St Kilda v Carlton

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While the AFL’s top contenders scramble to assert themselves, premiership markets fluctuate by the day and a very even upper echelon continue to do the same, a Sunday afternoon at Marvel Stadium looms equally large for two under-fire sides as well as two under-pressure coaches.

Those playing for both Alan Richardson and Brendon Bolton have dealt with heavy media scrutiny in the last twelve months, though in the latter’s case the jungle drums have been beating all the louder following two heavy defeats in the last month. St Kilda’s almost fairytale-like start to 2019 helped relieve some of the pressure on a side which was generally written off for a lack of star power, but a series of poor results have the Saints once again looming on the throes of mediocrity.

Jesse Robertson previews St Kilda and Carlton’s clash on Sunday as this week’s Featured Game for Play On Radio:

Recent Fortunes

Both sides come into Round 10 of the 2019 AFL men’s season off the back of four straight losses; the Saints by an average of 33 points, the Blues by almost 44 in the same time.

St Kilda remained competitive for the first three quarters of their Saturday afternoon clash with Collingwood before running out of legs in the final term, conceding six goals to one late consolation in the process.

Nonetheless, a lot of positives came out of the result with Luke Dunstan, Tim Membrey and Shane Savage standing out as well as a couple of goals to debutant Robbie Young but these were all eventually undermined by poor goalkicking accuracy that would ultimately cost them a more respectable scoreline.

The Blues were hammered in seemingly every aspect during last week’s 93-point annihilation on a trip to GWS, offering up a fourth-rate performance save for the admirably battling Harry McKay (three goals) and Nic Newman (29 disposals, 12 rebound-50’s). Skipper Patrick Cripps was brilliantly held by Matt de Boer and restricted to just a dozen possessions, and Marc Murphy played no part after quarter-time following a collision with Shane Mumford that resulted in fractured ribs.

Key Statistic

In a backline depleted of several of its best six through the absences of Dylan Roberton and Jake Carlisle, Josh Battle has slotted in well as a key position swingman. Previously known as a key forward only, his more balanced time between the two ends has allowed him to post the third-highest disposal efficiency of anyone to have played all nine games this season.

Shane Savage went at 88% for his 25 touches while Luke Dunstan shone brightly in the middle with a game-high six centre clearances, reflecting that even in what eventually amounts to a seven-goal loss, the Saints have plenty of contributors available.

The Blues have key personnel missing in defence also and last week’s undermanned outfit learned that the hardest way against one of the competition’s most star-studded cores, but with Cripps severely limited there appeared to be nobody ready to take charge in response, with the possible exception of Nic Newman. Kade Simpson is in line for a return to add stability to the backline but in going forward is where the greatest difficulty will lie.

For all the developing talent of Carlton’s forward line, they rank last in the competition for inside 50s and a pitiful five entries in the opening quarter last week, along with being handily beaten in tackles and almost doubled in marks, took them out of the contest before they could get started.

Prediction

Both sides have taken on the higher-flying Pies in the last fortnight and it was the Blues who hung with them for longer, but the embarrassing manner of defeat against another contender last week as well as the loss of Murphy may negate the potential inclusion of Kade Simpson, while St Kilda’s midfield look ready to take advantage of what could be a frail Blues lineup, much as they took the fight to the first five weeks of the season.

St Kilda by 26 points against a side they haven’t lost to in Australia since 2013.