St Kilda entered the first encounter with some fresh faces but also without key midfielders Nick Dal Santo and Leigh Montagna. However, most Saints fans would have been delighted to see the return of Lenny Hayes from a knee reconstruction.
Sydney didn’t look too far off full strength with Daniel Hannebery, Shane Mumford, Josh Kennedy and Ben McGlynn their most notable absentees.
Finally, Geelong looked only a shadow of the side that won the last year’s premiership with just 10 players on show from the team that captured the flag in 2011.
Game 1 – Sydney v. St Kilda
Sydney 0.9.5 59 def. St Kilda 0.4.5 29
St Kilda life under new boss Scott Watters began well with the Saints kicking the first goal after some promising forward pressure.
From there, the first half was a very scrappy affair and as a result, there were plenty of long kicks fed into the forward targets of Justin Koschitzke and Sam Reid.
Sydney led by 2 points at the interval and they clicked into gear early in the second period, leaving the Saints grasping for coat tails.
While St Kilda were strong in the clearances, they were not clinical enough with ball in hand. Sydney, on the other hand, began to move the ball well and kicked multiple goals.
By the time St Kilda scored their first goal of the second half, there were only five minutes left and the Swans already had an unassailable lead.
Adam Goodes was everywhere and showed that yet again he will be the lynchpin to Sydney’s success this year.
Jarrad McVeigh and Jude Bolton were both also impressive for Sydney at the stoppages while Bolton also managed to even push forward for a goal.
Tom Ledger and Jack Steven both had an impact in the midfield and look a chance to push their way into the St Kilda midfield this season.
Sam Fisher was ever reliable off the half-back line and he had a lot to do with the limited forward momentum St Kilda managed to generate.
Tom Ledger stood out in St Kilda’s midfield, he was at the bottom of the packs and won a lot of contested ball. If he keeps the form up he will put himself in contention for a spot.
Harry Cunningham kicked a couple of late goals, and showed good signs. He was able to read the play and get in the right positions.
Justine Koschitzke looked fit and although he didn’t get much of the ball, he provided a target and created a contest, the kind of signs Saints fans want to see from a player who, when up, is pivotal to the team.
Game 2 – Geelong v Sydney
Geelong 0.4.5 29 def. Sydney 0.2.1 13
Fresh from their 2011 premiership Geelong were able to continue their winning form while blooding some new talent.
Geelong were on top from the get-go, Selwood returned to the form that saw him as one of the best players in 2011 and was instrumental in Geelong’s constant forward thrusts.
Geelong also brought a different style, their free flowing, fluid movement was a stark contrast to the scrappy gameplay of the previous fixture and Sydney had no answer.
The scores were level at half-time due to Geelong’s failure to capitalise on their possession. However, they started to find their range in the second half and managed to restrict the Swans to very limited opportunities.
Sydney’s experience kept the scoreline somewhat respectable but the winners never really looked in doubt.
We also saw the use of the video review system on a touched super goal. Regardless of the dubious result, it certainly showed that video reviews are not meant for our game.
Joel Selwood was unstoppable in the first-half and at the centre of everything Geelong did well.
Simon Hogan also worked hard on the forward flank and put a lot of ball into the forward 50.
Heath Grundy marshalled the backline well and his experience showed under the constant pressure from Geelong.
McVeigh was one of the few Swans who was able to get his hands on the football around the contest.
George Horlin-Smith showed promise as a hard-working forward and was able to gather quite a few possessions.
Marlon Motlop broke the lines and showed plenty of pace, he may be a good replacement for Varco until he recovers from injury.
Harry Taylor was as reliable as ever, he was the centerpiece of Geelong’s defence and a couple of spoils and contested marks showed he is still one of the best defenders in the league.
Game 3 – St Kilda v Geelong
St Kilda 1.3.9 36 def. Geelong 1.0.6 15
Scott Watters was able to post his first win as the new St Kilda coach in a very scrappy encounter with Geelong.
The first-half was very congested with inside players such as Clinton Jones, thriving.
Both teams found it difficult to get clear and get a clean kick into the forward line which led to some frustrating inaccuracy from both sides.
Geelong’s free-flowing game was failing them and the Saints took advantage with Jason Gram’s inspirational supergoal just before half-time a timely boost.
The scrappy nature of the game continued into the second half. Stephen Milne was in his element and managed to capitalise on the broken play with two goals.
A late super goal from Geelong’s George Burbury was a mere consolation for the the Cats, who were already well in arrears.
Clinton Jones flourished in the contested conditions and looks to continue to elevate himself to more than just a tagger.
Tom Ledger again showed he is one to watch with some nice work in the packs.
Trent West was promising in the ruck and provided a good target up forward, he looks like he is capable of filling Ottens’ position.
George Horlin-Smith was again impressive on the half-forward line.
Sebastian Ross showed some good signs, and at times exhibited the skills and poise of a quality player.
Arryn Siposs made a case for selection come round one with some good delivery from the half-forward line into the forward 50.
Brett Peake is sometimes maligned by St Kida supporters but his work last night displayed that he is still a viable option for the wing/half-forward flank.