There was a similar controversy in last year’s finals series when Greater Western Sydney’s Adam Kennedy knocked the injured elbow of Brisbane Lions star Charlie Cameron behind play.
Kennedy was pinged for a free kick, with umpire Shaun Ryan describing his actions as contrary to the “spirit of the game”, but received no further sanction. AFL guidelines allow for players to be fined for making “unreasonable or unnecessary” contact with an injured player.
In 2010, St Kilda’s Steven Baker copped a nine-week ban for repeatedly targeting the injured hand of Geelong’s Steve Johnson – who, on Saturday, sat in the Sydney coaches box as an assistant coach.
Outside of that moment, there was plenty to like about Saturday’s performance for St Kilda fans. Backing up last week’s impressive victory over Port Adelaide, the Saints made light work of the depleted Swans, punishing them for their profligacy both in front of goal and around the field.
The 15.11 (101) to 6.12 (48) result is their third victory in a row, their sixth from nine games this year, and their first over Sydney since May 2012. It also marked just the fourth time since the AFL’s restart that a team has posted a triple-figure score.
The Swans were coming off a quality win of their own against Hawthorn last week. They had their moments but failed to make enough of them count, and simply didn’t have the class to keep up with the Saints, who kicked 6.5 to 1.2 in the final term to blast open the floodgates and throw off a nagging challenge from Sydney.
Nick Hind and Max King booted three goals each for St Kilda, while Dan Butler, Jade Gresham and Josh Battle chipped in with two.
“The last quarter was brilliant. The Hind performance in the game was a real standout and one for him to really get his career going,” Saints coach Brett Ratten said. “He grabbed that game by the scruff of the neck … that’s a real nice game for him to reflect and say ‘that’s what I can do’ and get some confidence from it.”
Days after making an emergency relocation to a Brisbane hub to escape the COVID-19 outbreak in NSW, the Swans made a bright start and took an early lead through first-quarter goals from Tom Papley and Tom McCartin, who finished with three goals.
But the Saints kicked the next six majors to assert themselves on the contest, making the Swans pay in clinical fashion for wasting a glut of attacking chances at the start of the second term.
Ollie Florent finally got one back for Sydney right on the half-time siren, his goal bringing the margin back to a rather flattering 22 points at the long break – a deficit they were unable to claw back.
“That’s what the reality of playing younger players is,” coach John Longmire said of Sydney’s in-game inconsistency. “But there’s also got to be a standard we have to keep driving … we’ve got to keep making sure no matter what we do, we get better at it.”
In the end, it was the Swans’ heaviest defeat of the year. Jake Lloyd and Luke Parker once again led the way, finishing as the two leading possession-getters on the ground, but there were too many passengers and not enough contributors in red and white.
Papley was quiet, and well held by Ben Paton, but just being on the field was an achievement. The in-form small forward was mourning the loss of a friend during the week who took his own life, and was close to tears on Fox Sports earlier on Saturday as he explained why he would be wearing a black armband.
“It’s tough,” Longmire said. “These blokes, people just watch them on television but they’re human and they’ve got things that happen in their lives as well that we have to try and deal with. In this time [during the pandemic], it makes it that much harder because you can’t see people, you can’t help.”
ST KILDA 3.3 7.4 9.6 15.11 (101)
SYDNEY 2.1 3.6 5.10 6.12 (48)
GOALS – St Kilda: M King 3, N Hind 3, D Butler 2, J Battle 2, J Gresham 2, H Clark, J Geary, Z Jones
Sydney: T McCartin 3, C Sinclair, O Florent, T Papley
BEST – St Kilda: Steele, Gresham, Hind, Jones, Clark, Billings, Paton
Sydney: Parker, Florent, McCartin, Lloyd, Cunningham
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.