AFL Round 9: St Kilda v Geelong, latest news, stats and SuperCoach
St Kilda will have to continue its fight for a top-four spot without inspirational captain Jack Steele after scans revealed a serious shoulder injury. Here’s the latest.
St Kilda captain Jack Steele will need surgery on his AC joint and could miss up to eight weeks in a significant blow to the club’s hopes of a top-four push.
Steele was injured minutes before halftime in the victory over Geelong but managed to battle on and showed remarkable courage to finish the game.
But St Kilda has confirmed Steele will be out for an “extended period of time”.
Collingwood’s Jamie Elliott needed AC joint surgery after a round 4 tackle that coach Craig McRae had suggested could put him out for up to 12 weeks.
St Kilda can only hope Elliott’s imminent return next week after only six weeks on the sidelines is a better estimate of how long Steele will be out.
But a club that had only just regained its best midfield mix will now miss the inspirational skipper for some time.
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Hunter Clark, who returned from injury in the VFL last week, would be a strong contender to take Steele’s place.
First-year player Marcus Windhager was lauded by coach Brett Ratten after he made an impact coming in off as the medi-sub when Jack Higgins was subbed out.
Tim Membrey and Dougal Howard are the club’s vice-captain so one of them could step up in his absence or they could share the role.
Head of football David Rath lauded Steele’s bravery to play out the game.
“Jack’s a really tough guy and playing on last night despite his injury is evidence of that,” Rath said.
“It’s really disappointing to have Jack out for an extended period of time, but it’s important for him to get the treatment he needs to set him up for the second half of the season,” Rath said.
“He’s a warrior and would continue to play if required, but we need to do what’s right for Jack long-term.”
Higgins suffered his second concussion in five weeks but the Saints are adamant it has nothing to do with his two bouts of brain surgery while a Richmond player.
He was thrown forward by Geelong’s Tom Stewart in a first-quarter marking contest, with Stewart kneeing him high in the back and then landing on him as his head was thrown back in a whiplash-style incident.
Later he was bumped by Jake Kolodjashnij in a fair collision and left the field with delayed symptoms.
But coach Brett Ratten said he had told the club’s medicos by then he was feeling poorly so left the field and failed a concussion test that will put him out for a week.
With Higgins subbed out and Steele pushing himself through pain to play out the match, the Saints were looking down the barrel of a third successive defeat before producing a third term power-punch to sink the Cats for the first time since Round 14, 2016.
It came off the back of a masterclass three-goal performance from ruckman/forward Paddy Ryder, some midfield grit orchestrated by Brad Crouch and Co, as well as Steele’s relentless determination to go on.
Ratten praised his group for overcoming a fumbling start and some manpower issues, saying the belief is slowly growing.
“(With the) build up and losing two in a row, it was a pretty important game for us,” Ratten said after the Saints went to 6-3 on the win-loss tally with a 10-point victory over the Cats.
“We hadn’t played well (in the first half) but we were sort of within reach and we thought if we could get things right in our game, we could challenge the Cats.
“To think about Steele (being injured) at half-time … (you think) ‘we could be in a bit of trouble’, but gee he is courageous. I think a bit of ‘Gears’ (Jarryn Geary) is rubbing off on him. He just willed himself to get out there and compete, which was great.”
Steele will have scans on Monday to determine the extent of the damage but must be considered in doubt for Saturday night’s clash with Adelaide.
“We won’t know until Monday, we will get some scans and look at that,” Ratten said.
Higgins, who had two rounds of brain surgery in 2019, is already ruled out of the Crows clash under AFL concussion protocols.
Ratten said the doctors will closely monitor the prolific small forward - who missed a week earlier this year due to concussion against Richmond – before allowing him to return.
“I will let the doctors work that out, we will do whatever is best for Jack,” he said. “It just seems like a normal standard concussion.”
Ratten joked he might ask for Ryder’s father to permanently move to Melbourne after he made the trip this week to see his son take on the Cats.
“Ryder’s influence was enormous,” he said. “His dad is over from Western Australia and I did say to him ‘Can he come every week’ as (Ryder) was brilliant.”
