Saints to call on veterans for insights - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Saints to call on veterans for insights

By Adam Cooper 19/09/2009 10:57:34 AM Comments (0)

St Kilda will draw on the knowledge of their foreign legion to make up for the club's shortage of grand final experience ahead of next Saturday's AFL season decider.

The Saints secured their place in the grand final with a seven-point win over the Western Bulldogs in Friday night's preliminary final at the MCG, which gives them the chance to add to their sole premiership of 1966.

Coach Ross Lyon was quick to remind his players they could still improve on the 9.6 (60) to 7.11 (53) win over the Doggies.

The vast majority of St Kilda's team will play their first grand final next Saturday, as no member of the side which beat the Bulldogs played in the Saints' last grand final, the 1997 defeat to Adelaide.

Fullback Max Hudghton did, but he currently cannot crack a game.

Lyon planned to have the build-up resemble every other week this season, like Sydney did in 2005-06 when he was an assistant coach with the Swans.

To help him do that, Lyon can call on his three assistant coaches and, aside from Hudghton, four players who have represented other clubs in grand finals.

Steven King played in Geelong's 2007 flag win, Michael Gardiner was in West Coast's losing side in 2005 and Adam Schneider and Sean Dempster were part of Sydney's 2005-06 grand final teams, for a win and a loss.

Of Lyon's support staff, Steve Silvagni played in four grand finals during his illustrious career with Carlton, Leigh Tudor played in Geelong's losses of 1994-95 and Tony Elshaug was a member of Essendon's 1985 premiership side.

St Kilda also had Hawthorn great Leigh Matthews recently address the players on what was required during the biggest week of the season.

"We had Leigh Matthews talk the other week and the principles are the same - prepare really well, stay focused and enjoy the week," Lyon said.

"We've got to come and do the basics really well - that's the message.

"When we were in Sydney you couldn't tell the difference in preparation and training from any other week, so that will be the aim."

Lyon said St Kilda still had areas to improve in after they were kept goalless in the first quarter and at times over-possessed the ball when moving into attack.

"We need to start better, we need to organise ourselves and I thought we over-finessed the ball early," he said.

"We could have kicked it in (to attack), there were about six or seven times running through the middle and we just looked for that extra use when we should have kicked it in.

"We were finessing the ball. We'd had more handballs than kicks, which is unusual for us. Less finesse early under the heat of pressure."

Outside a mishap at training, St Kilda will have no injury worries during grand final week, although several players experienced cramps towards the end of Friday night's game after having last weekend off.

Skipper Nick Riewoldt again jarred his knee, but Lyon stressed he was fine.

Riewoldt's influence in the second half was enormous as he booted four goals after half-time, including the last two of the game.

St Kilda's grand final opponents will be determined by Saturday night's clash between Geelong and Collingwood at the MCG.

Meanwhile, Hudghton appears set to miss the chance to make amends for defeat in the club's last AFL grand final over a decade ago.

Hudghton is the only member of St Kilda's side that lost to Adelaide in the 1997 season decider who is still on the club's list, but he was an onlooker on Friday night when the Saints beat the Western Bulldogs.

Hudghton, 33, is firming as the hard-luck story of the 2009 grand final week after shelving retirement plans at the end of 2008 following a favourable review from coach Ross Lyon.

But the veteran has played just seven games this campaign, with Lyon preferring Zac Dawson at fullback.

Lyon appears loath to make any changes to the side before Saturday's grand final and admitted St Kilda's progression would be bittersweet for Hudghton.

"Max is a special member of our list and our club," Lyon said.

"He'll be hurting in a sense, but he'll be thrilled, he'll be torn.

"I understand that, but we've made the calls."

Dawson was wobbly early on Friday night but improved as the game went on, and Lyon made an off-hand remark that at one point he wished he had selected the more experienced defender.

"When Zac was mismatched a couple of times I thought 'Gee whiz, maybe I should have done that (selected Hudghton),'" he said.

"But until we come through unscathed we'll make a decision and we'll pick the best team."

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