St Kilda has had a dismal record since last reaching the AFL finals in 2011.
The Saints finished down in 14th place last season with three wins and three losses after Brett Ratten came in as a caretaker coach for Alan Richardson.
With nine wins and a respectable percentage of 113.1 St Kilda has now climbed into sixth place on the 2020 ladder under Ratten’s tutelage.
The club can cement a place in the play-offs by being victorious in the clash with West Coast at The Gabba on Thursday night.
The Eagles are fifth with 10 wins and a percentage of 115.1 but the odds might be slightly in favour of the Saints.
St Kilda’s 14-point victory over Hawthorn last Sunday was not a particularly physical game while West Coast had a gut-sapping encounter when going down by two points to the Western Bulldogs that night.
While Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson, who seems to be becoming increasingly cynical, was critical of St Kilda’s mark-and-kick game. The Saints did enough to win and that is all that really mattered.
Both sides go into the match with a string of injury worries but West Coast will have Nic Naitanui back after his late, and probably costly, withdrawal from the team playing against the Bulldogs.
Naitanui, who dominates the ruck duels, will be too strong and powerful for St. Kilda’s No.1 ruckman Paddy Ryder.
However, the Saints will be able to put Rowan Marshall up against the West Coast big man.
Marshall, who stands 201cm tall and weighs 106kg, has the power to at least be competitive with Naitanui in the ruck and he will be more useful around the ground.
Added to that St Kilda has a solid defence which should be able to limit the scoring opportunities for West Coast’s star forwards Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling and Liam Ryan, who were starved of chances against the Bulldogs.
In the final analyses Ratten’s men can win.
Then on Friday night comes the blockbuster between Geelong and Richmond at Metricon Stadium.
The Cats are second with 11 wins and a very healthy percentage of 145.1 while Richmond are fourth placed with 10 wins, plus a draw and a percentage of 123.6.
Providing St Kilda wins the Tigers will become seemingly secure in the top four but if the result goes West Coast’s way success will be vital to Richmond’s top four, and hence premiership, prospects.
Richmond goes into the confrontation with a decent break after defeating Fremantle by 27 points while the Cats were untroubled in downing Essendon 66 points last Sunday.
The Tigers were not especially impressive against the Dockers, however, to use a racing term they can “find a length” when it is needed.
Although, so can Geelong’s Brownlow Medal winner Patrick Dangerfield.
Dustin Martin, who seemed to coast along against Fremantle, will lead the way for Richmond with reliable back up from Trent Cotchin, Daniel Rioli, Jack Higgins and company.
A great deal will depend on the goal scoring achievements of the rival forwards.
The Tigers have Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt while the Cats have the very powerful Tom Hawkins spearheading their attack.
Hawkins is, arguably, playing in the best form of his career and Richmond’s players up the ground will have to try their hardest to stop him having repeated opportunities.
If they can’t Richmond problems will compound.
Last Week Tipped: 6
St. Kilda by 10pts
Geelong by 18pts
North Melbourne by 6pts
Port Adelaide by 38pts
GWS Giants by 23pts
Carlton by 20pts
Western Bulldogs by 30pts
Sydney by 12pts
Collingwood by 16pts