The Saints will aim to back up last year's finals appearance with another strong season. (Image: St Kilda FC)

Following a sixth-placed finish in 2023, will the Saints hold their spot in finals in 2024, or are they set to tumble down the AFL ladder?

2023 Overview 

Finishing well inside the top eight, the Saints’ 2023 season was a huge success. With many experts tipping them to miss the eight, they continued to find ways to win under new coach Ross Lyon. 

The Saints found themselves within the top eight for the entirety of the season – even holding down first place on the ladder between Rounds 3 and 6. 

New addition Mattaes Phillipou had an immediate impact on and off the field, earning the respect of fans from the word go. 

Liam Stocker and Anthony Caminiti also provided the Saints with an added spark; with Stocker’s bullish game style and Caminiti’s impressive ability in front of goal proving invaluable, especially at the beginning of the season. 

Transitioning to the red, white and black, Zaine Cordy was able to hone his skills towards the back end of the year in particular, proving to be a vital cog within the Saints’ defence alongside first time All-Australian Callum Wilkie.

St Kilda won over 50 per cent of its games in 2023, recording 13 wins and 10 losses – an improvement from its 11 wins in 2022. 

Throughout 2023, the Saints’ average winning margin was 25 points, whilst their average losing margin remained at 20 points, They could truly never be counted out in any game of football. 

After a hot start of four wins in a row, falling only to eventual premiers Collingwood in the first five rounds, the Saints established themselves as a finals contender and a hard-running side who proved damaging off turnover. 

Arguably their best victories came against the Western Bulldogs in Round 2, Carlton in Round 6, Hawthorn in Round 20, and Geelong in Round 23, whilst close wins against North Melbourne, Sydney, Greater Western Sydney and West Coast proved valuable in their finals push. 

Whilst captain Jack Steele was often hindered by injury, Brad Crouch stepped up in the midfield, aided by the likes of Rowan Marshall – who was named amongst the 40-man All-Australian Squad – Mitch Owens and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera. 

Even before their 2023 Elimination Final loss to eventual Preliminary finalists the GWS Giants, the Saints boasted 19 players with finals experience, and were ranked as the 11th oldest list for the 2023 season, meaning that they carry with them a great mix of youth and experience heading into 2024. 

Off-season changes 

The trade period saw St Kilda finalise the wishes of Liam Henry (Fremantle) and Paddy Dow (Carlton), who sought to call Moorabbin their home. Turning to the draft, St Kilda utilised their full range of picks to secure Darcy Wilson (Pick 18), Lance Collard (Pick 28), Angus Hastie (Pick 33), Hugo Garcia (Pick 50), and Arie Shoenmaker (Pick 62). They also used Pick 3 in the pre-season draft to acquire Riley Bonner from Port Adelaide and added Irish talent Liam O’Connell as a Category B Rookie, rounding out their 2024 additions.

To make way for these new recruits, midfielders Jack Bytel and Leo Connolly were delisted alongside Jack Peris, Tom Highmore, Dan McKenzie and Oscar Adams. Nick Coffield (Western Bulldogs) and Jack Billings (Melbourne) were traded, but the Saints’ recruits easily fill their positional voids. 

Arie Schoenmaker and Riley Bonner will be particularly important to the Saints, even if they’re not featured in the side straight away. Both midfield and defensive coverage looked to be important for the Saints heading into 2024, which they appear to have had great success in finding. 

The Saints will have greater stability heading into 2024, entering their second year in Ross Lyon’s new reign as coach. Brendon Goddard will assume a senior coaching role in a small change to their coaching group, replacing Lenny Hayes as their midfield assistant coach. 

St Kilda also parted ways with CEO Simon Lethlean last month, after he and the club agreed that the requirements and focus of the role have shifted. 

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2024 Fixture

Opening Round: BYE

Round 1: Saturday 16 March @ 7:30pm v Geelong Cats, GHMBA Stadium (Away)

Round 2: Thursday 21 March @ 7:30 v Collingwood, MCG (Home)

Round 3: Saturday 30 March @ 4:20pm v Essendon, Marvel Stadium (Away)

Round 4: Sunday 7 April @ 2:50pm v Richmond, Norwood Oval (Away)

Round 5: Saturday 13 April @ 1:45pm v GWS Giants, Manuka Oval (Away)

Round 6: Thursday 18 April @ 7:30pm v Western Bulldogs, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Round 7: Friday 26 April @ 7:10pm v Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval (Away)

Round 8: Saturday 4 May @ 4:35pm v North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Round 9: Saturday 11 May @ 1:45pm v Hawthorn, University of Tasmania Stadium (Away)

