It’s a case of when, not if, St Kilda’s new-look side will gel into a cohesive unit in senior coach Nick Dal Santo’s mind as the Saints eye a speedy Round 2 rebound this coming Sunday.
The Saints blooded eight new players for their season opener against North Melbourne, however the influx of new talent didn’t eventuate in an immediate outcome as the Roos got the hop on their opposition to record a 40-point win at Tasmania's Blundstone Arena.
“That was one of the question marks that I think externally everybody had, and we did as well internally from a certain degree,” Dal Santo said post-game.
“We’ve got a lot of new players at the football club - and that’s on purpose - and then you ask the question ‘how long does it take (for that) to click or for that group to work better together?’.
“I thought all the girls who played today for the Saints for the first time showed signs. They were all so spread out throughout the ground, and off the top of my head four of our five starting defenders played their first game for the football club.
“There’s no doubt that creates some challenges - challenges that we’re prepared to work through - and I’m really optimistic about how it could look in the future.”
The Saints were jumped by the Kangaroos from the opening bounce, being held scoreless in the opening half before a much-improved showing after the main break.
North dominated possession (260-188) led by Jasmine Garner and Ash Riddell’s combined 58 touches and held sway over the clearances 33-19 and uncontested possessions 141-89, culminating in a lopsided inside-50 advantage of +18.
Nicola Xenos (11 tackles) and Hannah Priest (10) led the way for the Saints, Olivia Vesely battled hard for her 15 possessions, while Bianca Jakobsson helped nullify the impact of former Saint, Kate Shierlaw.
“We’re disappointed, that’s obvious. You speak about Round 1 throughout the course of your whole pre-season, it’s a big build-up and you want to put your best foot forward,” Dal Santo said.
“I thought at times she showed some of our football and areas that we’ve worked really closely on and put a lot of time and effort into… the reality of it is it wasn’t for long enough.
“It’s never one thing which is often a challenge in regards to coaching. We felt our team defence which we’ve tweaked over the off-season was inconsistent.
“Our third quarter was really dominant. We got field position, had inside-50s, but we put ourselves in a difficult position at half-time in regards to the scoreboard. There’s work to do.”
The return of Tyanna Smith 889 days and two full seasons on from her last senior appearance was a highpoint from Sunday afternoon.
The runner-up Best & Fairest from 2021 - her debut season - had her follow-up campaign devastatingly cut short when she ruptured her ACL in the final 30 seconds of a training session just a few months out from the 2022 season.
889 days and two full seasons between games, but there was no giving in.— St Kilda FCW (@stkildafcw) September 3, 2023
Great to have you back, Tyanna ❤️ pic.twitter.com/KgWS3pqqkk
“I’m really pleased for her, she’s done a heap of work,” Dal Santo said.
“Clearly missing two seasons in the one year has created a little bit more sadness that she’s missed more football than she would have liked.
“But I’m really glad for her to get back. She clearly got through which was the main priority and she’ll just build from here, so we’re really positive about the way she can help us.”