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'Joey was really positive, wasn’t he?'

Josh Gabelich  June 19, 2017 9:12 AM

AFL 2017 Round 13 - North Melbourne v St Kilda

Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt made an impact in St Kilda's 17-point over North Melbourne.

He’s calling himself Jeremy McGovern the way he marked the ball down back.

Did you expect anything less from Leigh Montagna on Friday night?

After a week of harsh external scrutiny, the dual All-Australian responded in emphatic fashion against North Melbourne, much to the delight of St Kilda Coach Alan Richardson.

The 282-game veteran was the Saints’ architect behind the ball, collecting 28 disposals, an equal game-high eight intercepts, five rebound 50s and 707 metres gained – the 3rd most of any player in Round 13 – to help reignite St Kilda’s daring ball movement.

For Richardson, Montagna’s exploits in the heat of battle are only half of the impact the 33-year-old has inside the four walls of Linen House Centre.

“‘Joey’ was really positive, wasn’t he? He’s calling himself Jeremy McGovern the way he marked the ball down back,” Richardson said after Friday night’s 17-point win at Etihad Stadium.

“His performance was really strong, but he’s a bit more than that for our group.

“He has such a positive influence on our group, not only through the way he plays but the way he conducts himself around our footy club; the way that he challenges; the way that he instructs.

“He sees the game as well as anyone that I’ve worked with and he communicates that in such an effective manner, so he has such a positive influence.”

After missing two games due to bone bruising in his troublesome knee, the sight of Nick Riewoldt, without any tape on his legs and moving freely across the ground pleased Richardson.

The six-time Trevor Barker Award winner was made to work very hard for his opportunities against All-Australian full back candidate Robbie Tarrant. After a slow start, he finished with 21 disposals, 11 marks (three inside 50) and 0.3 on the back of the phenomenal work rate he is renowned for.

“'Rooey' worked his backside off,” Richardson said.

“They are a pretty strong defensive unit, he wasn’t always able to get it his own way.

“His body was really positive; he was able to do the work. At the risk of sounding like a horse trainer, I think he will be better for the run.”

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