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Friday Microscope: Round 21 v Melbourne

Josh Gabelich  August 11, 2017 12:15 PM

AFL 2017 Round 20 - St Kilda v West Coast

The Saints are coming: Sunday looms as a must win game for St Kilda if they are going to return to September.

Do or die

While it doesn’t quite all come down to this, it’s a simple equation for both sides: Win and keep your season alive or lose and face another year without September. There is so much on the line at the MCG this weekend. Both sides opened their season against each other at Etihad Stadium, following one of the most anticipated build ups in recent memory. And after five months, the only thing that separates Simon Goodwin’s men from Alan Richardson’s is percentage, and even that is marginal. If you think St Kilda has plenty on the line this Sunday, consider the fact Melbourne hasn’t played in the finals since 2006, when they beat the Saints in an elimination final. The Demons have travelled to Canberra, Hobart and Darwin in the last month, losing all three games to remove some of the momentum they built during the middle part of 2017. The Saints have a sniff of September and that could prove pivotal on Sunday when they look to take one step closer to the top eight. 

One week less for Saint Nick

Just when we thought we would see retiring great Nick Riewoldt a few more times, one of those precious opportunities has been taken away from us. The champion forward, who announced his decision to retire at the end of this season at a press conference last week, copped a head knock from West Coast midfielder Dom Sheed late in last Sunday’s win in an act that helped inspire the Saints to victory. St Kilda football boss Jamie Cox said on Thursday night that the Saints hope Riewoldt will only miss one game before returning for the final fortnight of the home and away season. When the teams were lodged, veteran defender Sam Gilbert has overcome a hand injury and been named on the extended bench, along with Tom Hickey, Daniel McKenzie and Jack Lonie.

Inside the engine room

It’s not likely to be an old fashioned shootout. It’s far more likely to be an arm wrestle in the engine room. Despite being rated by Champion Data as the worst midfield in the game ahead of Round 1, the Demons have proven to be anything but and even one of the deeper midfields going around. Led by second-year sensation Clayton Oliver, co-captain’s Jack Viney and Nathan Jones and recent recruits Jordan Lewis, Dom Tyson and Bernie Vince, Melbourne present a very difficult proposition for St Kilda. Although, Alan Richardson’s midfield is poised to strike after producing one of its best performances of 2017. Everyone stood up and made a contribution last Sunday, helping the Saints smash the Eagles in all key indicators, including contested ball (+34), tackles (+32), clearances (+12) and inside 50s (+14). St Kilda will need another even spread of contribution if they are going to conquer the Demons at the home of football on Sunday.

Inspired recruit notches up 150

When it comes to value for money, there hasn't been too many better acquisitions from last October than Nathan Brown. The 29-year-old full back has entrenched himself in St Kilda’s back six where he has significantly strengthened the Saints’ defence alongside Jake Carlisle. On Sunday afternoon, at the ground where he climbed the summit against his new team in 2010, the premiership defender reaches the 150-game milestone, adding 20 appearances in red, white and black to the 130 he played at Collingwood. Brown has played every game in his first year at Linen House Centre and has barely played a bad game. Aside from Josh Kennedy and Lance Franklin, who have won the last three Coleman Medals and five in total, Brown has only conceded 17 goals kicked in those 15 games. He has been an inspired recruit in a year where the Saints also added Jack Steele and Koby Stevens to their list.