The bye has come and gone, and with the 2021 season entering the final rounds of the year, St Kilda will be intent to start off with a win on Friday night at the MCG.

In their way stands the reigning Premiers in Richmond, who will have spent the past fortnight stewing on last week's defeat against West Coast in the dying seconds.

With three premierships in four years, knocking off the Tigers will be no easy feat, especially on their home turf at the ‘G.

But the return of four key Saints from injury is set to bolster Brett Ratten’s men, and with crowds returning to Melbourne this week, there aren’t many places better to play footy than at the MCG under Friday night lights.

Round 9 | 2021

Richmond vs St Kilda
Friday 25 June
MCG, 7:50PM
Broadcast live on Channel 7, Fox Footy and Kayo

Key Storylines

Back at the G (with crowds!)

It has been just over a year since the Saints last played at the MCG, but they finally will head back to the famous venue on Friday for the first time this season.

What’s more is the announcement from the Victorian government that crowds are back in Melbourne, with 25,000 set to attend the Friday night clash.

It is the first time that crowds will be able to head to the footy since the COVID-19 restrictions came into place five weeks ago.

For St Kilda, it is the first of back-to-back games at the ‘G, with the side set to take on Collingwood the following week with the fixture yet to be confirmed.

Happy Hunting (Melbourne Cricket) Ground

Over the past five years, the MCG has been a fortress for Richmond, with the side having won 45 out its past 55 games at the venue.

That is an 82 per cent winning record at the ground for half a decade, making the Tigers a dangerous proposition on their home turf.

The Tigers have a formidable record at the MCG. Photo: AFL Photos.

But in the past two years, that percentage drops to 50, with five wins, four losses and a draw in there.

In fact, this season alone has seen Richmond go down to Sydney, Melbourne and Geelong at the MCG by an average of 47 points.

Ro and Ryder

Rowan Marshall is back for the Saints. Photo: AFL Photos.

There won’t be too many Sainters happier with the return of Rowan Marshall than his ruck partner, Paddy Ryder.

The pairing has only played in three games together so far this year, with the 264-gamer saying that he was thrilled to have Marshall back in the side.

I said ‘I’ll hold it down in the ruck there while you’re out’, but I can’t wait to have him back. He complements my game so much and makes it easier for me to play football.

- Paddy Ryder, Sounds of the Saints podcast

Ryder isn’t the only one who would be pleased with the youngsters' return, with Senior Coach Brett Ratten looking forward to having both ruckmen at his disposal.

Both Ryder and Marshall were missing the last time St Kilda met the Tigers, and Nankervis took full advantage, gathering 40 hit-outs and 22 disposals in a best-on-ground performance.

Nankervis (injury) won't be available this time around, with Damien Hardwick set to utilise Mabior Chol, Marlion Pickett and debutant Samson Ryan through the middle. 

Adding to the intrigue will be the fact that the Saints have never had both ruckman available when playing the Tigers.

Team Selection

St Kilda has made four changes for Friday night, with Rowan Marshall, Tim Membrey, Seb Ross and Daniel McKenzie all set to return to the side.

Omitted trio Paul Hunter, Jack Lonie and Nick Coffield make way for the incoming Saints, as do the injured Hunter Clark (jaw) and Jack Bytel (concussion).

Hunter, Lonie and Coffield have been listed as emergencies alongside Leo Connolly.

Some words from Ratts

08:52 Mins
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'There's been an emphasis on communication': Ratten ahead of Round 15

Senior Coach Brett Ratten spoke to the media this morning ahead of our Friday night clash against Richmond in Round 15

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On the radar

While the likes of Shai Bolton, Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt may dominate discussion, don’t look past the impact Jayden Short has for Richmond.

The 105-game Tiger currently leads his club in disposals, effective kicks, meters gained, marks, uncontested possessions and rebound 50s.

Jayden Short has had a strong season in 2021. Photo: AFL Photos.

He sits at third in the AFL for rebound 50s, fourth for total kicks and fifth for effective kicks.

In fact, Short has not dropped under 20 disposals once in 2021 and is a key part of Richmond’s ability to be able to transfer the footy from defence into attack.

Keep an eye on

Death, taxes and Jack Steele leading from the front.

In his first year as co-captain of the club, Steele has been a beacon of consistency in an otherwise inconsistent year.

The Saints’ skipper currently sits 2nd in the AFL for number of tackles this season, and is averaging 28 disposals per game, as well as eight tackles.

This form was showcased in Cairns against the Crows, where he recorded 34 touches and a game-high 12 tackles in the pouring rain up north.

It was the second consecutive game of 30+ disposals for the 25-year-old, making it four 30+ games for the season, a feat he didn’t achieve once in limited minutes in Season 2020.

Steele currently leads the club in total disposals, inside-50s, metres gained, contested possessions, ground-ball gets, clearances, tackles, effective disposals and pressure acts.

Last time we met

07:32 Mins
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RD5 | Highlights v Richmond

The Saints and Tigers clash in round five

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Off the back of a thrilling comeback against West Coast a week earlier, St Kilda were unable to keep the momentum going at Marvel Stadium for Maddie’s Match.

Going into the first break with a slender one-point lead, the Saints could not capitalise, and Richmond ran away with the game, taking home the victory by 86-points.

Jack Steele was among the best for his side, collecting 26 disposals and nine tackles, while Hunter Clark and Brad Crouch fought hard with 33 and 25 touches apiece.