St Kilda are bracing for their sternest test of the AFL season against a desperate GWS side buoyed by Toby Greene’s return.
The free-scoring Saints are in hot form ahead of Friday night’s clash in Canberra, having catapulted into the top-four on the back of a four-match winning streak.
But a query on their 4-1 record is that they have not yet played against any of last year’s top-eight sides.
Semi-finalists in 2021, the Giants have struggled in a 1-4 start to the new season and are already fighting to keep their September dream alive.
“We expect a big battle,” St Kilda forward Max King said.
“They’ve had a few results that didn’t go their way but they’re still playing pretty good footy at times.
“There’s no doubt that up in Canberra they’re pretty familiar there and they’re going to come out and try to make a statement, so we’re ready for a really tough game.”
One of three GWS co-captains this year, matchwinner Greene will make his comeback after serving a six-match suspension for intentional umpire contact during the 2021 finals series.
“He’s a great player, one of the best players in the competition,” King said.
“It’s something for our defenders and midfielders to think about.
“He definitely adds a bit to their team but we know regardless that they’re going to come out pretty hot and it’s going to be a tough contest.”
The heat is on St Kilda to return to the finals after club president Andrew Bassat boldly declared during a disappointing slide to 10th spot last year that 2022 is when the premiership window will open.
The Saints have already put themselves in a strong position to return to September action but King said they won’t get ahead of themselves.
“We still have really high standards of each other so we’re still going out there and putting pressure on ourselves that we can be one of the best teams,” King said.
“I wouldn’t say there’s heaps of freedom but I guess it does help when you win that you get a bit of momentum and you try to keep that rolling.”