Round 10: Saturday 18 May @7:30pm v Fremantle, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Round 11: Sunday 26 May @ 3:20pm v Melbourne, MCG (Away)

Round 12: Saturday 1 June @ 2:35pm v West Coast Eagles, Optus Stadium (Away)

Round 13:  Saturday 8 June @ 7:30pm v Gold Coast Suns, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Round 14: Friday 14 June @ 7:40pm v Brisbane Lions, The Gabba (Away)

Round 15: BYE

Round 16: TBC v Port Adelaide, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Round 17: TBC v Sydney Swans, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Round 18: TBC v Adelaide Crows, Adelaide Oval (Away)

Round 19: TBC v West Coast Eagles, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Round 20: TBC v Essendon, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Round 21: TBC v Brisbane Lions, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Round 22: TBC v Richmond, Marvel Stadium (Away)

Round 23: TBC v Geelong Cats, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Round 24: TBC v Carlton, Marvel Stadium (Home)

Looking at 2024

St Kilda’s 2024 matchups look as if they will set them up for another year of success, ranked as the fourth easiest fixture by Fox Sports’ Max Laughton. 

His rankings were completed based on the 2023 ladder, with St Kilda’s double-ups including Brisbane, Essendon, Geelong, Port Adelaide, Richmond and West Coast. 

Based on the same metrics, they finished 2023 with the second-easiest fixture. So, despite this year’s matchups looking favourable, 2024 will still provide them a challenge, albeit on the easier side compared to last year. 

Their first six matches see them face old foe Geelong, having not won at GMHBA Stadium since 1999. They will also take on reigning premiers Collingwood, a rising Essendon, a new era Richmond side, a GWS side that will seek to backup their finals performance against the Saints, and a Bulldogs side that has been perpetually good on paper for a number of years. 

Contrasted to their ‘easy’ start to 2023, this will pose a challenge, and Saints fans may have to wait for reward as their side face some of it’s hardest matchups early on. In saying this, they found wins against the Bulldogs, GWS and Essendon at the beginning of 2023, matched Collingwood for the majority of their contest, and beat both Geelong and Richmond at the latter end of the year. Could they finally break their Geelong hoodoo?

The beginning of 2024 will set the tone for St Kilda’s year. In order to push for finals, three wins from these matchups will hold them in good stead, both in terms of matching the output of top teams and in terms of win-loss ratio. If they win two or less, the remainder of the year will become just that little bit more difficult, and they may begin to doubt their ability to push into the upper echelon of the competition. Four or more wins would include at least one potential upset, and less than two wins means they’ve fallen to an ‘easier’ opponent. 

Games against Adelaide, Port Adelaide and Brisbane at home will be challenging – and winning at least one of these games should be the benchmark if they wish to feature in September once again. Aside from this, the remainder of their fixture features only one trip to Perth, and the trip to Canberra in Round Four. 

Prediction: 9th

Taking into account their fixture as well as the fixtures of the rest of the competition, I do have St Kilda missing finals, but I’ll happily (and almost expecting to) be proven wrong. I estimate they will finish with 12 wins, which has them sitting 9th, just behind Melbourne at 8th on 14 wins. 

It feels as if it will be another year of the minimum number of wins to make finals increasing, but St Kilda could definitely find another win amongst their draw to break into the top eight. 

Paddy Dow and Liam Henry will have an immediate impact in the Saints’ midfield, allowing them to generate more inside 50s, and as such, allow Max King to return to a goal tally above 50. 

They’ve added the right depth in 2024, and there will certainly be a squeeze for spots. With a healthy King and Membrey, the load will be taken off Owens and Caminiti, which may see Caminiti squeezed out of the side early in the season. 

Darcy Wilson also looks likely to debut, and his speed alongside Dow, Henry, Marcus Windhager and Wanganeen-Milera, to name a few, will give the Saints an edge in 2024.

Lance Collard is another potential debutant to keep an eye on, as Dan Butler faces a possible delayed start after undergoing ankle surgery late last year. 

Mattaes Phillipou will continue to improve greatly, but I believe Windhager will be their most improved and become one of St Kilda’s most important players. 

Despite tipping them to finish ninth, there’s plenty of upside at the Saints, and their running power may see them able to overcome opponents late in the year to take some major scalps. 

Whilst all eyes seem to be on Gold Coast to finally make the eight, I believe the Saints are the team to watch.

They finished sixth last year and have added to their midfield and backline stocks – but with teams like Sydney acquiring a huge off-season haul, Carlton and Brisbane boasting a great range of depth and ideal age range and Adelaide and Port Adelaide maintaining a home ground advantage, it will be a greater challenge for the Saints to return to the eight.

It is a challenge within their reach though, and if they are to rise, it will be at the expense of the 2021 Premiers. 

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