I read, perhaps mistakenly, this week’s ‘Sliding Doors’ by Damien Barrett. His claim was that, for St Kilda, 2017 was a waste and therefore a failure.
While I am surprisingly tempted to agree with him, I still cannot see this season as a complete waste. After the relative success of last year the minimum expectation this year would have been to play finals.
So that makes this season a failure. But, looking a little deeper, this season has been of so much importance to the team, and was far from a wasted year – in fact it could be the making of this club.
This was clearly a season of transition, or at least became one for St Kilda. A transition away from the final players from 2010, to the new team and players that will form the heart of the saints for the next decade.
With Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montanga retiring, and their output lowering beyond their elite peaks, other players have had to step up and take responsibility. And, a lot of the younger players have. Jack Billings and Luke Dunstan have had consistent years, after a lot of questions were asked about them last year, and even during this season.
Jade Gresham has cemented his spot. Jake Carlisle down back has been a revelation, and has provided what St Kilda has been missing for years.
Jack Steele has provided everything that would have been asked of him, providing great midfield pressure, and being clean with his disposal. Yet another Jack, Sinclair, has been underrated on the wing, with some putting his performance in near elite categories. It is around these players that the future of the club will be built.
Of course there have been disappointments. Paddy McCartin’s continual struggles with fitness and concussion are number one in that area. This should have been the season where he could build up his performances and gain some consistency.
As it is, he is now being seen by some as tradeable – not what you want from a number 1 draft pick still at the start of his career. The forward line itself is probably the greatest disappointment of the season, and the greatest cause for concern. Josh Bruce has been inconsistent and inaccurate.
Tim Membrey drifts in and out of games – although does usually use the ball well. But in terms of small forwards, there is a very real lack of class. Jack Lonie performs at VFL level, but tends to disappear at AFL level, Mav Weller was way down on form this year, and it was honestly a surprise that he managed to keep his spot for the majority of the season.
Ben Long, while only in his first year, did not show many glimpses of the brilliance that got him drafted. Nathan Wright tries hard, but really lacks the quality to hurt the opposition. This is a problem that really needs to be addressed.
Further upfield, Jack Steven was down this year, as were Jack Newnes and Jimmy Webster. The failure of Nathan Freeman to get through the season must also go down as a disappointment, although it does appear that he might have moved on from his hamstring problems.
If St Kilda had made finals this year, these problems might have been missed, or covered over, or it might have looked as though only some minor tweaking is needed. It’s imperative that over the off season the dysfunction in the forward line is addressed, and some more class is added to the midfield.
Getting Josh Kelly would be a start, but if the forwards continue to misfire then he alone won’t be much use. Next year, finals is a must. Which means the lessons of this year must be learnt.