Why former AFL coach is “really bullish” on St Kilda in 2023

Former Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson is bullish on St Kilda with the side 8-4 through 12 games in 2023.

With the Saints holding the AFL’s second-best defensive record in Ross Lyon’s first year back at the helm, Sanderson has been impressed with how the side constantly keeps their opposition to low scores.

After going 1-2 from Round 9 to Round 11 as they looked to get more offence into their game, the Saints returned to their defensive ways in Round 13 against the Swans to pull off an impressive win.

Sanderson liked how the Saints were able to go back to their stingy ways in that win as the Swans were held to just 66 points.

“We know how good they are St Kilda defensively and they have been for a long time under Ross,” Sanderson told SEN Whateley.

“But sometimes you have to give up something to get something else.

“In his own words, in their ability to try and find some more offence, it was at the expense of their defence.

“So, they returned to their stingy ways, and they were so good around the contest again St Kilda and their ability to be able to create turnovers in their front half and score back going the other way and provide pressure for so long … they’re going to always keep low scores it feels like St Kilda.

“They’re never going to be out of a game if they’re behind, but as a St Kilda supporter, you would be quite nervous because you never feel like you can put the foot down in offence and blow a side away.”

While some have queries over St Kilda’s ability to really compete with the best teams, Sanderson is bullish on Lyon’s side as two of their losses came in close results against the number one and two ranked sides in the competition.

“But I’m still really bullish on St Kilda,” Sanderson said.

“I know a lot of people, even though they’re in the eight still, they’ve only had four losses and some of those losses, they only lost to Collingwood by six points and against Port Adelaide they only lost by seven points.

“I guess the Crows loss by 52 and the Hawthorn lost by 10 points made people sort of put the microscope on them and say they’re not really a contender, but they are doing so many things so well, particularly in that defensive side of the game.”

Given how impenetrable the Saints have looked on occasion this season, Sanderson expects them to feature right at the pointy end of the 2023 campaign.

“Ross has developed a defensive scheme which is almost impossible to penetrate if the Saints are in the right mood to execute it,” Sanderson.

“We’ve seen that this year they had that really poor performance against the Crows and they were disappointing against Hawthorn, but otherwise, their wins have been excellent.

“As I said, they had losses to Collingwood and Port Adelaide, the two best sides at the moment in the competition by a goal so is really quite impressive.

“They’ve still got some stuff to work on, but I think they’re going to be right at the pointy end of the season.”

St Kilda go in search of their ninth win when they face Richmond at the MCG on Saturday night.