Saints raise the game, says coach Craig - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Saints raise the game, says coach Craig

By Daniel Brettig 04/04/2009 02:49:22 PM Comments (0)

By any measure, it was a big call.

Following his side's 32-point AFL loss to St Kilda on Friday, Adelaide coach Neil Craig declared the pressure placed on his men in possession by the Saints was a match for anything he had ever seen in a minor round contest - and it's only round two.

"The thing that won the game for St Kilda was their unbelievable pressure at the ball carrier all over the ground for long periods of the game," Craig said.

"It was as good as I've seen, in that area of the game for that length of time in a minor round game of footy - they were fantastic.

"To be exposed to that in round two of the AFL season shows us some of the areas where our game broke down.

"Secondly, it gives a lot of our players - not the Simon Goodwins of the world because he knows it - but at least half of our squad that that level does exist.

"You often don't see that level until finals and we've seen it in round two.

"That could be an indication of where the game is going."

Craig's words were high praise indeed, given what has been achieved in pressure terms by Geelong, Hawthorn, and Sydney among recent premiership teams.

But they were a fair reflection of a night in which the Crows, so fluent at times against Collingwood in round one, were cornered into the handballing equivalent of Tourette Syndrome: 225 handballs accrued against a mere 178 kicks, the majority of them hurried into at least some imprecision.

While Nick Dal Santo waltzed to 35 touches, the likes of Luke Ball, Leigh Montagna and Sam Fisher did the hard work, helping to pile up a team tally of 88 tackles, many of them contributing to a free-kick count that read 30-11 in favour of the Saints.

Adelaide's manful struggle against this pressure kept them in the contest until the final change, but the final analysis reflected a battle between a team in the prime of football maturity and one that is not quite there yet.

"St Kilda is a mature side and they've been around for a while," Craig said.

"They ended up finishing fourth at the end of the minor round last year and won their last game by 22 goals.

"The side we played have been around the place for a period of time and it looks like they've improved significantly."

Saints coach Ross Lyon could afford some measure of satisfaction, and said an off-season attempting to match up to the best in the land would continue to bear fruit.

"We're more focused on ourselves and looking to deliver on being competitive and tweaking it to make sure we can bridge the gap to the best," he said.

"It's been the focus over the summer to work hard and prepare the bodies, but it's not about size and shape, it's about attitude and at the moment we're delivering on attitude."

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