Ratten said last week’s loss to reigning premiers Melbourne taught the Saints some valuable lessons as they look expectantly to the second half of the season.
“We got a bit of a lesson against Melbourne about how to go about it and it has probably helped with our education to go into this week,” he said.
VETERAN’S HEROICS INSPIRE SAINTS TO CRUCIAL WIN
For two-and-a-bit quarters, the Saints clung on while Geelong held them at arm’s length.
But rivals are quickly learning to beware of St Kilda in the half hour after half-time, which again proved the difference as Brett Ratten’s men claimed the Cats’ scalp by 10 points on Saturday night.
In doing so, the Saints beat Geelong for the first time in six years and provisionally climbed back inside the top four.
The reaction from Ratten’s coach’s box said everything about what this victory meant to them.
They erased a match-high deficit of 22 points in 10 minutes of scintillating football, then put the foot down to shoot 16 points clear by three-quarter time.
St Kilda fired seven third-quarter goals past Geelong’s defence, including the last six in a row, off the back of contested-ball dominance that translated to the scoreboard.
The Saints have now won eight of their nine third terms this season in a trend that can no longer be ignored.
Jade Gresham won 12 of his 30 disposals and four of his nine clearances in the match-winning quarter, while Brad Crouch, Callum Wilkie and Seb Ross all came to the party.
St Kilda repeatedly ripped the Sherrin out of the centre and tore through the corridor of Marvel Stadium, with the relentless Jack Sinclair another star on the night.
The job was far from done, with the Cats re-engaging at the start of the final term and slashing the difference to three points thanks to a pair of Tom Hawkins marks and goals.
A poor Daniel McKenzie defensive switch gifted Hawkins the first of them but Paddy Ryder stepped up to spare his teammate’s blushes with two clutch goals.
The loss continues Geelong’s inconsistent campaign in 2022 and follows a highly impressive thrashing of the Giants in Canberra a week ago.
Concern for Higgins
Tiger-turned-Saint Jack Higgins has had his share of roadblocks and challenges in his career and life, not least of which was two rounds of brain surgery in 2019.
The talented forward is playing career-best football at St Kilda, including three bags of at least four goals this season, but he’s set for another week on the sidelines.
Higgins suffered a second concussion in seven weeks in the first quarter, but didn’t go off until the second term, which mistakenly made people think it happened when Geelong defender Jake Kolodjashnij bumped him after dishing a handball.
But Saints coach Brett Ratten confirmed post-match that it was a Tom Stewart spoil that caused Higgins’ issue and ultimately saw him subbed from the game for first-year player Marcus Windhager, who made the most of his opportunity.
Kolodjashnij did leave St Kilda captain Jack Steele nursing his right shoulder late in the second quarter from a bruising tackle and he spent considerable time forward after half-time.
Shining light down back
Geelong’s been mocked at times for fielding ageing sides but Chris Scott continues to hand young defender Sam De Koning big roles on a weekly basis.
Saturday night’s contest was the 21-year-old’s ninth at AFL level but he’s already a vital part of the Cats’ present and future.
Handed the job on St Kilda star Max King, De Koning conceded only two goals and won 15 disposals to the Saint’s nine.
Between De Koning, Brandan Parfitt, Jack Henry, Max Holmes, Tyson Stengle, Zach Guthrie and Gryan Miers — to name only a few — there is the nucleus of Geelong’s future.
SAINTS 2.2, 4.4, 11.8, 13.12 (90)
CATS 4.3, 6.8, 8.10, 11.14 (80)
Saints: Gresham, Crouch, Wilkie, Sinclair, Ryder, Ross.
Cats: Tuohy, Stewart, Selwood, Hawkins, De Koning, O’Connor,.
Saints: Ryder 3, King 2, Membrey 2, Marshall, Jones, Sharman, Long, Billings, Wood.
Cats: Hawkins 4, Tuohy 2, Smith, Miers, C. Guthrie, Stengle, Cameron.
Saints: Higgins (concussion), Steele (right shoulder), Battle (finger/hand).
Stephens, Howorth, Mollison
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
3 J.Gresham (St K)
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2 B.Crouch (St K)
1 Z.Tuohy (Geel)