After both suffering defeats, one expected but disappointing and one surprising, the Gold Coast Suns and St Kilda will both be out for their first win of the season at Etihad.
The Suns took a heavy beating from the Crows at Metricon Stadium, continuing their losing streak at their home patch.
They once again failed to quell the influence of Scott Thompson, who has 124 disposals in three games against the club. St Kilda suffered a hard-fought but very disappointing loss to Port Adelaide, who had an awful 2011 season.
St Kilda started poorly, but Port Adelaide started strongly and it could have gone either way. The Suns on the other hand, did little to show they had really improved on 2011 and it’s hard to see them challenge a finalist with such a strong group of veterans like St Kilda has at hand.
Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett ran rampant against the Crows collecting 42 disposals and booting 2 goals. Ablett desperately needs mature assistance from Michael Rischitelli this weekend, and the young brigade of David Swallow, Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy need to stand up.
They welcome back Trent McKenzie who was good in his first year, but lose important forward and ruckman Daniel Gorringe who is out with an Achilles injury.
The Saints have lost Dean Polo to suspension and have dropped Farren Ray and Brett Peake, bringing in youngsters Tom Simpkin, Tom Ledger and Jack Newnes (who will make his debut). They’ll be hoping they can assist the likes of Terry Milera, who made a promising start with the Saints.
Clint Jones vs Gary Ablett – Jones is the most able, hardened tagger the Saints have and will most likely run with Gary Ablett. Ablett will no doubt still influence the game heavily, but if Jones can slow him then it instantly gives the Saints the upper hand.
Nick Riewoldt vs Steven May – Riewoldt doesn’t look to have yet regained his vintage form but still kicked two goals last weekend. A day alongside the inexperienced May could let him have the freedom he needs for a game to break the shackles. If Matthew Warnock is put on him then he might have a more hardened body to contend with.
Ben McEvoy vs Zac Smith – Smith had a fantastic first season as a young ruckman, moving with great athleticism and booting goals for his side. Can he take that form to another level this year?
He faces a great test against another strong young ruckman in McEvoy. Without the support of Gorringe and with Josh Fraser named as an emergency, he faces a tough task.
Hickey may provide limited backup, but if Smith can relish the role as essentially his side’s solo ruckman, then he could be a key to the Suns bridging the gap.
Where will the goals come from for the Suns? They still lack a forward target, even moreso with Gorringe out of the side. Campbell Brown has proved a decent small forward, but the Suns simply cannot rely on a resting ruckman and their midfield brigade to kick a winning score.
A key position forward must stand up but Tom Lynch does not look ready and Charlie Dixon is not playing.
If Riewoldt gets going, with assistance coming from Milne and Koschitzke, the Suns’ defence will be stretched too thin to counteract the scoreboard pressure.
Stanley, Milera, Brendon Goddard, Nick Dal Santo, Leigh Montagna, Jack Steven and Ledger are all chances to hit the goalkicking sheets if the floodgates open.
Obviously this is another development season for the Suns and St Kilda look to be going a somewhat similar way with their selections. The problem is that St Kilda still have a core group of very strong players who are proven winners, while the Suns are too reliant on one man.
Saints by 36.
B: Jarryn Geary, Sam Gilbert, Jason Blake
HB: Jamie Cripps, Sam Fisher, Sean Dempster
C: Nick Dal Santo, Lenny Hayes, Brendan Goddard
HF: Jack Steven, Nick Riewoldt, Terry Milera
FF: Stephen Milne, Justin Koschitzke, Rhys Stanley
Followers: Ben McEvoy, Clinton Jones, Leigh Montagna
Interchange: David Armitage, Tom Simpkin, Tom Ledger, Jack Newnes
Milestones: Jack Newnes (Debut)
Gold Coast Suns:
B: Jarrod Harbrow, Matthew Warnock, Jeremy Taylor
HB: Maverick Weller, Steven May, Jared Brennan
C: Matt Shaw, David Swallow, Dion Prestia
HF: Harley Bennell, Tom Lynch, Luke Russell
FF: Campbell Brown, Tom Hickey, Brandon Matera
Followers: Zac Smith, Michael Rischitelli, Gary Ablett
Interchange: Karmichael Hunt, Trent McKenzie, Josh Caddy, Aaron Hall
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