St Kilda will return to Marvel Stadium to face a challenging Hawthorn side hungry for a second straight win.
Both teams will contest for the Blue Ribbon Cup, honouring those members of the Victoria Police Force who died in the line of duty.
The Saints will be eager for their third win of the season, while the Hawks – coming off a strong come-from-behind victory against Adelaide down in Launceston – will be just as keen to carry on their winning form.
With Senior Coach Brett Ratten expecting a "great battle" under the roof, Saturday's game is shaping up as a must-win clash for the red, white and black.
Round 7 | 2021
St Kilda v Hawthorn
Saturday 1 May
Marvel Stadium, 4:35pm
Broadcast live on Fox Footy and Kayo
The key storylines
1. Ruck duo to reunite
It's the reunion St Kilda has been longing for since the elimination final last season.
Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall last lined up side-by-side in that stirring game against the Western Bulldogs, where the former unfortunately went down with a hamstring injury in the final two minutes.
The pair were the most potent ruck duo in the competition in 2020, providing sublime tap work, skill at ground-level and a ready supply forward ammunition (a combined 23 goals) to give the Saints a crucial edge.
Round 7 will continue Ryder's streak with his ruck counterpart, with all 14 of his games for St Kilda played in tandem with Marshall.
2. A battle for the Blue Ribbon Cup
One of the AFL’s longest standing traditions, the Blue Ribbon Cup was first established in 2000 as a tribute to Victoria Police members Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller who were killed in the line of duty in 1998.
The game aims to encourage the public of Victoria to remember the sacrifice of officers who have fallen, and show all current serving members of the Victoria Police that their work and commitment is valued.
Players, coaches and on-field staff from both the Hawks and the Saints will wear blue and white checked armbands as a show of respect, while players will receive commemorative Blue-Ribbon medals at the end of the match.
The best player from each team (voted by the opposing club’s president) will also be awarded the Silk-Miller Memorial Medals.
3. The importance of second-half surges
In both of the Saints' wins this year, they have kicked eight and 10 goals in the second half to bring home the four points, and they’ll be looking to do the same this Saturday.
Hawthorn’s ability to slow their opponents scoring has been one of their strengths, having only conceded 100 points once this season.
If the Saints can maintain consistency of scoring, it will go a long way to securing the four points.
Additionally, the Hawks create 25 per cent of their scoring shots from their own defensive-50 zone; an incredibly high number compared with Richmond, Bulldogs and Geelong (all below 11 per cent).
St Kilda, in contrast, has a reliable source to goal through turning the ball over in the front half, generating 38 per cent of their scoring from the attacking half of midfield.
Where the match is won
The Hawks play a similar style of football to St Kilda, which should make this a fast and fascinating end-to-end game.
Both teams are in the top-four for marks from opposition kicks - 19 per game - launching long chains from those intercepts into the forward zone.
Dougal Howard, Nick Coffield and Callum Wilkie are St Kilda’s prime interceptors, while Changkuoth Jiath and Sam Frost are the dangers in Hawthorn’s backline.
When the Saints beat the Hawks by 14 points in Round 16 last year, they scored three of their 11 goals from kick-ins, running the ball the length of the ground by exploiting its width.
Another five goals came from their pressure in the attacking half of midfield causing turnovers. It's a template that could provide the Saints’ with their third win of the year.
The Saints will head to Marvel with All-Australian Paddy Ryder in the 22, returning for his first game of the year.
Jimmy Webster is back after a groin injury kept him out of the trip to Adelaide Oval last week, while Ryan Byrnes comes into the side after some strong form in the VFL.
Jake Carlisle, Ben Long and Jack Lonie have all been omitted, while Dan McKenzie will serve a one-match suspension for his bump on Port Adelaide's Ollie Wines.
New recruit Brad Crouch will play his 100th game, while Jack Higgins will play in his 50th.
IN: Byrnes, Ryder, Webster
OUT: Carlisle (omitted), Long (omitted), Lonie (omitted), McKenzie (suspension)
Last week's medical sub: Jack Bytel (replaced Bradley Hill)
Some words from Ratts
On the radar…
Changkuoth Jiath has been in scintillating form to help solidify Hawthorn's backline in 2021.
It has been a breakout year for the 21-year-old, with his speed and ability to break lines allowing the Hawks to open up the ground.
He currently sits at fourth in the league for contested marks, ahead of both West Coast’s Jeremy McGovern and Brisbane’s Harris Andrews.
Others to watch: O'Meara, McEvoy, Frost, Mitchell, Wingard
Keep an eye on…
Ryan Byrnes will return to the side for the first time since his debut in Adelaide last season.
The young speedster’s form in the VFL has been rewarded with selection in the senior side. Back from a hamstring injury suffered in February, Byrnes has been in stellar touch for Sandringham, averaging over 20 touches per game.
With Ratten a big fan of Byrnes’ pace, the midfielder will look to use his speed to break the game open.
Last time we met…
St Kilda got the job done in Jarryn Geary's 200th game at Metricon Stadium, seeing off a five-goal opening quarter from Hawthorn to bank an all-important win heading towards a drought-breaking finals campaign.
Rowan Marshall was awarded the Silk-Miller Memorial Medal for his best-on-ground performance (14 disposals, eight marks two goals) manning the key forward role in the absences of Max King (managed) and Tim Membrey (injured).
The Saints controlled the airwaves in the second term to ward off the dangerous Hawks, before a sequence of crucial goals in the second half steadied red, white and black just in time.
ST KILDA 4.4 5.8 7.13 11.14 (80)
HAWTHORN 5.1 5.5 6.6 9.12 (66)
St Kilda: Lonie 2, Marshall 2, Steele, Butler, Jones, Battle, Billings, Ryder, Abbott
Hawthorn: Breust 2, Lewis, Gunston, Moore, O’Brien, Hardwick, Scully
St Kilda: Marshall, Ryder, Ross, Hill, Sinclair, Steele, Coffield, Lonie
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Ceglar, Wingard, Day, Cousins, Greaves, Shiels
Moment of the match
Jack Billings weaved an incredible piece of magic together on the three-quarter time siren, with his sky-high snap from the pocket sailing through the give the Saints a handy buffer heading into the final change.