It’s been four weeks since the Saints found themselves off the winners list.
But every time Brett Ratten’s men have needed a response, they’ve answered the following week in emphatic fashion.
Now, with four star additions coming into the line-up ahead of Zak Jones’ 100th game, the Saints will be intent on much of the same heading into Sunday’s battle with Essendon.
St Kilda v Essendon
Monday 16 August
Watch the game live and free on Channel Seven, or on Fox Footy, Kayo or with the official AFL Live Pass.
MATCH CENTRE: Get all the news, videos and live stats for Round 12
Make sure to follow all the latest game-day news and inside information across our social channels, and use #TogetherWeRise to show us how you're watching on from home!
Last time we met…
Round 2, 2019
Saturday 30 March
St Kilda 10.16 (76) def. Essendon 9.11 (65)
A high-pressure Saints outfit clicked under the roof of Marvel Stadium to ward off the plucky Bombers by 11 points, securing consecutive wins to open the season for the first time in five years.
Essendon drew within single figures in the second half as a by-product of the Saints’ successive run of minor scores (six), before Jack Sinclair and Jade Gresham converted in the last to take home the four points.
Jack Billings’ wonderful start to the season carried into the following week, with the classy Saint racking up an influential 28 touches to poll three Brownlow votes by season’s end.
The No. 15 was joined through the middle by the redeployed Jade Gresham (25 disposals, two goals, 505 metres gained, two Brownlow votes), who iced the game when Essendon threatened to sour the occasion.
Jack Sinclair (nine tackles, one goal), Jack Steele (23 disposals, seven tackles) and Seb Ross (23 disposals) added to the brigade with consistent performances, while Tim Membrey and Josh Bruce bagged two apiece.
Up the other end of the ground, Jimmy Webster (21 disposals, five rebounds) was lethal across half-back and Jarryn Geary mitigated the destructive Devon Smith.
The Saturday afternoon match also marked a major milestone in the Saints’ 2019 campaign, with Rowan Marshall (15 disposals, eight tackles, seven clearances) coming into the side for the first time to begin his magnificent season.
Essendon’s Tom Bellcahmbers came out on top of the hit-outs 41-21 to be one of the best for his side, while skipper Dyson Heppell was in peak form with 23 touches and two goals.
The skipper was the only multiple goalkicker for the Bombers, but was flanked excellently on the outside by Zach Merrett (28 disposals) and new recruit Dylan Shiel (27).
Moment of the match...
Josh Bruce almost hit the roof with a brilliant hanger at full stretch on top of an unsuspecting Michael Hurley.
Round 11 recap…
The Saints fell victim to a clinical Geelong outfit on Monday night, going down by 59 points at the Gabba to end a four-game winning streak.
Jack Steele again led the midfield with 25 disposals (13 contested), five clearances and five inside-50s, while late inclusion Ed Phillips (two goals) and debutant Jack Bytel (18 disposals, five clearances) placed among the Saints’ best on the day.
The Cats’ ascendancy in the uncontested ball and uncontested marks, coupled with their effectiveness in the clearances and the dominance of Tom Hawkins (five goals) proved to be the difference.
The well-oiled display and was again on show on Friday night in their 60-point dismantling of the top-of-the-table Port Adelaide.
Essendon left their Wednesday night affair with mixed emotions after a heart-racing 73-all draw with Gold Coast.
The Bombers clawed their way back after being 18 points in arrears in the last quarter, with injured Don David Zaharakis thrusting his side back in the contest with two tide-turning goals.
Gold Coast had its chances in the last two minutes of the game, but were ultimately forced to split the points in the thrilling finish.
Emerging backman Jordan Ridley (23 disposals, 10 marks, nine intercepts) continued his glittering campaign down back, while the relatively untried James Stewart bagged three critical goals.
Regular midfield contributors Dylan Shiel (26), Andrew McGrath (26) and Zach Merrett mounted spirited charges to almost will the Bombers into the top-eight, with the latter accruing a whopping 12 disposals in the final term.
The ins and outs...
The Saints have added class and experience to its midfield with the inclusions of Paddy Ryder, Zak Jones and Seb Ross, while small forward Jack Lonie has been recalled to pack a punch in attack.
Jade Gresham (injured), Ed Phillips (omitted) and managed duo Jake Carlisle and Dean Kent will make way for the returning four.
Essendon have made five changes to its Round 11 line-up, recalling rested duo Michael Hurley and Sam Draper, plus Jacob Towsend, Kobe Mutch and Josh Begley.
Sunday will shape as Mutch and Begley's first senior outings of the year.
The four-day break has seen the Bombers rest Tom Bellchambers, Devon Smith, Mason Redman and Aaron Francis, while David Zaharakis is out for the rest of the season through injury.
The milestone men…
Zak Jones will play his 100th game on Sunday, with the former Swan’s 10 games for the red, white and black tipping him over to triple figures.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti will also raise the bat, incredibly missing just one game after making his first senior appearance in 2016.
From the archives...
Nick Riewoldt channelled his inner Dennis Tueart with a brilliant back-heel off the deck against the Bombers in 2005.
The Dons’ Dangermen…
Essendon haven’t been immune to injury problems this season, seeing several star players forced to the sidelines.
Dyson Heppell, Jake Stringer, Cale Hooker, Jayden Laverde, Joe Daniher, Patrick Ambrose, Orazio Fantasia and most recently, David Zaharakis, have been parked for extended periods of time.
But it’s afforded opportunities for the next generation of Bombers to stake their claims and will the side towards a potential September campaign amid a torrid year.
Jordan Ridley has been a superb, intercepting force down back, easily topping Essendon’s intercept possessions, intercept marks and effective kicks count.
His clean set of hands have been complemented by the resolute performances of key defender Michael Hurley and line-breaking half-backs Adam Saad (leading metres gained) and Conor McKenna, who has floated into attack in recent weeks.
The Bombers’ remodelled offensive has seen James Stewart man the main post alongside Shaun McKernan, while Kyle Langford has been forced to spend more time inside the arc.
Ever-present danger and pressure-magnet Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti leads the club’s goalkicking with (10), but incredibly, sits equal with the injured Jake Stringer, whose last game was in Round 5.
With the exception of Heppell, Essendon’s midfield has remained largely intact.
Andrew McGrath is a frontrunner for his first Crichton Medal after an ultra-consistent, impactful year as the Bombers’ No. 1 on-baller.
The 22-year-old has averaged career-best numbers in shorter game-time to lead the Dons for disposals, clearances, tackles and contested possessions.
Dylan Shiel has begun to rebuild his form post-suspension, while Zach Merrett continues to rack up uncontested possessions on a whim.
On the injury front…
Both the Saints and Bombers were hit hard by injury following their Round 11 encounters.
Jade Gresham is set for an extended stint on the sidelines after scans detected stress fractures in his lower back, while a high-grade quad tendon strain has brought David Zaharakis’ season to an end.