Kane Lucas is one of the Blues' big improvers this season. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/Michael Klein
Last Five Matches
Round 23, 2012 – St Kilda Saints 106 d Carlton Blues 91 (Etihad)
Round 7, 2012 – St Kilda Saints 122 d Carlton Blues 98 (Etihad)
Round 24, 2011 – St Kilda Saints 86 d Carlton Blues 66 (MCG)
Round 7, 2011 – Carlton Blues 84 d St Kilda Saints 81 (Etihad)
Round 7, 2010 – Carlton Blues 129 d St Kilda Saints 68 (Etihad)
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On the television commentary during last Friday night’s 26-point loss to Collingwood, it was observed St Kilda is a “good, ordinary team”. In other words, they’re not a poor team, but Scott Watters’ outfit at this stage is nothing more than a competitive side amongst the also-rans of the AFL. They’ve pushed Richmond, Sydney and Collingwood close, at times, without ever looking like real winners. Even this early in the season, the top 12 looks decidedly better than the bottom six, of which the Saints are well and truly a part of.
Their hopes of getting better in the immediate future nosedived in the warm-up against Collingwood when inspirational midfielder Lenny Hayes went down with a calf injury. He’s out for at least another fortnight, and with fellow veteran Nick Dal Santo going through probably the worst patch of his career, the Saints are light on for quality mids.
All season Carlton fans have been waiting for key forward Jarrad Waite to return. His comeback from injury lasted one week, although this one-week layoff this time is self-inflicted after he head-butted Melbourne’s Tom McDonald. Given the form of the club’s small forwards – Eddie Betts and Jeff Garlett kicked another four each at the weekend – Waite’s absence won’t be as keenly felt as it may have been previously and Chris Yarran remains part of the forward setup this week after overcoming a niggling hamstring problem. Andrew Carrazzo returns from a short injury layoff but Bryce Gibbs is still missing.
(Saints) Leigh Montagna – He is four months older and came to the Saints 24 picks later than midfield mate Nick Dal Santo in the 2001 draft, but there seem to be light years between them now, given the way Leigh Montagna is finding the ball compared to his equally well-credentialled teammate. While Dal Santo looks ponderous, at times, Montagna hasn’t missed a beat since missing the opening round loss to the Suns on the Gold Coast. He’s averaging almost 28 possessions per game and probably had his best outing of 2013 in the loss to Collingwood, racking up 30 touches and six marks. Remarkably, he had eight more disposals than the next best Saint in that game, David Armitage. With no Lenny Hayes, Montagna’s presence is even more important to the Saints.
(Blues) Kane Lucas – He has been on the periphery of Carlton’s best 22 since he was taken with pick 12 in the 2009 National Draft, but only now is Kane Lucas really establishing himself as an important part of the Blues’ line-up. The winger has pace and a penetrating right foot, but has previously looked as though he lacked the toughness and desire to succeed at this level. Much like Mick Malthouse did with Dale Thomas a few years back, the Blues’ boss has made turning the winger in to a top-level player a priority, and it appears to be bearing fruit. He was very good against Adelaide the week before and outstanding against Melbourne where he picked up 29 touches and seven marks. Lucas has recorded 20-plus possessions in three games this season, and not surprisingly, they’re the three matches the Blues have won.
St Kilda has won its past three clashes with Carlton, but two of those victories have come in the final round of the premiership season. In 2012, both teams were out of finals contention, whereas in 2011, the Blues and Saints had both already secured their place in the finals. Nick Riewoldt continues to defy age and a niggling knee problem, producing another five-star effort against Collingwood last week, and probably more than anyone, he’ll appreciate the 10-day break. He can’t do it all by himself, and the Saints need more quality and better output from across the board to turn these competitive efforts in to four premiership points. Blues by 21
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