Sport AFL AFL Big Sticks: Saints alive after coaching switch
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AFL Big Sticks: Saints alive after coaching switch

Thrilled St Kilda players celebrate another key goal in their win over the Western Bulldogs. Photo: Getty
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Brett Ratten’s first game in charge of St Kilda could not have gone any better, with the upset 27-point win against the Western Bulldogs offering a solid job application.

Ratten, who coached Carlton for 120 games between 2007 and 2012, stepped up after Alan Richardson stood down during the week and helped the Saints beat a four-game losing streak.

“It’s been a big week for everybody when something like that happens and the coach is removed and people step in,” Ratten said.

For the players, I was really delighted that they got the win and the spirits are high.’’

St Kilda started with a bang on Sunday at Marvel Stadium and weathered a Bulldogs resurgence to triumph 17.14 (116) to 14.5 (89).

The Saints piled on six goals to one in the opening quarter, with Jack Lonie responsible for three of them.

It was the first time the Saints have cracked the 100-point mark this season.

While the 14th-placed Saints are out of the finals hunt, Sunday’s victory makes it three for three first-up wins this season for interim coaches.

Rhyce Shaw inspired North Melbourne to an upset win over Richmond in Round 11 and David Teague coached Carlton to victory over Brisbane the following week.

The remaining rounds are effectively an audition for Ratten, who is keen to secure a full-time appointment.

Ratten coached six games for six losses as caretaker coach at Carlton in 2007 before taking over the role permanently the following season.

He was controversially replaced by Mick Malthouse after Carlton failed to make the finals in 2012.

Scratching heads over scratchy Cats

Just when we thought Geelong had a lock on top spot on the AFL ladder along comes some mid-winter Blues and an old nemesis – Hawthorn.

The Cats were less than impressive in their 24-point upset loss to the Hawks, which put Alastair Clarkson’s men only one game outside the top eight.

Cop that: Geelong’s James Parsons gets the Tom Scully treatment. Photo: Getty 

The Hawks won with a defensive game style that bamboozled the Cats attack, despite being a man down from early in the second quarter when defender Jarman Impey went down with a leg injury

After seemingly being clear on top of the ladder and heading for finals, Geelong has won only two of five since the mid-season bye and are now just one game clear of the continually improving Brisbane Lions.

It made for another frustrating day in the coaches box for Geelong’s Chris Scott, who said there would be no panic about the Cats’ sudden inability to kick big scores.

“We’re aiming for balance – don’t kid yourself and don’t get overconfident,” Scott said. “Deal with the reality as it is.

“I don’t think we’ll go away and think now, all of a sudden, we’re hopeless and we have to throw out the way we play.

“But at the same time, we’re not going to say ‘ah, it’s one of those weeks, don’t worry about it’ … that would be a big mistake, too.”

No longer Greene, or wayward

It’s been a rocky road, but Greater Western Sydney star Toby Greene has finally embraced his role as a leader with the encouragement of his mum and teammates.

Greene became just the fifth man to captain GWS when he performed the duty in Saturday’s 47-point win over Collingwood.

With co-captain Phil Davis pulling out of the game on Friday, all five of the Giants leadership group were missing through injury.

“(Giants coach) Leon (Cameron) asked and I jumped at the opportunity,” said Greene, who couldn’t recall captaining a side since school.

“I thought it would be a great chance to stand up and it’s been something I’ve been working on over the last few years, so it was a great honour to lead the club.

“Probably mum was more happy than me, but it was a pretty cool experience.”

Cameron said the leadership group had done a lot of work with Greene and praised the player’s mother for her influence on his development.

Leadership material: Toby Greene rubs it in against the Magpies. Photo: Getty

“His mum is a superstar. She’s a star person and she probably keeps telling Toby how good he can be, not just as a player but also his experiences in helping our young group,” Cameron said.

Successfully converted from a midfielder to an All-Australian half-forward, the foundation Giant has generated his share of unwanted headlines.

He was fined $2500 for an assault on a bouncer in Melbourne in 2014 and the club fined and suspended him for drinking alcohol while injured and failing to notify it of his arrest.

Greene also incurred fines or suspensions for a variety of on-field offences including rough conduct, striking, spitting, misconduct and umpire contact and attracted scrutiny for his kung-fu style of kicking in some marking contests.

Greene acknowledged he would have been an unlikely candidate for a leadership role in his early years at GWS.

“I certainly wouldn’t have been given the opportunity a few years ago,” Greene said.

“It’s something I’ve been working on behind the scenes, but I’ll continue to work on it. Hopefully I won’t have to do it again this year.”

-with AAP