The team Peta Searle pulled together for the Saints this year impressed game after game. The players that emerged as pillars for the inaugural side will undoubtedly continue to improve, making them a sure side to watch out for in 2021.
2019 finish: -
2020 finish: 5th (Conference B)
In a Nutshell
Five premierships at the Darebin Falcons, assistant coach at Port Melbourne, the first woman to coach a men’s AFL side as assistant at St Kilda. Peta Searle had been waiting a long time to take the reins for St Kilda’s first AFLW season.
The crucial distinction in Searle’s list was the de-prioritisation of top-tier stars. St Kilda’s open-age recruits were by no means A-graders at their original clubs and that was why they were signed: Searle wanted role players who had a point to prove and knew how to fit into a team’s structure and adjust as required.
Searle’s two years as coach of the Southern Saints at VFLW level provided a cohesive nucleus for her side in personnel, game plan and culture. Tenacity and discipline were the key traits of St Kilda’s attack on the ball and structure: the Saints won contested possessions and rebound 50s and caused more turnovers than they committed in four matches and were the highest scoring expansion side with an average of 26 points a game.
The Saints opened with losses to the Bulldogs and Crows. By season’s end, you would have backed them to beat both sides. Their first win came in a Round 3 thriller over Melbourne with 21-year old key forward Caitlin Greiser announcing herself as the new hero for Saints’ fans. St Kilda finished the home and away season by annihilating Richmond as all the stars of the present and future dominated.
St Kilda has passed its first season with flying colours. Greiser, Georgia Patrikios and Olivia Vesely earned Rising Star nominations, giving St Kilda the most gongs of any team. Patrikios, Vesely and Rosie Dillon formed an on-ball brigade that played with confidence beyond its years. Competition leading goalkicker Greiser will be one of the game’s premier forwards for a long, long time. Down back, Tarni White ruled the roost with an average of 11 touches and four marks before an ACL injury cruelly struck her down in Round 4.
The evenness of St Kilda’s list structure translated into perhaps the most promising expansion side of 2020. Searle’s players risked taking the game on and were not chastised when the gambits didn’t come off. Who knows how far the Saints will climb the ladder with another year of experience? There is no reason to rule theR St Kilda of 2021 out of taking it up to the best sides in the competition.