St Kilda are looking to push into the top four on Friday night when they face a struggling Essendon side at Marvel Stadium, but the Saints will be taking nothing for granted.
St Kilda are going well and are the hot fancies to defeat the Bombers, who have lost the last four games on the bounce and are sat in 16th place on the ladder.
But the Saints have paid the price for underestimating Essendon in the past. Just over 12 months ago Ben Rutten’s side had lost their opening two games of their season before smashing St Kilda by 75 points in the next one.
The AFL can throw up some surprises and the Bombers will be out to spring another one when they take on sixth-placed St Kilda in the big Friday night game.
What: St Kilda v Essendon
Where: Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
When: 19.50 (AEST), Friday 17th June, 2022
How to watch: Channel 7, Foxtel, Kayo
Odds: St Kilda 1/4, Essendon 3/1
St Kilda boast an 8-4 win-loss ratio heading into the game and could jump up into the top four with a positive result against the Bombers.
The Saints are in decent form heading into the game. They have won three of the last five games and the two defeats have been against premiership contenders Melbourne and Brisbane.
That would suggest there is still quite a bit of work to do if St Kilda are to bridge the gap between themselves and the very top sides in the AFL. But when it comes to seeing off the lesser teams Brett Ratten’s men have been pretty ruthless.
Brisbane beat St Kilda by 21 points last week, but before that setback they had won three games on the spin. That included an impressive 10-point win over fellow top-four hopefuls Geelong.
They then managed to beat Adelaide and North Melbourne with ease.
After the game against the Bombers, St Kilda have a really tough run of games. They must play the Sydney Swans, Carlton and Fremantle who are all going well this season.
But in the build up to the Essendon clash, Ratten says they only have one focus. And that is the Bombers. He points out they cannot take their eye off the ball or they will be stung. Just like last year.
Team news. St Kilda’s chances of picking up the win have also been boosted by some good news coming from the treatment room.
Zak Jones looked set for a spell on the sidelines after picking up a hamstring injury against the Lions, but scans showed no damage and he has been given the all-clear to play.
Exciting youngster Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera will also return, but there is no place for Mitch Owens and Daniel McKenzie after they suffered concussions against Brisbane.
Essendon made the top eight and played finals in 2021 so hopes and expectations were high among the members heading into the new campaign.
Another finals appearance was the aim, but unfortunately for everyone involved they have gone in the opposite direction. The Bombers have picked up just two wins from their 12 games so far.
Only the struggling West Coast Eagles and North Melbourne sit below them on the AFL ladder. The pressure is mounting on coach Rutten who badly needs a result on Friday night.
Rutten has also found himself in the spotlight this week, when after the defeat against Carlton last week he told his press conference that Jake Stringer had been ‘poor’ and they needed more from him.
Rutten has defended the comments and says his relationship with Stringer is good. Whether his public shaming of the player has the desired effect, only time will tell. But one thing is certain, Essendon could do with Stringer stepping up to the plate.
His stats against Carlton did not make happy reading so Rutten was pretty fair with his assessment.
Essendon have lost the last four, including the 26-point loss to Carlton, but Rutten says they have learnt lessons from that game and will look to put things right against St Kilda.
Team news. The Bombers chances of causing an upset against St Kilda have been hit by the news that gun midfielder Darcy Parish will miss out with a corked calf.
It is a huge blow for Rutten who says the player has been unable to train this week and will have to sit out.
There is some good news though as Andrew McGrath makes a timely return following a adductor strain and he will help cushion the blow of losing Parish.