Saint Kilda honored star player Lenny Hayes who announced his retirement just days before the start of Round 18 by comprehensively thrashing Premiership contenders, the Fremantle Dockers. From the outset the Saints looked sharp and committed to the ball and - for the first time this season - showed the spirit they are famous for. Despite being on the bottom of the Ladder the Saints played above themselves to win one of the most memorable games in their club’s history. No-one gave them any hope of winning before the start of the game. Fremantle coach Ross Lyon even chose this round to rest some of his marquee players and let the lesser lights gain some match experience. The move backfired as his side was left wanting at every stage of the game.
It was vintage St Kilda as Saints' players attacked at every opportunity, causing the Dockers to look bewildered and play tentatively. The Dockers missed simple kicks and handballs as well as fumbling the ball with regularity. Fremantle was playing for a top of the table position but looked as bad as they did in the 2013 Grand Final when heavy defensive pressure came on them. However nothing should be taken away from the Saints particularly as they were playing a man down for most of the game. Sean Dempster was knocked unconscious in the first few minutes of the match when he backed into a pack to take a mark and clashed heads with Matthew Pavlich. He was substituted by Cameron Shenton almost immediately. St Kilda kicked the first four goals of the match and there was a sense of an upset brewing right from that point. Fremantle got on the board late in the first quarter, but it took a free kick rather than some skilled play to do it.
Despite a couple of paint blistering sprays from Coach Lyon at every break, Fremantle fell to pieces. The Dockers' players looked enervated and simply did not have the work rate that their opponents were bringing to the game. They were out shot on goals by a factor of three to one and the gap was widening with each passing minute. The longer the game went, the more rattled the normally steady Dockers looked. The Saints were relentless and grew in confidence, to the point of toying with the Dockers as they racked up marks and uncontested possessions. Captain Nick Riewoldt had an outstanding game, along with the Saints' other tall forward Rhys Stanley. The duo marked every ball in the vicinity and kicked their team further and further ahead.
With their tails up and heading for home, the Saints ran all over their opponents to put the game in their grasp. Farren Ray kicked two goals within a few minutes to the delight of the 16,600 fans who had turned up to watch the match. Captain Matthew Pavlich was the lone hope for Fremantle. He took some strong marks and kicked two goals but there was little support for him in the forward zone. However Fremantle was humiliated in the end and the siren came as a welcome relief to them and their disappointed fans who had no doubt anticipated a percentage boosting opportunity. Although the Dockers scored a couple of late goals, it wasn’t really enough to save face. Fremantle dropped percentage and Ladder position which makes their remaining games rise in importance if they are to finish in first or second place. They were outplayed in every statistic and no doubt left Etihad Stadium with a sour taste in their mouths and a stern Monday review in store for them from the coaching staff.
St Kilda has had the better of the Dockers over the years and remains a hoodoo side for them. Lyon left the Saints to come west to coach the Dockers and would have liked to rub it in with his new team when he returned to Melbourne. The percentage boost from this game wasn’t enough to lift the Saints off the bottom of the table but there is hope in the air for a team rebuilding its list.
Scoreboard Fremantle: 1.1 3.2 5.6 9.6 (60) St Kilda: 4.3 9.6 15.14 17.16 (118) Best Players Fremantle: Mundy, Pavlich St Kilda: Savage, Riewoldt, Stanley, Armitage, Ray, Hayes, Dunstan
Article last changed on Monday, July 21, 2014 - 6:27 AM EDT