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1:40pm  Aug 15, 2017

All the goals: Round 21

9:28am  Aug 15, 2017

Friday Microscope: Round 9 v Sydney

Josh Gabelich  May 19, 2017 1:33 PM

AFL 2016 Rd 09 - St Kilda v Essendon

St Kilda spearhead Paddy McCartin will return on Saturday for his first game since Round 3.

Paddy back after giving the door a whack

Paddy McCartin has been forced to not just bang on the door, but completely smack it off its hinges. But after five weeks at Sandringham, the 21-year-old key forward is back in the senior team, having found the form he went back to find. At his pre-game press conference on Friday morning, Alan Richardson said McCartin ‘couldn’t be in better form in the lead-up’. And the Saints coach is right. The 2014 No. 1 pick has kicked the most goals in the VFL with 18.10, as well as averaging 15.4 disposals and nine marks, including 3.2 contested grabs per game. The Saints are ranked No. 3 in the AFL for inside 50 differential, but haven’t been able to capitalise on their entry domination. Last week was a perfect example, with +22 inside 50 advantage not transferred onto the scoreboard. McCartin, a man who does his best work close to the sticks, could play an important role on Saturday.

Can the Saints end the Swans dominance?

St Kilda hasn’t taken the points off Sydney in the last six encounters between the two sides and only once in the last nine games. After being right in the game at half-time last year, Sydney turned a five-point advantage into a 70-point win at the final siren, with Lance Franklin piling on six second half goals to sink the Saints. In fact, it hasn’t been pretty for a while against the Swans. John Longmire’s team has won the last four games by an averaging margin of 74.3 points. And while they started the year winless after six rounds, they have found form across the last fortnight with big wins over Brisbane and North Melbourne. Will a second trip to Etihad Stadium in the space of six days be a factor or will the Swans famous resolve rise to the surface?

St Kilda to face massive midfield test

Josh Kennedy: 37 disposals and nine clearances. Luke Parker: 36 disposals and 11 clearances. Dan Hannebery: 33 disposals. They were the big guns numbers against the Kangaroos on Mother’s Day. After a slow start to the year by their lofty standards, this trio – who were all All-Australian’s in 2016 – have clicked into gear and will present an enormous challenge at Etihad Stadium. While the Saints’ midfield has improved this year with the injection of Jack Steele and Koby Stevens, who comes straight back in after serving a one-game ban, along with the rise of Seb Ross into the elite bracket and the improvement of Blake Acres and Jack Sinclair, they will need to be at their best to see if the Swans. After eight rounds, Ross is equal fifth with Marcus Bontempelli in the coaches award, on the back of five consecutive 30+ disposal hauls. And then there is Jack Steven who is motoring along since returning from a punctured lung. This duel is certain to determine who wins this encounter.

Who can stop Buddy?

Since moving to Sydney on the most lucrative deal in the game’s history, Lance Franklin has torched St Kilda in two of three games. He booted 9.4 the first time he wore red and white against the Saints. And last year, he got off the chain in the second half when Sam Fisher went down, bagging 6.1 to lead the Swans home. Now, St Kilda possesses two bonafide key defenders in Nathan Brown and Jake Carlisle. Former Collingwood premiership full-back has gone to Kurt Tippett or Sam Reid in recent years, but could spend time on Franklin if he plays close to goal. Carlisle produced his best performance yet for the Saints last weekend against the Blues, displaying the intercept marking he was renowned for at the peak of his powers at the Bombers. He took four intercept marks in the opening quarter last Saturday, before finishing with 10 intercept possessions for the day. The Saints will be looking for one of this pair to restrict the influence of the three-time Coleman medallist.

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