At a glance:
- Brett Ratten says the Saints won't be sweeping last weekend's loss under the rug, even with new training restrictions prohibiting full group contact training.
- St Kilda were outplayed by Collingwood on Saturday afternoon, particularly in the contest and around the stoppages.
- Ratten said the AFL has to do the "right thing by the game" and keep the season rolling, even if squads are depleted by COVID-19.
Brett Ratten says the Saints won’t be sweeping last weekend’s loss under the rug, even with tighter training restrictions prohibiting full group contact training.
The AFL has moved to ban full-contact training for at least the next month after Essendon’s Conor McKenna tested positive to COVID-19.
While the stringent restrictions pose a tougher challenge for the Saints to refine their contested game, it won't take away from the their main focus heading into Round 4.
“We gave Collingwood a massive advantage in the first half and the game was pretty much over,” Ratten told AFL 360 on Monday night.
“We weren’t great in the contest, so I suppose that training in big squads and going through some match simulation at a lower level won’t be possible now.
“We’ll have to change that – maybe we’ll do it in groups of eight – but we need to do a fair bit of contested work after the weekend.”
The Saints were comprehensively beaten in centre clearances (10-4) and stoppages (22-17), while the Magpies enjoyed free rein with uncontested ball (+37).
Ratten’s men managed to pare back the lopsided count in the second half, but by then, the damage had been done.
“It all starts from the contest and we were really poor in that space,” Ratten said.
“But then on the flipside, sometimes you can lose an area but still not concede scores.
Now, Ratten will need to find different ways to enhance St Kilda’s contested play while adhering to the AFL’s new, tighter protocols.
Just a week ago, there was discussion about clubs being able to gain an extra full-contact training session. For the next month at least, that crucial, extra opportunity has been quashed.
“It’s going to be tough, and then the other question is now is trying to split the squads up in case somebody else does get crook and it doesn’t affect one line like the Bombers’ situation,” Ratten said.
“We’re going to split all our backmen up into three, four, five groups and just make sure that we spread some of our first-grade players through those groups as well.
“It’ll be good experience for our youngsters, but it’ll make it tough to look at full-team defence training.”
Clubs are allowed to train in a full group once a week but with no contact, however players will be able to practice tackling in squads of up to nine.
And with Essendon’s clash against Melbourne postponed and the Bombers’ situation still pending, Ratten says the Saints will be prepared if COVID-19 hits the club.
“I think we knew the rules, and Gil stated that pretty clearly. If this happened, the game would keep moving,” Ratten said.
“It’s a disadvantage for Essendon, but we can’t stop the games, we need to keep them going.”
St Kilda now turns its attention to Richmond for the fifth iteration of Maddie’s Match this Saturday at 4.35pm at Marvel Stadium.