Pies, Saints face massive test in replay - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Pies, Saints face massive test in replay

By Roger Vaughan 26/09/2010 03:00:41 PM Comments (0)

Imagine how the 44 players involved in the AFL grand final draw felt when they woke on Sunday morning.

Once it registered that no, it wasn't a nightmare, they must have laid in bed for a few moments feeling utterly shot, mentally and physically.

And here is the unique challenge for the two clubs ahead of next Saturday's replay.

In a sense, everything that happened before Sunday is now irrelevant - form, reputation, even the grand final itself.

Everyone now re-starts at the same point, where they must regroup as quickly as possible.

In all manner of ways, it really is nil-all.

Think of two cars stuck in mud, the wheels spinning madly, trying to gain traction.

In his post-match media conference, Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse was soon mentioning David Buttifant, their head of conditioning.

Buttifant and his St Kilda counterpart David Misson plus the psychologists and the rest of the support staff at the two clubs now become almost as important as Malthouse and Saints coach Ross Lyon.

The week will be a massive test for Malthouse and Lyon as they oversee the rejuvenation of their players, to say nothing of themselves.

Outwardly, the two coaches looked calm enough post match - Malthouse studious, Lyon cracking jokes.

Perhaps Malthouse has an edge because he has been involved in finals draws before, but Lyon can put absolute faith in his team's mental toughness.

The Saints' self-proclaimed "bubble" has held time and again this season following a string of on- and off-field challenges.

As for the grand final, Collingwood know they should have blown St Kilda away in the second term.

But St Kilda know they were somehow able to hang on, despite that dire second term, and nearly snatch the premiership.

And Collingwood's one weakness this season, their goalkicking, is back with a vengeance as a major issue.

Selections will again be massive on Thursday.

Saints ruckman Michael Gardiner appears certain to be out with a hamstring injury, with Ben McEvoy his logical replacement.

Also, Justin Koschitzke and Jason Blake shared the back-up rucking role admirably.

Another concern could be Steven Baker, who came in for McEvoy after a lengthy break.

It is often said that the toughest game for a player coming back from a layoff is not the first one, but the following week.

The Saints will monitor his recovery with particular interest.

For Collingwood, key defender Simon Prestigiacomo is in a race against time after his late withdrawal from the grand final with a new hip problem.

Malthouse also said veteran Tarkyn Lockyer, one of their emergencies, was very close to a recall for the draw.

Especially early in the year, AFL coaches love saying the season is a marathon, not a sprint.

But these seven days will be a mad dash for the Magpies and Saints.

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