Pressure, pressure and more pressure; that’s been the key to St Kilda’s excellent recent form.
After a slow start to the season – only two wins from their first eight games – the Saints have won seven of their last nine, including the scalps of Geelong and the Western Bulldogs.
All of the seven victories have come at Etihad Stadium, a venue the Saints have quickly made a fortress again. Before this winning streak, they had won only five of their last 24 at the ground.
Coincidentally, their most recent loss at Etihad came against North in Round 7. It was a game the Roos seemingly had in hand until a late surge led to a thrilling finish.
St Kilda’s midfield, and Jack Steven in particular, has stepped up in recent weeks.
Steven is on the way to completing an All-Australian calibre season, averaging more than 29 disposals, six tackles, five clearances and five inside 50’s per game, while also hitting the scoreboard.
The last two times North has faced the Saints, Ben Jacobs has been able to tag Steven successfully. But the Roo is still a couple of weeks away from returning to action, meaning there’ll have to be a Plan B to thwart his influence.
Elsewhere in the midfield, Seb Ross has enjoyed a breakout season. In his fifth year at the Saints, the 23-year-old has already set individual season-highs in just about every single statistic.
He was another who was slightly down on his normal numbers the last time the teams met.
So the Roos can expect a much improved performance through the centre of the ground, combined with a St Kilda forward line with the capability to put high scores on their opposition.
Tim Membrey leads St Kilda’s goal kicking with 34, but in only 12 games. He’s kicked 11 of those in his last three matches, and plays much taller than his listed height of 188 centimetres.
With the availability of Paddy McCartin uncertain as he returns from a concussion, it’s likely Membrey will be alongside Josh Bruce in the forward 50, with Nick Riewoldt roaming both close to goal and further afield.
At 33 years old, in his 16th season at AFL level, Riewoldt is putting together one of his best years.
His 161 marks for the year is a tally no-one else in the league comes close to. The next best is Carlton’s Sam Docherty on 137.
Being released more on a wing at times during the season has given the St Kilda captain a freedom he’s relished. Averaging more than 20 disposals a game, it’s a number he’s never before had for a season.
One of his best matches of the season came against North in Round 7 as he kicked four goals, collected 24 disposals and took 16 marks.
It all adds up to a dangerous forward line, and one the Roos’ defenders will have to be on high alert for throughout the entire 120 minutes.