The race is heating up, and every result is critical.
Fresh off an eight-day break, St Kilda will be looking to snare four points over Hawthorn and claim the Blue Ribbon Cup as it prepares for the final run home.
But even with a wealth of Hawks’ knowledge through Brett Ratten, David Rath and Jarryd Roughead in their corner, plus coming up a young side who hasn’t played in Queensland this year, the Saints can’t afford to be complacent.
St Kilda v Hawthorn
Sunday 6 August
Metricon Stadium, 1:05pm AEST
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Last time we met…
Round 4, 2019
Sunday 14 April
St Kilda 10.14 (74) def. Hawthorn 10.9 (69)
After being 26 points down midway through the third term, St Kilda stormed home with the final four goals of the game – holding the injury-hit Hawks goalless in the last quarter – to record a stirring win under the roof.
The Saints’ five-point triumph was built off their defensive pressure and accumulation of selfless acts, before absorbing Hawthorn’s pressure in the dying minutes after Jack Lonie put his side in the lead.
The full team performance improved St Kilda’s 3-1 after the first four rounds of the season, along with their third straight win at Marvel Stadium.
Seb Ross stepped up to the plate after Jarryn Geary was a late withdrawal through illness, being awarded with the Silk-Miller Medal for his best-on-ground display.
The stand-in skipper had his own Sherrin under the roof, amassing 39 disposals, six clearances and a goal in his charge towards an eventual second Trevor Barker Award.
Ross got the Saints off to the perfect start in the final term, feeding Rowan Marshall an opportunity to boot a much-needed major, before the fill-in skipper ended his afternoon with a dash off the Hawks’ half-back line to gain some valuable territory as the clock dwindled down.
It was arguably this match which marked the beginning of Marshall’s rapid rise, ending his magnificent afternoon bloodied and bandaged, but with 28 hit-outs, 17 disposals, seven clearances and a goal.
Jack Billings (34 disposals, six rebound-50s) was stiff to miss out on a Brownlow vote, while Jack Steele, Jade Gresham, Shane Savage, Jack Newnes, Blake Acres had over 25 disposals each.
Around the ground, Callum Wilkie was exceptional with several saves in the last line of defence, Matty Parker laid two crunching tackles to pave the way for his side to score, while Jack Lonie could have had a field day with 3.5 kicked for the afternoon.
For Hawthorn, recruit Tom Scully was a clear standout with 26 disposals, five inside-50s and a goal, while Hawk-turned-Saint Jarryd Roughead was dangerous up forward with two majors and six marks (three contested).
James Sicily led the backline with 28 disposals and a game-high 10 rebounds, while Ricky Henderson was incredibly smooth with 25 disposals and two goals.
Moment of the match…
Seb Ross’ long-range roost from outside-50 on the left peg put the Saints back in front five minutes into the second term.
From the archives...
After winning just one of its past 15 matches in 2001, an after-the-siren goal from Barry Hall brought the faithful to their feet to end a tumultuous season on a positive.
Round 15 recap…
St Kilda had its bye allocated for Round 15, but the week prior had suffered its first consecutive losses for the year at the hands of Melbourne in Alice Springs.
Hawthorn also found themselves deprived of four points last Tuesday, succumbing to a previously winless Adelaide by 35 points.
The loss made it nine losses from 10 games for Alastair Clarkson’s men, with the four-time Premiership coach saying post-match his side looked “dead-legged” against the sharp Crows.
Jack Scrimshaw was a redeeming feature for the brown-and-gold with 22 disposals, six intercepts and 521 metres gained, while Chad Wingard fought hard to gather 16 disposals and two goals.
Wingard was joined Jack Gunston (three goals) on the scoreboard and Tom Mitchell led the midfield with 23 disposals, but across the board were unable to contend with the Crows’ hunger to avoid a winless season.
The young Hawks side were convincingly beaten on the outside (-45 uncontested possessions) and weren’t able to capitalise inside-50 (seven goals from 35 entries).
The ins and outs...
Jack Lonie and Jonathon Marsh have been recalled as the Saints look to secure its ninth win of the season.
Tim Membrey (injured) and Nicholas Hind (omitted) have come out of the side, with the former expected to be available for Thursday’s match against West Coast after finger surgery earlier in the week.
Hawthorn will look to blood their youth in the final seven matches of the year, with seven changes from last week's line-up.
Experienced Hawks Liam Shiels and Sam Frost will join debutant Damon Greaves, Harry Morrison, Josh Morris, Dylan Moore and Will Day, with long-serving Hawks Ben Stratton (ankle), Jarman Impey (jarred hip), Shaun Burgoyne (managed), Oliver Hanrahan (managed) and Ben McEvoy (managed) moving to the sidelines with omissions Darren Minchington and Conor Glass.
The milestone men...
Sunday afternoon will mark skipper Jarryn Geary’s 200th game; a career that has spanned 14 seasons, weathered through the club’s rise, fall and rise again and has seen him captain the red, white and black for 59 matches.
Alastair Clarkson will also celebrate his 500th game as a player and coach, complete with four Premierships and All-Australian honours.
The Hawks’ heroes…
It’s been a tough year for Alastair Clarkson’s brigade, who have been starved of their usual wins, key personnel and plaudits this season.
The losses of James Sicily, Isaac Smith, Jaeger O’Meara, Jonathon Patton and Ricky Henderson throughout the season have been felt across all lines, but it shouldn’t be reason for the Saints to underestimate their opposition.
The absence of numerous key position talents has opened the door for the Hawks’ youngsters to leave the nest and make their mark – most notably, Will Day.
The rangy defender has become a fan-favourite over the past few weeks, and equipped with a safe set of hands, good vision and rebounding skills, has the makings to be an important player in Hawthorn’s future.
Minus Day, Hawthorn carried eight players with under 50 games’ experience last weekend. On the flipside, the Saints had nine against Melbourne.
Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell continues to top his side’s disposal, contested possessions and clearances numbers, James Worpel has provided grunt inside, while the silk of Shaun Burgoyne has been a calming influence all over the ground in his 10 matches for the year.
With Sicily out of the side through a season-ending knee injury, Blake Hardwick and Sam Frost have filled the void down back, while Jack Gunston (23), Chad Wingard (17) and Luke Breust. (11) have led the side for goals.
Returning Saint Jack Lonie boasts an impressive track record against the brown-and-gold from his past two outings, which has resulted in a combined 35 disposals, seven tackles, eight free kicks for and most importantly, seven goals.
On the injury front…
Surgery to repair a fractured finger has Tim Membrey on ice for Round 16, but the key forward is expected to return for Thursday’s match against West Coast.
Hawthorn has lost Ben Stratton (ankle) and. Jarman Impey (jarred hip) and will be eager to welcome back Jaeger O'Meara (hand) by next week.