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Riewoldt masterclass roars Saints home

Josh Gabelich  August 28, 2016 3:55 PM

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: St Kilda players celebrate winning the 2016 AFL Round 23 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy/AFL Media)

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: St Kilda players celebrate winning the 2016 AFL Round 23 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy/AFL Media)

A nine-goal masterclass from St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt has led the Saints to their first positive win-loss season in five years, after a convincing 58-point win over Brisbane on Sunday tied a bow around a strong 2016.

With the roof wide open and the sun streaming in at Etihad Stadium, Riewoldt put on a clinic that would have left John Coleman marvelling. Everywhere he went, the ball followed. Only twice in 318 previous appearances had Riewoldt booted nine goals.

By Sunday afternoon, he equalled the benchmark, adding a new personal best for marks with 21 – three off the all-time record – as well as a new record for marks inside 50 with 12. For a game with minimal significance on St Kilda’s season, it was compelling viewing.

And for the first time under Alan Richardson’s watch – and for the first time since 2012 – St Kilda posted a winning season, finishing 2016 at 12-10, to double their account from last season following a significant year of progress at Linen House Centre.

In a bittersweet reality, blowout losses against West Coast in Perth, Adelaide in Adelaide and more recently against Sydney at Etihad Stadium, have come back to bite the Saints.

At the conclusion of the home and away season, St Kilda finish level with eighth placed North Melbourne, but due to an inferior percentage won’t feature in September.

Despite easily finishing the better of the two sides, winning eight of their last 11 games to finish as one of the form sides of the competition, St Kilda will look on during this year’s finals series, but the stage is set for a launch into 2017.

In the opening term, St Kilda’s next generation took centre stage. Jack Lonie provided the Saints with that crumbing small forward they have missed at times this season. He found space and snapped cleverly from deep in the pocket to open his account.

Then, the second-year small forward, worked his way to the front of another contest, collected the ball on the burst and snapped on his left from 35 metres out. Minutes later he could have had another from an almost identical scenario.

The signs were bright for Lonie, as they were for Daniel McKenzie at the other end of the ground. His emergence across half-back continued on a sunny afternoon at Docklands.

And Brandon White, in his debut appearance looked composed across half back. The ball found him within 60 seconds of the opening bounce and he used his lethal left foot with affect. Far from overawed by the occasion, the Saints’ second selection in last year’s National Draft look composed at the level.

In the first quarter it was Lonie; in the second term it was the skipper. He was simply everywhere. In the space of 30 minutes, Riewoldt produced one of the more dominant displays by a forward this season. He hauled in an astonishing 11 marks – five inside 50 – accrued 12 possessions and three goals.

If Daniel Merrett wasn’t already calling time on his career, he would have been contemplating it on Sunday night; such was the dominance of the six-time Trevor Barker Award winner. It was a masterclass in every sense of the word. By the start of the second half, the 200-game Lions veteran was shifted forward, far away from a red-hot Riewoldt.

By the final siren, Riewoldt had added another handful on young Lion Matthew Hammelmann, finishing his season in stunning style. With a season tally of 222, Riewoldt completes the home and away season with the most marks since Brian Lake took 240 in 2010, when he still wore red, white and blue.

Despite the best efforts of Tom Rockliff and Dayne Zorko, St Kilda got the job done in the middle of the ground. The Saints won contested ball (+20), inside 50s (+16) and disposals (+31), with Seb Ross drawing his career-best season to an end with another high quality performance.

In his 150th game, David Armitage produced another dependable performance, finishing with 30 disposals and eight clearances. As did reigning Trevor Barker Award winner, Jack Steven, who will head into Thursday night’s count as the favourite for his third best and fairest prize. He had another 31 touches and nine clearances. 

ST KILDA                   5.5       11.7    17.8    25.11 (161)
BRISBANE LIONS     3.4       6.8       9.11    15.13 (103)

GOALS
St Kilda: 
Riewoldt 9, Lonie 3, Bruce 3, Wright 2, Membrey 2, Newnes, Steven, White, Gilbert, Geary, Armitage
Brisbane Lions: Walker 3, Dawson 2, Mathieson 2, Rockliff 2, Zorko, Rich, Hanley, Merrett, Keays, Bell

BEST
St Kilda: 
Riewoldt, Armitage, Ross, Steven, Roberton, Acres, Montagna, Lonie.

Official crowd: 21,834 at Etihad Stadium