NAB Cup Round 1 Preview

The Saints’ first round in the NAB Cup will be a Friday night full with plenty unfamiliar. First up, the Saints will play both Brisbane and Essendon in a Friday night triple-header, with the Saints playing in the second and third matches. This new NAB Cup format is a vast departure from previous NAB Cups, with teams only taking on one opponent, per the normal AFL season. However, in 2011 we will see 3 teams play each other in one night, in 2x 20 minute halves, as opposed to the standard 4x 20 minute quarters. The matches will also feature a number of trial rules, including a Video Replay option, with the official scorer able to watch a video replay of a potential goal which a goal umpire has been unable to clearly determine. The official scorer will then determine the score. Also among the rule changes for the pre-season cup: boundary umpires will have the ability to pay free kicks and players will have the option to take a 50m penalty from outside the arc or shoot for nine points while the holding-the-ball. In a continuation of the 2010 NAB Cup Trial, the umpire may pay a free kick against a player who drags the ball under his opponent, and may also pay a free kick against a player who holds a ball under his opponent, when he is trying to knock it out. The most dubious change however is the ‘last touch out of bounds rule’ which several AFL coaches have heavily criticised following their respective NAB Cup matches. According to the rule, a free kick will be paid against the last player to touch the ball before it went out of bounds. A free won’t be paid if the umpire is unable to determine who touched the ball last, if the ball goes out of bounds from a spoil after a marking contest or if the ball goes out of bounds as a result of a defensive smother to a kick or a handball. However, this rule is strictly for the first round of the NAB Cup, and will not continue into the NAB Challenge or NAB Cup finals rounds.

Gamble, Ledger, Crocker, Cripps, Arryn Siposs, Dean Polo

Rules aside, the Saints will unleash many new faces on Friday night. Of the Saints’ six draftees, Ryan Gamble, Jamie Cripps, Sam Crocker and Tom Ledger will put on a Saints guernsey for the first time. Also named in the initial squad are rookies Warrick Andreoli, Jackson Ferguson and Daniel Archer, with the latter coming to the Saints through the 2009 Rookie Draft and the former two just a few months ago in late 2010. A more high-profile rookie, Tommy Walsh will also make his debut in club colours after making a highly publicised switch to AFL from Gaelic Football at the end of 2009. The young All-Ireland winner was tipped to become somewhat of a Kerry legend, but decided to give AFL a shot and was drafted to the Saints as an international rookie. He was named as an emergency during the 2010 NAB Cup, but looks almost certain to line up for his first St Kilda match on Friday night. Elevated rookie Tom Simpkin is also set to make his debut after winning the Sandringham Best & Fairest as a key defender. Simpkin was rewarded with an elevation to the senior list following an impressive two years at VFL level. 2009 dratee Nick Winmar will also make his first appearance for the Saints after an injury-ridden 2010. The second-cousin of famous Saint Nicky Winmar, Nick is determined to make a name for himself and will be hungry for senior football after a string of bad luck last year. Alistair Smith played in the early rounds of last year’s NAB Cup before succumbing to injury and will be looking to push for a place in the midfield. Also young, but with some AFL match experience are Tom Lynch and Nick Heyne who will also be looking to create an opportunity for themselves with the absence of Justin Koshitzke for much of the early home and away season. The young forwards made their AFL debuts last year, but were unable to play more than 4 games between them. The rest of the list resembles more familiar faces in David Armitage, Ben McEvoy, Robert Eddy, Jarryn Geary, Raphael Clarke, James Gwilt, Andrew McQualter, Sean Dempster, Brett Peake, Jason Gram, Farren Ray, Sam Fisher, Leigh Montagna, Brendon Goddard, Jason Blake, Steven Baker, Nick Dal Santo and Steven Milne.

Notable absentees from the Saints’ first NAB Cup match include 8 Grand Final players in Nick Riewoldt, Lenny Hayes, Sam Gilbert, Adam Schneider, Justin Koschitzke, Michael Gardiner, Clinton Jones and Zac Dawson. The match also will not feature Rhys Stanley, Jack Steven and Paul Cahill, who, along with Zac Dawson were suspended by the club in the pre-season and will miss the entire pre-season campaign in what would be a huge set-back for all involved players as they will be unable to make a claim for senior selection in a side that has played in 3 grand finals in 2 years.

The Saints will go in with plenty of youth and inexperience, but this should not be a precursor for an early exit in the NAB Cup. 14 players in the line up are part of the best 22 and have Grand Final experience, and with the exception of McEvoy, have played in all 3 Grand Finals. 5 other players have also played more than 20 AFL games. And while the debutants are young, they have been training the house down, with the club reporting very favourable time trial and training results for Jamie Cripps and Sam Crocker in recent weeks. They will be young, but they will be determined.

How They Will Line Up

Tommy Walsh

The most notable weakness is the forward line, with Schneider, Riewoldt and Koschitzke all missing from the side. While Tommy Walsh played forward for Kerry, he is very certain to spend some time in defence, with Brendon Goddard and Ross Lyon publically stating that Walsh will spend some time down back. With Rhys Stanley also missing, this leaves Steven Milne, Ryan Gamble, Tom Lynch, Nick Heyne the only certain forward options. While Milne has over 200 games of experience, Gamble, Lynch and Heyne have only played 28 AFL matches combined 24 of them to Gamble alone. This will make the Saints’ forward line very weak. While Ben McEvoy and Daniel Archer will spend time down forward as they rotate through the ruck, expect the goals to come largely through the midfield, unless Brendon Goddard is thrown down there for an extended period of time.

