, Geary has ensured he will play an important part in the planning for the future Saints’ defence.

Ben McEvoy – for a few years ‘Big Boy’ developed in the shadows of Steven King and Michael Gardiner.  In 2012 McEvoy has made the no.1 ruck position at St Kilda his own and has arguably surpassed his fellow top ten ruck draftee Matthew Kruezer.  McEvoy’s nous to drop back for intercept marks or push forward for contested marks has proved invaluable.  Has also been nominated by Nick Riewoldt as a potential captain.

Jack Steven – after a fantastic 2011, Steven has continued to improve throughout 2012.  Most importantly he has begun kicking more goals, the mark of an elite midfielder.  His only hiccup this year happened to be while he was attached to a police breathalyser and he was given a week off by the club.  Steven responded well, with a solid finish to the season and at almost a goal a game, expectations are growing already for 2013.

Tom Simpkin – Simpkin is the perfect example of how a coaches faith in a player can fast track their development.  Prior to 2012 Simpkin had only 2 games to his name.  Playing almost every game this year, Simpkin has shown his courage and talent, to develop alongside Geary and Dempster into one of the first picked of the Saints defenders.

Sean Dempster, one of the Saints big improvers of 2012

Retirements and delistings

Raphael Clarke – the perennial St Kilda whipping boy played only 3 games in 2012.  His half back position looks to have been usurped by Tom Simpkin.  Not sure how much he would attract on the market.  If he stays he should play forward.

Brendon Goddard – Goddard’s signature is the only one missing from the wanted list.  The rumour mill is largely silent on Goddard, which bodes well for him staying.  A more permanent role forward or in the midfield would see Goddard back to his 09/10 best, rather than his continual uncontested sweeping across half back.

Jason Blake – a great servant of the club, will most likely retire, having got the most out of himself for over 200 games.  Sadly, would depart without a Brownlow vote.

Brett Peake – was handy after crossing over from Fremantle, however has not been able to crack into the senior side this year and at 29 is not going to get any quicker.  A focus on youth should see Peakey squeezed out.

Dean Polo – has shown glimpses during his time at the Saints, but that is all.  His consistency is not up to AFL standard and should be shown the door.

To be or not to be?

The new breed

Arryn Siposs – a lifelong Saints supporter, Siposs has shown exciting glimpses of his talent this year.  He is a good height, can take a strong mark and is an excellent kick for goal – from a set shot or on the run.  After 11 games this year, should be aiming for 15 – 18 next year.

Rhys Stanley – has been earmarked by Saints insiders for a few years.  With a solid pre season under his belt, extra kilos and if he is able to string some games together, Stanley should be set for a break out year in 2013.

Ahmed Saad – hands down the find of the year.  Along with Terry Milera, Saad has bought much needed speed and goal kicking to the Saints in 2012.  The young forward has captivated fans and commentators alike with his goal kicking technique and soccer goals.  He and Milera will form a formidable duo when Milne and Schneider retire.

Terry Milera – Milera started 2012 strongly, using his speed, goal kicking and creativity to inject a different style into the Saints’ play.  Fell out of favour mid year when Saad hit a patch of form, however recovered to play the last couple of games and ensure he will be back again for 2013.

Jamie Cripps – you don’t get handed the number 35 at St Kilda unless you have some talent.  Cripps played 12 games in 2012 and showed some positive signs without setting the world on fire.  Will turn 21 at the start of next season and should be a regular name in the Saints of 2013.

Beau Wilkes – ‘Booth’ has been a handy pick up for the Saints.  Can take a strong, contested mark, is a good shot on goal and has also had stints in the ruck.  Unfortunately has not been able to string games together, but if Kosi or Roo go down next year, Saints fans can be confident Wilkes can fill the gap.

Ahmed Saad in action against Sydney

Saints’ best 22

B

J Geary

J Gwilt

T Simpkin

HB

J Gram

S Fisher

S Dempster

C

L Montagna

J Steven

B Goddard

HF

A Siposs

J Koschitzke

R Stanley

F

S Milne

N Riewoldt

A Saad

R

B McEvoy

L Hayes

N Dal Santo

I

C Jones

D Armitage

A Schneider

 

T Milera

E

S Gilbert

F Ray

J Cripps

 

B Wilkes

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