St Kilda coach Brett Ratten has declared some players will be dropped and others are on their “last chance” after a horror post-bye run that led to some serious soul-searching and honest feedback from players to each other at Moorabbin this week.
A finals-bound 8-3 record before the bye has become 9-8, with five losses in their past six matches by an average margin of 35 points. The Saints have fallen outside the top eight, if only by percentage, following a meek first half in last week’s 28-point loss to the Bulldogs.
After the defeat, Ratten spoke to his players for more than half an hour and then the leadership group led another warts-and-all review of the past month in which players gave honest appraisals of each other and vowed to take responsibility for their on-field actions.
Ratten was more matter-of-fact on Thursday ahead of a must-win clash against West Coast in Perth on Sunday, putting players on notice to perform now or lose their place in the team with St Kilda’s finals hopes at stake.
“Some players will be on their last chance. We can’t accept some of those performances. Some players have been pretty good players, but that’s where (the) footy’s at,” Ratten said.
“We’ve had a few discussions about our team. There are some players that have been spoken to already and there are some that will be out of our team for the weekend and some will be on their last chance.
“If they stay in the team, they will be lucky and have a chance to respond, and if they don’t stay in the team, they will have to work damn hard to get back in.
“That’s not just about our young kids whose form fluctuates, these are players that are in our team that have been around for a while and we need a lift. We need more from them in regards to how they go about it.”
Ratten conceded there was a lack of on-ground leadership last week and hoped all the talk resulted in a response.
“We found the challenging of each other to lift wasn’t there,” he said.
“The good teams of the competition are the ones that actually ask the question of their teammate to spark them into getting into gear. When they’re challenged, it’s not just about going insular, you’ve actually got to talk more and ask more of your teammates.
“Hopefully, we get a response.”
Ratten said he was yet to make a call on how to replace ruckman Paddy Ryder, with his co-tall Rowan Marshall ill but expected to play against the Eagles.
“Big Ro (Marshall) will do most of the work and Tommy Campbell is in good form, but we could experiment with something else as well,” he said.
“(Rowan’s) just a bit crook, no Covid. He’s tested four times and he’s been negative. He has had a bit of a workload over the last few weeks that we’ve just managed.”
The Saints appear likely to regain Seb Ross from AFL health and safety protocols, while Hunter Clark trained well on Thursday to put his hand up for selection three weeks after facial surgery.
Veteran Dan Hannebery will play at least another week at VFL level after returning from his continued injury setbacks, and Ratten was bullish the pair could be in consideration for round 20 against Hawthorn.
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