We have broken down the teams predicted to finish bottom four, but before we start the next preview the recent bans for Essendon players will see them finishing 18th in this set of previews. Move Brisbane, Carlton, Melbourne and Gold Coast up one spot each while St.Kilda are picked to finish 13th. Read on to find out why.
St.Kilda – 13th
The Saints have one of the more impressive young lists in the league, supported by a small number of experienced players and they will expect further improvement in 2016. A look at their best 22 provides an insight into a side built for 2018, but one that should be more than competitive in 2016.
B: Jimmy Webster, Sean Dempster, Sam Gilbert
HB: Dylan Roberton, Sam Fisher, Shane Savage
C: Jack Billings, David Armitage, Jack Newnes
HF: Nathan Freeman, Nick Riewoldt, Seb Ross
F: Paddy McCartin, Josh Bruce, Jack Lonie
R: Billy Longer, Jack Steven, Leigh Montagna
I/C: Luke Dunstan, Maverick Weller, Jarryn Geary, Jack Sinclair
Riewoldt shows few signs of slowing down and should play his 300th game in Round 2, an amazing achievement for a player whose work ethic, commitment and leadership is the admiration of many and a role model for every budding young player. Riewoldt averaged almost 10 marks and a couple of goals a game last season as he thrived from the development of Bruce, arguably the most improved tall forward in the competition last season.
Bruce played every game and kicked 50 goals, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the additional scrutiny that will surely come his way this season. If he can replicate last season’s efforts it will assist Riewoldt as he looks to get through his 15th season.
Young gun Paddy McCartin will look to demand more game time in his second season and looms as a strong third tall forward option, while any number of players will rotate through as small forwards. Among them will be recruit Nathan Freeman, who will look to repay the faith shown in him by the Saints. Freeman is a highly regarded talent and happy to turn his back on Collingwood despite them developing him through the injury-ravaged first two years of his career.
Forward line rating – 4/10
High profile recruit Jake Carlisle will not play after the findings in the Essendon supplement saga, leaving a gaping hole the backline but one that can be covered through veterans Fisher and Gilbert. Along with Dempster, they complement the youngsters perfectly and will hope to allow Roberton and Savage to play with flair.
These veterans are tough one-on-one competitors who will fancy their chances of containing most opposition forward lines. The likes of Newnes and Geary provide dour support to this backline while Hugh Goddard is an intriguing option sitting just outside the best 22 who may force his way into the team and can play in the backline, if needed.
Backline rating – 4/10
Armitage and Steven were two of the more impressively, under-the-radar midfielders in 2015 and will look to continue to improve as two of the senior players in this group along with the indefatigable Montagna. The depth of quality youngsters in the midfield group is reflective of a struggling club with a number of high-draft picks on its list; Billings, Weller, Ross, Dunstan and Sinclair provide depth and skill while Longer will be looking to improve on a solid 2015 and establish himself as the number 1 ruckman.
As a young developing side, the fact that the Saints rank 8th in disposal efficiency and committed the third most clangers is not a surprise but something that must be fixed. The onus is on them to further improve their disposal efficiency if they are to persist with an uncontested possession game style; alternatively they need to develop their contested game as they ranked just 14th in contested possessions per game.
Midfield rating – 5/10
They play just two finalists from 2015 twice and double up against likely bottom four contenders Essendon, Melbourne and Carlton in what is shaping as a very favourable draw. They travel interstate just five times, the least possible for a Victorian-based club but they face a tough first month with games against the Bulldogs, Port Adelaide and Hawthorn.
For a young, up and coming Victorian based club this is a dream fixture and one which should enable them to improve on 2015.
Fixture rating – 7/10
Alan Richardson is in one of the more enviable coaching positions in the league, given the talent at his disposal. From all reports, he has earned the respect and admiration of the playing list and his honest approach has seen him well-liked within the football industry. Richardson has won just 10 games and draw one in two full seasons of coaching, and while these numbers are far from ideal he is not getting judged on his winning record.
Coaching rating – 4/10
Expectations are low as this is a side primed to be successful in a couple of years’ time, and they were very rarely non-competitive in 2015. With another pre-season of development in the list and veterans still providing good service, the Saints will be looking to win around 8 games and figure to sit above the bottom four, but towards the bottom end of a bunch of sides between 10-13th on the ladder.