St Kilda are in peril yet again – but are their problems due to Ross Lyon’s coaching or the quality of the cattle?


So, St Kilda are a rabble again.

Although, it’s probably easier over time if we point out when they aren’t a shambles.

The Saints sit 14th on the ladder, with only, as per accepted wisdom in 2024, the clear four worst teams in the competition below them – West Coast, Richmond, Hawthorn and North Melbourne.

St Kilda finished sixth on the ladder last year, Ross Lyon’s first since returning to the club as senior coach, but the problem with a lack of scoring again overshadowed any positives that were gained.

They ranked 15th in points last season, and are ranked similarly again now. Only two teams, the Tigers and the Hawks, have kicked fewer goals.

The Saints have lost four of their past five matches, with their only win against the hapless Richmond.

Most of these games have followed the same trend of early struggles, and only starting to look dangerous when it was too late, or almost so.

Against Essendon in Round 3, St Kilda led at every change before going down, but lost every meaningful statistical category and were deserved losers.

Against the Tigers, they kicked one goal to half-time, and even that only came two minutes before the main break.

Richmond wasn’t good enough to make the Saints pay for their poor efforts in the first half, and Lyon finally got his men to release the shackles in the third quarter, before winning by seven points.

Their last three losses have all been quite similar, never really looking like winning, yet twice getting close enough on the scoreboard.

GWS led them by six goals in the last quarter before St Kilda came charging back only when there was no other choice but to play with abandon and dare.

Ross Lyon, Coach of the Saints looks dejected with his team after a loss. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The Bulldogs flogged them from start to finish, but once again the last quarter was the only one the Saints won.

It was more of the same against Port last week, only coming back after a game-high lead of 21 points was established halfway through the last term.

They have shown they can play with some attacking flair, which then sheets back to the coach if they aren’t doing it for four quarters, and only pulling it out as a last resort.

But then we’ve always known Ross Lyon coaches to not lose games, rather than to win them.

From an individual player perspective, there are a handful that have either gone backwards from last year, or haven’t come on to the level that might have been expected.

Mattaes Phillipou looks to be suffering from the second-year blues. Mitch Owens is struggling for the impact he showed he was capable of last year.

“Because he has a lot of friends in the media and because he’s a scary, intimidating figure, he gets a really good run.”@kanecornes believes there should be more criticism of Ross Lyon and the Saints. #9FootyClassified | Live on 9Now ????️

— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) April 29, 2024

Jack Sinclair and Callum Wilkie, two very different players but an integral part of the St Kilda back six, are not living up to their All-Australian reputations.

Max King has been in and out of the side due to injury and desperately needs continuity to build momentum.

Cooper Sharman is neither here nor there, and Tim Membrey tries valiantly but sometimes looks older than his 29 years suggest.

Whether Ross Lyon has the cattle to drive the Saints toward premiership contention remains to be seen.

They’ve had very few high-end draft picks over the last 15 years, and of those they have had, more have missed than hit.

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In fact, going back to the start of Lyon’s first stint at the club, they have drafted the following players inside the top 10:

Ben McEvoy (pick 9, 2007) – left to win premierships at Hawthorn.Jack Billings (pick 3, 2013) – never cemented a spot and is now at Melbourne.Paddy McCartin (pick 1, 2014) – now out of the game with concussion issues.Hunter Clark (pick 7, 2017) – perennially injured and has played 87 games in seven years.Max King (pick 4, 2018) – who should be a winner, but whose body may be made out of biscuits.Mattaes Phillipou (pick 10, 2022) – a bright talent that may not be at the right club to fulfil it.

It is a lean, lean list, for both quantity and quality.

The Saints have been more than happy to hit the trade table during that period though, bringing in luminaries such as Tom Lee, Billy Longer, Luke Delaney, Nathan Freeman, Koby Stevens, Logan Austin, Dean Kent and Zak Jones.

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Paddy Dow is the latest in the long line, crossing from Carlton last year.

St Kilda get their chance to get their season going in the next three weeks, with easy wins to be recorded against North Melbourne and Hawthorn, followed by Fremantle at Marvel Stadium.

They’d want to be banking 12 premiership points and getting back to parity.

Lyon has history against him in the longer term, given that this century, only Mick Malthouse and Leigh Matthews have been able to coach premierships in their second or third crack at it.

It’s a short list, and an auspicious one.

For too long, St Kilda have alternated between minnow and mid-table – and it’s hard to see when it’s going to get better.

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