Dal Santo pleased by Saints’ style

ST KILDA was able to play its own brand of football and get the job done over expansion side Sydney in the Swans’ first ever game, recording a 29-point victory. Saints coach Nick Dal Santo said he was proud with how his team was able to manage the road trip up to North Sydney Oval, the unique “boutique style” ground, and a passionate local crowd to post an 8.8 (56) to 4.3 (27) win.

“We know how women’s football is growing all around Australia,” he said. “But to come up here, a fantastic boutique ground, I reckon that adds to the atmosphere, and yes it’s a little bit unique by the length of it, but it felt special to have eight and a half, nine-odd thousand people here and it was a real away game, because when we did kick a goal we couldn’t quite work it out if it had missed or not, but we were judging it on the silence. “It was fortunate there was a little bit of silence from time to time. “We didn’t speak about the crowd but I felt our girls handled travelling Round 1 and the crowd really well.”

In a low-disposal, high-stoppage game, St Kilda recorded 40 more disposals (195-155) and won the hitouts (34-28) and clearances (30-28), while critically laying 27 more tackles (79-52). With an advantage in the inside 50s count (38-27), St Kilda brought the pressure upon the Swans’ defenders, laying a massive 34 forward 50 tackles in the win. Dal Santo said there were plenty of unknowns going into the game, but was glad his side could stand up under the pressure.

“I thought it was a really combative game, and competitive game, particularly early. I was really pleased with our pressure and our ability to sustain that for four quarters,” Dal Santo said. “Our pressure numbers were really pleasing and I think as a starting point that’s what we need to bring every single week and add the layers of offence and defence to that. “But I was really pleased, and from the other side of the fence I thought Sydney really took it up to us.”

Despite not knowing the Swans’ style, Dal Santo said the players focused more on what they could produce rather than trying to stop the opposition. The focus during the week was about “our style of football”.

“We wanted to be really aggressive ball-in-hand,” Dal Santo said. “We wanted to be proactive when we were defending. “Within a certain degree, and that was about us. “We weren’t quite sure what to get from them. We knew they would be competitive and we knew they have some really high-end talent and not only Montana Ham, but a handful of the other girls.

Alana Woodward was in our team last year and we know what sort of person she is, she’s an absolute star and a great human. “We knew what sort of football club that they were, but we probably focused a little bit more on ourselves to make sure we do what we wanted to get right, then we’d accomodate for the opposition along the way.”

Among the top performers were key forward Kate Shierlaw and new recruit Nicola Stevens, both of whom Dal Santo described as having “exceptional” work rates. Shierlaw had 11 disposals, three marks, five hitouts and slotted four goals in the won, while Stevens booted the first goal of the game and recorded eight disposals and laid five tackles.

“Kate’s an interesting player because her work rate never drops off and there will be days and I’m sure she will have one this year, or maybe multiple where it just doesn’t go her way,” Dal Santo said. “She’s a key forward, it’s a difficult position and the opposition often have at least one on her, but maybe an extra dropping behind the football. “What she does in my time with her is she competes really hard, her work rate is enormous, so she puts herself constantly in positions to have an opportunity and tonight she got that reward for effort.

“Her (Stevens’) work rate, her intensity, her willingness to compete is exceptional. “At training, even early days when we had limits in numbers for various reasons, so she’s been a really good addition to the team.”

Another key inclusion was Georgia Patrikios who was able to slot straight back into the red, white and black lineup like she had never missed. She recorded 18 disposals, four clearances and laid five tackles, as well as gaining 271 metres for her team. Her disposal efficiency was not her usual classiness, but it is expected that will come with time and more match fitness.

“The way that she’s embraced the football club again and the way that our football club has supported her for the last 12 months, she got back to the football club… and was embraced instantly and just got back to work and is earning respect every single session in the way she goes about her work,” Dal Santo said.

The St Kilda coach said he was pleased with each third of the ground playing its role, and being able to shut down space across the ground. After a shaky first team with both teams trying to get ascendancy, Dal Santo said her felt his team’s front half pressure “was a lot better”.

“I thought our forwards got to work, kept the ball inside the forward 50, tackled, and our mids were able to come up and support them and lock the ball in our front half which allows our defence to set up behind the football in the right manner,” he said.

“But in saying that I’m sure there will be chunks within games and games where we just feel a little bit off, and our pressure numbers were through the roof today. “Maybe the ground allowed for that a little bit more, maybe the conditions being a bit dewy meant the ball was going to be on the ground a little bit more but I was just really proud of our effort overall and the way we were willing to get after the opposition when they had it.”

St Kilda will take on another expansion side in Round 1 next Sunday, September 4 before a much bigger challenge awaits in Round 3, hosting Melbourne at RSEA Park in the Saints’ first home game of the year.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments