WHERE AND WHEN: Metricon Stadium, Saturday July 2, 1.40pm (AEST)
RECENT HISTORY: St Kilda has won five of its past eight against the Gold Coast Suns, and making the trip to Queensland will hold no fears for Alan Richardson’s men, with three of those five victories coming at Metricon Stadium.
FORM: Despite having suffered 10 consecutive losses, there have been some positive signs for the Gold Coast in recent times. They were in a winning position against Richmond at three-quarter in round 12, gave three-time reigning premiers Hawthorn a run for their money at their fortress at Aurora Stadium in Tasmania, and skipper Gary Ablett has shown glimpses of the brand of football that made him the best in the competition. St Kilda responded to its 88-point mauling at the hands of Adelaide in round 11 in the best possible fashion, accounting for Carlton before toppling flag favourites Geelong. The draw has opened up for the Saints and they’re still a sneaky chance to play finals, however, their focus should be firmly fixed on Saturday’s clash. How they back-up after last weekend’s against-the-odds win will give us a better understanding of how much they have matured and whether or not they’re ready for September action.
KEY PLAYERS: Gary Ablett (Gold Coast Suns)
Ablett was the main reason the Suns were in the hunt against the Hawks, helping himself to 40 possessions, 21 of which were kicks. His ability to win the football in contested situations and deliver it with precision inside 50 will be integral if the Gold Coast, who have found putting points on the board a tough task in 2016 (16th in the AFL for scoring), are going to have any hope of kicking a winning score. In the win against the Cats, St Kilda opted not to employ a hard tag on either of Geelong’s prime movers in Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield, instead choosing to back their young midfield to get the job done, with Seb Ross leading from the front. In his 50th game, Ross racked up 33 possessions, seven score involvements, five clearances and five inside 50’s to outpoint Dangerfield. Expect Richardson to back Ross to get the job done again against another of the competition’s elite.
David Armitage (St Kilda Saints)
The last time these two sides met in round 2 last year, Armitage starred with 36 disposals in a performance that earned him two Brownlow Medal votes. Well down on his usual output in the victory over Geelong, finishing with a meagre 15 touches, Armitage will be keen to bounce back with a strong showing against the Suns. Armitage’s ability to win the football at the coalface will be key to ensuring St Kilda’s young forward line gets enough quality supply.
OUTCOME: Tom Lynch has played a lone hand up forward for Gold Coast this season, booting 42 goals. The next best at the Suns is Jack Martin with 12. In comparison, the Saints have three players who have kicked 20 or more goals in Josh Bruce, Nick Riewoldt and Tim Membrey who have been ably supported by Maverick Weller, Jack Steven and Patrick McCartin who are in double figures for goals kicked. Throw in the fact that St Kilda leads the League for disposal efficiency whilst Gold Coast is ranked 17th, and all signs point to a St Kilda victory. Saints by 23 points.