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Five talking points: St Kilda v Melbourne

Peter Ryan  March 23, 2014 1:25 AM

1. Quality footballers know how to win
St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt is a champion and he proved once again that while he is up and running the Saints will always be competitive. He kicked three goals – including two in the third quarter – and took 12 marks as he ran until he was exhausted. Importantly, he gave his inexperienced teammates a target as well as the confidence to compete. Although Melbourne was unfortunate that Tom McDonald suffered an ankle injury, which allowed Riewoldt off the leash, he has a presence that no Demon possesses.  Alongside him were finals-hardened senior players in Clint Jones, Sam Gilbert, James Gwilt, Sean Dempster and Farren Ray who worked from start to finish as though they had a point to prove. In the end, it was that experience that Melbourne could not match. 
2. Melbourne's unwanted records remain
Melbourne entered the game with the prospect of putting to rest several losing streaks. It had not won in round one or two since 2005. It had not beaten St Kilda since the 2006 elimination final and its losing streak at Etihad Stadium had stretched to 16, with its most recent win being in round 19, 2007. Nathan Jones was the only player in the team who had also played in that elimination final and he had never been part of a winning team in round one. Unfortunately the Demons failed once again to end those losing streaks. In fact, they could set a new League record for the longest period without a win in round one or two if they lose to West Coast next Sunday at the MCG. Melbourne has not beaten the Eagles since round 14, 2009. 

3. New eras at both clubs but new Saints provide the highlights
Six players played their first game for Melbourne as new coach Paul Roos began his two or perhaps three-year tenure as the Demons' coach. The only players making their debut were mature-aged rookie Alex Georgiou and small forward Jay Kennedy-Harris as Dom Tyson, Viv Michie, Daniel Cross and Bernie Vince had joined the Demons from other clubs during the off-season. It continued a period of enormous change for Melbourne and round one showed it will take the team time to work cohesively. 
The Saints had only one recruit - Luke Delaney from North Melbourne - and three players - Eli Templeton, Luke Dunstan and Jack Billings – making their debut. Templeton provided a highlight in the second quarter with a give and go that led to a goal at the 13-minute mark. It was an exciting moment for Saints' fans and the roar demonstrated that he, at least, had captured the imagination of St Kilda fans. By contrast, Jack Billings looked certain to kick a goal with his first kick (and become the 227th player in AFL history to do so) when he ran into an open goal but unfortunately the ball cannoned into the post. Alan Richardson, appointed after pre-season began, was the latest arrival and he now has a 100 per cent winning record as coach. 
4. McDonald battled on but was it worth it?
Melbourne defender Tom McDonald copped a corked thigh in the first quarter and left the ground for treatment. He returned in the second quarter but was hampered, and hobbled in Riewoldt's wake after half-time. The situation became worse when Melbourne lost tall forward Jack Fitzpatrick in the second quarter and McDonald could not be subbed off. Eventually, the wounded McDonald was pushed forward but he could have no impact, leaving the Demons to effectively play with 17 fit and effective men on the ground for most of the second half. It was a brave effort from McDonald and saved a rotation but it is debatable whether his presence on the ground was a positive or negative. 
5. Watts looks set for a big year
Playing on Sean Dempster, Watts worked between the forward line and the midfield. He played with confidence and flair at time and showed why Paul Roos is keen for his teammates to get the ball in his hands. He managed to set up a goal for Shannon Byrnes in the third quarter and a kick in the last quarter set up Jimmy Toumpas who was able to put Matt Jones in a position to score. Unfortunately, his teammates were not as efficient in their use of the ball – which is a concern given Melbourne had 60 more disposals than the Saints – and were unable to penetrate the scoring zone in a manner that put Demons in dangerous positions.