The Saints began the Alan Richardson era in style with an impressive 17 point win over Paul Roos’ Melbourne and looking far from the wooden spoon favourites that so many ‘experts’ predicted pre season.
The mental demons and scars from the Lyon era appear well and truly healed, while the Watters years are best written off and forgotten, much like the Tim Watson experiment. Nick Riewoldt, who will this year become the clubs longest serving captain, looks refreshed and led by example from the beginning of the match, with an impressive chase and tackle on the ‘Moorabbin wing.’ His 3rd quarter tackle on James Frawley in the middle of the ground sparked an intense few minutes of play in which both teams showed their desperation to win. Riewoldt’s reaction at the final siren displayed a belief in the new batch of kids and a real excitement in the future. St. Nick was also well supported by other senior players in Dempster, Ray, Armitage and Clint Jones, who collected a career high 39 disposals.
It was the youngsters though, who are the real cause for optimism. Saunders, Wright, Webster and Curren have continued to develop over the summer and all night they chased hard, tackled ferociously (with more than a few sticking) and despite some nerves and skill errors, all earned their spots for next week. First gamer Luke Dunstan, wearing Gordon Fode’s old number, was impressive and at times looked a seasoned hand, while Jack Billings joined an exclusive club, kicking a poster with his first kick in league football and Eli Templeton showed poise and kicked a classy second quarter goal.
With Big Boy McEvoy making his debut for the Hawks hours earlier, Shane Savage and the Saints ruckmen were bound to come under extra scrutiny. Tom Hickey, in his second season at the Saints, played a solid game, with some good marks, tackles and taps, while ‘Ipkiss’ looked more comfortable up forward with two goals, but needs to improve his marking. Shane Savage, wearing the original Joffa’s old number, looked a bit lost at times, however worked hard all night, chasing and pressuring opponents.
Goal of the match
The second quarter provided two goal highlights, with Josh Saunders channelling Milney in the forward pocket and Eli Templeton combining with Saunders for an excellent goal on the run – but the goal of the night belonged to David Armitage. At the Coventry End, Armitage roved a deft tap from Hickey and at pace goaled from the boundary line before celebrated fittingly. Armitage’s goal extended the Saints lead to 26 points and from there Demons would never catch them.
Round 2 – GWS Giants
The Saints fixture for 2014 reads like a Mortal Kombat line up, with opponents growing in strength each round. Hayes and Montagna are automatic inclusions for round 2, replacing Billings (who has been injured pre season), Newmes or Savage, both of whom were quiet. The Jizz Maister will also be having a rest next week, with an uncharacteristically goalless game against Melbourne and should be replaced by either Siposs or Tom Lee, possibly on a permanent basis. While it is only one win and one week into the season, the experts who were predicting St Kilda 0 – 2 and another wooden spoon may not be as confident as they were days ago. Bring on the Giants!