Walking wounded Saints clawed by Cats

SINKING to their third straight loss, St Kilda Saints were unable to turn the tide against an impressively fierce Geelong outfit during a 50-point defeat in Round 5 of the AFL Women’s yesterday. In a result that marked not only Geelong’s highest score, but largest win as well, the Cats ran out 11.5 (71) to 3.3 (21) victors, as the visitors only scored one behind in the first half, and three behinds outside the third term.

St Kilda coach Nick Dal Santo said the Cats were far too good on the night, and though the Saints had managed to battle well around the clearances, were outplayed in “multiple areas of the game”.

“I thought initially it was the contest. I think the clearance was roughly even particularly in that first half, I think we finished minus-four overall, but the contested possession in general they beat us around the ground,” Dal Santo said.

“I thought their work rate, their ability to get from contest to contest, to have supporting numbers and then use their handball, their handball receives were in the mid-80s so that’s extremely high. I think we were roughly half of that, so I thought their ability to overlap and run, that it all started from their ability to compete and then inside 50s they were really efficient.”

The Saints did manage to win the third term however, kicking three of the last four goals of that quarter, but trailed by 45 points before kicking their first major. Though facing a 39-point deficit at the main break, Dal Santo believed his side was still in the contest.

“I thought our response after half-time was better, particularly in those two areas I touched on, the contested possession and minimising a little bit of their handball receives that the Cats had tonight,” Dal Santo said. But unfortunately it felt like the damage was done.

“I didn’t necessarily feel like we were completely out of it at half-time even though we had a lot of work to do and rightly so, we had to get going quite a bit. But I thought our response was better, but once again similar to maybe the last couple of weeks, we’re having a quarter, a half that’s putting us under a lot of pressure.”

Though the result was history making for the Cats, the shining light for the Saints in terms of history was the debut of J’Noemi Anderson. Though the teenager only had the one touch, Dal Santo said even that one touch caught the eye, and that she has an “infectious” personality around the ground, and one to watch for the future.

“She has this infectious smile, I’m sure you’ve seen that. She loves to dance, she’s a great person around the football club, but more than that she loves football, she loves competing, she’s ultra-aggressive at the football and the opponent,” Dal Santo said.

“There were a couple of moments of that today, and I even thought her first possession where she sidestepped her opponent and put it to the top of the goalsquare was really impressive. I mean she’s a young player so you’ve got to slow down their expectations of her, but we’re really excited for what she could be for our club.”

St Kilda is now on a three-game losing streak after beating bottom two sides Sydney and Hawthorn in the opening two rounds. The Saints take on Collingwood next Saturday, October 1 at RSEA Park in what will be another huge challenge or the club that is battling a bit of an injury crisis. Ruck Erin McKinnon and Olivia Vesely both copped headknocks via the ground and in a clash of heads respectively, while Nicola Xenos – having a torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury before – came off with knee soreness.

Dal Santo said the three players who were taken out of the game were largely for precaution and they would know more once scans and tests were done as to their future availability.

“We’ve got a bit of an injury list, and we’ve also got three ACLs at the top of that injury list which clearly make it difficult with selection, but that’s our situation and we’re not the only football club that’s going through challenges in regards to numbers,” he said.

“We’ll wait and see how the girls recover off the back of today’s game, Molly McDonald will be right to go in a couple of weeks time, but we’ll put our best team out there. “Our group’s highly accountable as we are as coaches as well, to what we believe in, and we’ll give it our best shot in the next couple of weeks.”

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