Saints aim to bolster forward line - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Saints aim to bolster forward line

27/02/2009 09:14:00 PM Comments (0)

St Kilda are hopeful of adding another tall forward to an already imposing AFL forward line after Sam Gilbert impressed in Friday's practice match win over the Western Bulldogs at Princes Park.

Gilbert, who established himself last season as a defender, booted two goals to be the most effective forward in a scrappy match played in hot, windy conditions, which the Saints won 8.13 (61) to 5.5 (35).

Justin Koschitzke also made good position and took several strong marks in his first game of the campaign, but let himself down with bad kicking.

In a poor standard match given both sides reached preliminary finals last year, the most pleasing factor for both clubs was the return of key players.

Lenny Hayes and Steven Baker also played their first games of the pre-season for St Kilda, while the Bulldogs welcomed back Jason Akermanis, Ryan Griffen, Mitch Hahn and Robert Murphy.

St Kilda coach Ross Lyon was encouraged by the agility of Gilbert, who he said could complement Koschitzke and captain Nick Riewoldt as marking targets in attack.

"If we can team defend pretty well it takes the pressure off another legitimate tall and we'll be able to (play him forward)," Lyon said.

Lyon was also pleased by the return of Baker, who played only two games in 2008 because of suspension and persistent knee troubles.

"He's a 28-year-old (best and fairest) winner, he's a hard nut and opposition forwards probably don't like playing on him," he said.

"He's had a rough road with injury and suspension, but to see him come back and have that competitive spirit ... he's a really important player for us, so we're keen to graduate him through and get him into the season."

Riewoldt is yet to play this summer after knee surgery, but the Saints are hopeful he could play a half against Richmond in Shepparton next weekend.

The Bulldogs began the better, but their trademark skill was noticeably absent, and coach Rodney Eade admitted he did not know where.

"Normally a coach in this position, you've got all the psychological reasons and we can wheel them out to make excuses," he said.

"I know it was a little bit swirly today, the wind, but it was lamentable and most of the skills were not under a lot of pressure."

Eade said getting some experienced players back was the only positive to draw from the game.

Bulldog half-back Lindsay Gilbee fainted at half-time because of the heat but was fine after the match.

The Bulldogs play Sydney in western Sydney next weekend.

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