With Zac Dawson and Sam Gilbert missing, Tom Simpkin ,Tommy Walsh, Jackson Ferguson, Will Johnson and Raph Clarke will most probably vie to fill their roles. Expect Clarke to play Gilbert’s role, while Simpkin would have fair odds of playing most of his games at full back in the abence of Dawson. Johnson and Walsh should also be able to hold down key opposition forwards, but will probably be used at half back. The inclusion of Sam Fisher, James Gwilt, Jason Blake and Steven Baker make the Saints’ backline look very solid, and should function as normal, even with a number of new faces.

The Saints’ have plenty to be excited about in terms of the midfield. While missing spiritual leader Lenny Hayes, they still have plenty of experience and pace in Leigh Montagna, Nick Dal Santo, Farren Ray, Brett Peake, Jason Gram and Brendon Goddard. While virtually at full strength, they will be supported by promising youngsters David Armitage, Alistair Smith, Jamie Cripps, Sam Crocker, Warrick Andreoli, Tom Ledger and Jarryn Geary.

Andrew McQualter, Robert Eddy, Nick Winmar and Sean Demptser will play utility roles, and could play as shut-down forwards, midfielders or even off half back.

Who To Watch

Tom Simpkin

While there will be plenty of stars and debutants on hand, keep a close eye on Tommy Walsh, Jamie Cripps, Tom Simpkin and Ryan Gamble. As mentioned earlier, they are all high-profile recruits and Walsh and Simpkin finished 1st and 7th in the Sandringham Best and Fairest respectively last year. Cripps has been training like a seasoned veteran, while Ryan Gamble will be hungry after being chewed out by Geelong, despite winning the VFL B&F. There is a place in the side for Gamble as a medium-forward with a tweaked game plan that will feature more attack, a position in the forward line is there to be taken. Gamble has the experience, but has Nick Heyne and Tom Lynch also looking for a spot, meaning he will be fighting hard to make an impression. David Armitage will also be fighting hard to get noticed after failing to break through since his debut in 2007. ‘Arma’ played just 9 games in 2010 and while he had some injury concerns late in the season, his form was disappointing for someone who has been in the system for a few years now. Once tipped as the replacement for Luke Ball, Arma was unable to step into his shoes in 2010 and will be looking for a very good pre-season performance.

Also playing will be Matt Maguire, but not for the Saints. The former defender played 99 games for the Saints before being delisted due to long-standing injury problems. The man affectionately known to Goose was drafted by the Brisbane Lions in the 2009 AFL Draft. Goose played several games last year, but the NAB Cup will be the first time the former Saints’ full back has played against his old club. Much-loved by Saints’ supporters, Goose will all most certainly be cheered on by fans of both sides.

Match Details

Match 2: St Kilda Vs. Brisbane, Friday 18 February, 8:20pm, Etihad Stadium

Match 3: St Kilda Vs. Essendon, Friday 18 February, 9:25pm, Etihad Stadium

Full Squads:

ST KILDA
1. Jason Gram, 5. Ben McEvoy, 8. Raphael Clarke, 9. Sam Crocker, 10. Steven Baker, 11. Leigh Montagna, 14. Jarryn Geary, 16. Ryan Gamble, 17. Nick Winmar, 18. Brendon Goddard, 20. David Armitage, 21. Nick Heyne, 22. Farren Ray, 24. Sean Dempster, 25. Sam Fisher, 26. Nick Dal Santo, 27. Jason Blake, 29. Tom Lynch, 30. Brett Peake, 31. Tom Simpkin, 32. Andrew McQualter, 33. James Gwilt, 35. Jamie Cripps, 36. Tommy Walsh, 37. Tom Ledger, 38. Will Johnson, 39. Alistair Smith, 40. Robert Eddy, 42. Daniel Archer, 44. Stephen Milne, 45. Jackson Ferguson, 46. Warrick Andreoli

 BRISBANE LIONS
1. Mitchell Clark, 3. Sam Sheldon, 4. Jared Polec, 8. Matt Austin, 9. Ashley McGrath, 10. Daniel Rich, 12. James Hawksley, 14. Brent Staker, 17. Claye Beams, 18. Todd Banfield, 21. Daniel Merrett, 22. Tom Collier, 23. Matthew Leuenberger, 24. Joel Patfull, 26. Ryan Harwood, 28. Patrick Karnezis, 29. Andrew Raines, 32. Cheynee Stiller, 33. Amon Buchanan, 34. Jesse O’Brien, 35. Ryan Lester, 36. Matt Maguire, 37. Bryce Retzlaff, 38. Tom Rockliff, 41. Mitchell Golby, 42. Joshua Green, 43. Rohan Bewick, 44. Aaron Cornelius, 46. Broc McCauley

ESSENDON
1. Jay Neagle, 2. Ricky Dyson, 3. Scott Gumbleton, 4. Jobe Watson, 5. Brent Stanton, 6. Angus Monfries, 7. Leroy Jetta, 8. Jason Winderlich, 9. Brent Prismall 10. Mark McVeigh, 11. David Zaharakis, 14. Sam Lonergan, 15. Courtenay Dempsey, 17. Jake Melksham, 18. Michael Hurley, 20. Henry Slattery, 21. Dyson Heppell, 22. Jake Carlisle, 23. David Myers, 24. Alex Browne, 26. Cale Hooker, 27. Luke Davis, 29. Alwyn Davey, 30. Patrick Ryder, 31. Dustin Fletcher, 32. Travis Colyer, 33. Mark Williams, 34. Kyle Hardingham, 39. Heath Hocking, 40. Ben Howlett, 41. Michael Quinn, 42. Nathan Lovett-Murray, 43. Michael Hibberd, 44. Tom Bellchambers, 45. Stewart Crameri, 46. Josh Jenkins

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