Thrilling matches, tense finals, huge marks and a series of unforgettable storylines made the 2019 AFL season one to remember.
The evenness of the AFL’s top bracket of sides was shown by the fact just one win separated Geelong, who finished first, and the fifth-placed West Coast, while Greater Western Sydney went from sixth to reach the grand final after a stunning September run.
It was Richmond who would ultimately win the premiership, their second in three years, Damien Hardwick’s side finishing the season full of momentum.
A new campaign brings fresh hope for all 18 clubs, though, and our 2019 season reviews take a look at what went right, what went wrong, each side’s best players and how every club can improve.
The next team in the spotlight is St Kilda.
- Ladder position: 14th
- Win-loss ratio: 9-13
- Percentage: 83.9
St Kilda Football Club AFL 2019 Season Performance Review
Four wins in their first five matches had St Kilda fans bullish but it was a false dawn, coach Alan Richardson sacked after Round 17, St Kilda just winning a further two games to that point. Richardson had been at the Saints since 2014 but had never led the club to the finals. Two runs of four losses in a row were particularly damaging for Richardson. Ex-Carlton coach Brett Ratten came in on a caretaker basis and led the Saints to successive wins, but they lost three of their last four to finish 14th on the ladder.
St Kilda’s 40-point win over 2018 preliminary finalists Melbourne at the MCG was a day to remember for Saints fans. The football world did not know how much the Demons would struggle in 2019 at that point and the victory gave the Saints four wins by Round 5, with a five-goal-to-none third term setting up the victory. Jack Billings, Seb Ross and Shane Savage all won plenty of the football, while Tim Membrey and ex-Demon Dean Kent kicked four and three goals respectively. At that point, it looked like the Saints could make a serious finals push. Later in the season, the 27-point win over the Western Bulldogs in Ratten’s first match in charge as a caretaker coach was memorable.
St Kilda’s trip to China to play Port Adelaide was a disaster, the Saints losing by 70 points at the Jiangwan Stadium in Shanghai. Port set up the win with a seven-goal second quarter but they piled on the goals throughout the contest, finishing with 22 majors in what was a one-sided rout. The Saints did not have one player who won more than 25 disposals against a Port side who had seven players kick multiple goals.
The best and fairest
Consistent midfielder Ross took home the Trevor Barker Medal for the second time, winning 170 votes for a strong 2019 in which he averaged 26 disposals per match. Ruckman Rowan Marshall, who improved dramatically in 2019, finished second, one vote ahead of ex-GWS midfielder Jack Steele. Jack Billings also got better in 2019 and finished fourth, ahead of Tim Membrey in fifth.
Ross won 12 votes at the 2019 Brownlow Medal, finishing in a tie for 28th in the count. Billings’ improvement was shown with 11 votes, while Marshall caught the attention of the umpires and was given seven votes to leave him in a tie for 53rd.
No Saints were named in either the 40-man provisional squad or the final 22 but the likes of Ross, Billings and Gresham will all consider themselves a chance of featuring in 2020 if they can put together strong seasons.
The goal kickers
Membrey continued to lead the way for the Saints in the forward half, kicking 44.17 from 22 matches. Membrey’s accuracy in front of goal was a feature of his efforts and he got good support from Josh Bruce, who kicked 36 goals. Bruce was traded to the Western Bulldogs, but the Saints have several other forward options ready to step up.
The reason to be hopeful
A super trade period brought midfielders Bradley Hill and Zak Jones to the club, in addition to big men Dougal Howard and Paddy Ryder and small forward Dan Butler. The Saints had to give up players to get them all in, with Jack Steven, Bruce and Blake Acres moving on, but Saints fans should be delighted with the off-season work. Many of St Kilda’s best players are still young and with a new coach on board, optimism is high that the Saints will at least contend for a finals spot in 2020.