Sport AFL Saints face huge task against Dockers

Saints face huge task against Dockers

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The second-placed AFL side against the bottom team, this isn’t going to be pretty.

St Kilda have lost 13 of their 16 matches this season and, on Saturday, host premiership contenders Fremantle at Etihad Stadium.

The Saints kicked three goals in their 59-point loss to North Melbourne in Hobart last week, while Fremantle are on an eight-game winning streak.

“With a young group, with a group that hasn’t tasted success for a while, we have to keep drilling into the positives,” St Kilda assistant coach Danny Sexton told AAP this week.

“We were really happy with some of the roles that took place.

“Shane Savage was very, very good on Nick Dal Santo.

“Maverick Weller had a really good battle with Ben Cunnington.

“We were really happy with Luke Delaney playing against his old side, to keep Drew Petrie to one goal.

“We’ve got guys like Jack Newnes, Weller, Luke Dunstan, Tom Curren, these types of guys who aren’t the household names but they’ve got to start somewhere.

“We’re going to get on the front foot towards Fremantle and see where it gets us.”

Dockers gun Nat Fyfe.

Fremantle have rested ruckman Aaron Sandilands because of back soreness, while star forward Hayden Ballantyne will be absent due to suspension.

Former All-Australian defender Luke McPharlin is one of four inclusions alongside ruckman Jonathon Griffin, half-forward Matt de Boer and key forward Matt Taberner.

Ruckman Billy Longer comes into the St Kilda line-up along with Josh Bruce, Josh Saunders and Brodie Murdoch.

While onballers David Armitage and Lenny Hayes were prominent for the Saints last week, they face a difficult assignment to out-gun the likes of Nat Fyfe, David Mundy and Nick Suban.

“They’ve got strength all across their midfield. You’re not going to be able to run with all of them,” Sexton said.

Fremantle coach and former St Kilda mentor Ross Lyon has paid tribute to the 34-year-old Hayes, who has announced he’ll retire at season’s end.

Lyon says the 2010 Norm Smith Medallist is a special player.

“When everyone was fatigued and exhausted, Lenny could dig deep and find a bit more and that’s really what separates the great players,” Lyon said.

Delaney is a likely match-up for Fremantle’s six-time All-Australian Matthew Pavlich.

“I think they go to Pav about 30 per cent of the time,” Sexton said.

“Luke has had a super season for us, especially his last four or five weeks.”