Round 21 Match Preview: Geelong vs. St Kilda

By Nick Ciantar

twitter: @nick_saint13

Round 21

Etihad Stadium, Friday 7:50pm

Geelong:

Geelong fought gallantly against the Eagles last round, however they just lost by 5 points. Geelong lost the contested possession by 17 and also lost the hit outs by 42. The Cats will value the return of Trent West, however they did come up against the in-form ruck duo of Nick Naitanui and Dean Cox. Geelong is strengthened by the return of James Kelly, Joel Corey, Paul Chapman, West and Josh Hunt.

Jimmy Bartel is an underrated Cats player and he is crucial to the team’s structure. He can play in the midfield, float across half back and even half forward. His durability and ability to mark above his head is a big asset to his game. His statistics are lower than previous years though it’s his work rate and valuable experience which is underrated.

St Kilda:

St Kilda comfortably defeated the Demons last round by 25 points. St Kilda lost star forward Nick Riewoldt in the first quarter to a knee injury and is out of this week’s clash. Beau Wilkes was the shinning light for the Saints with five goals. In his best game of the year, he marked strongly and provided another avenue for goal when Riewoldt was subbed off.

Lenny Hayes is the ‘heart and soul’ of St Kilda and is vital to St Kilda’s midfield. He leads the club with disposals, contested possessions, clearances and tackles this season. Hayes may be 32 years old, but he is in career best form.

Key Players:
Geelong:

Jimmy Bartel, Joel Selwood, Steve Johnson, Tom Hawkins, Josh Hunt.

St Kilda:

Lenny Hayes, Beau Wilkes, Stephen Milne, Nick Dal Santo, Jason Blake.

Who’s Missing:

Geelong:

Travis Varcoe, David Wojcinski, Allen Christensen.

St Kilda:

Rhys Stanley, Nick Riewoldt, Clint Jones.

Key Match Ups:
Jimmy Bartel vs. Lenny Hayes:

The two stars of their respective teams will line up on each other at some stage during the evening. Their most famous encounter was the 2009 Grand Final, when Bartel tagged Hayes from the 2nd quarter onwards and defeated him after Hayes had an extraordinary first quarter. There may not be a direct tag, however they are the players to keep your eye on during the night.

Josh Hunt vs. Stephen Milne:

If Stephen Milne kicks 5 goals, St Kilda will win. With Adam Schneider returning, Milne will play 99% of the game up forward. Hunt and Milne have battled over the years and Milne has a slight advantage. It is the most crucial match up on the night, as it will decide the result.

Prediction:
St Kilda need to win for a chance to make finals and Geelong need to win to cement a spot in the final eight. Both teams match up statistically well, however the loss of Riewoldt will hurt the Saints. Geelong leads the competition with marks inside 50, with Tom Hawkins leading individually with 71. Riewoldt sits 3rd with 55 and the Saints are 5th overall. Hawkins has 48 goals (5th overall) whilst Riewoldt is right behind with 47. For the Saints to win, they need to limit Hawkins’ marking power and the Saints need to find another key forward. Wilkes and Koschitzke are vital to St Kilda, as they are the only available talls for the Saints.

Both teams boast a strong midfield. The Cats have Bartel, Joel Selwood, Joel Corey, James Kelly and Steve Johnson. The Saints have Hayes, Nick Dal Santo, Leigh Montagna, David Armitage and Brendon Goddard. Both midfields have battled over their years of dominance and are both evenly matched. Both teams’ midfields average age is 27.8 and the battle will go down to who can perform better on the night.

Both teams have won 3 of their last 5 games this season with the losses against the top five teams. In their last five encounters, Geelong has won 3. The midfield battle will be immense however the game will go down to both teams’ forward lines. Hawkins is in career best form and may be too powerful for St Kilda’s ‘short’ defence of James Gwilt, Sam Fisher and Tom Simpkin. Wilkes and Koschitzke will need to be at their best for the Saints, whilst Milne will be vital when the taller forwards bring the ball to ground. Both teams are evenly matched, however Geelong’s tall forwards will be too strong for the Saints.

Cats by 7 points.

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