David Armitage sprints away during the Saints two point loss to the Bombers on Sunday. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac.

Young and fearless Saints making huge strides

Alex Patterson


 

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A youthful St Kilda side is starting to find its feet after a heartbreaking but encouraging loss to the Bombers over the weekend.

The Saints were coming off heavy losses to both Collingwood and Carlton, in which they simply faded away at crucial moments.

On the weekend, they played with a lot more heart, belief, and flair. It was perhaps a midweek meeting between the playing group that sparked them into action on Sunday against the Bombers.

Coach Alan Richardson demanded his players to be braver when challenged, after starting games well.

Against Essendon, they did just that, falling agonisingly short at the final hurdle.

Jack Billings, Jack Lonie and Josh Bruce were among their best against the Dons, and while they still made mistakes at times, they also stood up in decisive moments.

Vice-captain David Armitage spoke to AFL.com.au after the game and said a meeting was held with the younger players, offering advice on how to deal with opposition comebacks.

“It was more for the younger guys who had played a handful of games, and we sat down and asked, ‘what’s going through your head when teams are coming back at us?’

“For instance, in the Collingwood game, they kicked three or four really quick ones and we were still up by a goal or two [the young saints] were walking back to their positions thinking, ‘Oh no, they’re coming’ but we were still in front.

“Instead of thinking that, we want them to think, ‘why don’t we put the foot on the throat and we kick the next goal?’

“It’s just about a change in mindset.”

In the absence of Riewoldt, the Saints have been well led by the 26-year old who is averaging a career high 31 possessions per game this year.

The question is whether others will follow suit to go into battle with the dominant midfielder. The game against Essendon went some way to answering that question.

This weekend marks the perfect opportunity for the young Saints to show their worth against another young and improving side in the Western Bulldogs, who are sitting third with a 4-1 start to the season.

St Kilda will be hoping that experienced superstars Nick Riewoldt (calf strain) and Leigh Montagna (knee) can overcome their respective injury problems to be fit to face the Dogs.

Adding these two to a side that is starting to show its worth may just be the edge they need to knock off the fast and aggressive Bulldogs.

It still is going to take time for the club to return to its glory days of 2009-10, however, that time is going to be a lot sooner than many predicted at the end of last season.

If and when Riewoldt decides to hang up the boots, the club can be confident that Armitage is the man to fill his boots and lead the Saints back to the big stage.

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