AFLW Senior Coach Nick Dal Santo says he has “complete confidence” in St Kilda’s new midfield mix following their first outing on Friday night against Richmond.
The Saints’ restructured outfit – precipitated by the absences of Tyanna Smith (knee) and Georgia Patrikios (vaccination) – were ultimately overrun in the 10.1 (61) to 3.5 (23) result, finishing the clearance count 20-28 as the experience of Tigers Monique Conti and Sarah Hosking cut through.
Defenders-turned-midfielders Tilly Lucas-Rodd (20 disposals) and Tarni White (14, 11 tackles) led the engine room, while Olivia Vesely (16) and Rosie Dillon (10, one goal) showed promise in their first matches back from respective long-term injury layoffs. Jacqui Vogt and ex-Tiger Alana Woodward were also tried through the middle.
Dal Santo says that more time in the guts for St Kilda’s young brigade will be crucial with matches against top sides Collingwood and Melbourne to come next fortnight.
“I have complete confidence and trust in that particular group. They came up against a really good midfield, that’s the reality,” Dal Santo said post-match.
“We had Rosie Dillon that has come back from a severe injury last year and has missed a large chunk of football, Liv Vesely comes back into the team as a younger player that just needs more football time, Tarni White had an opportunity tonight and we had Tilly (Lucas-Rodd) as well go through there.
“We’ve been training for four to five months and done some really good things and improved, but when you come up against a good outfit that had a good system you get challenged and we got exposed at times tonight.”
Lucas-Rodd was a highpoint of the Saints’ evening, closing her night with 20 disposals, five tackles and four clearances between the midfield and half-back line.
The 25-year-old also spent parts of the game on two-time All-Australian Monique Conti, who rounded out the match with a game-high 29 touches.
“She’s a fantastic person and one of the really good things about Til is she wants the ball in her hands,” Dal Santo said.
“We’ve seen her across the half-back line in previous years and maybe there was a piece of her (that was) always going to play a little bit more midfield and it was forced upon us a little bit more (this season), but that’s an area for her to learn as well.
“She does some really good stuff with the football and she naturally has a defensive mindset given that she’s been a defender for the majority of her life.
“I like her in there and like a lot of our girls, just need to do it more often.”