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St Kilda win first final since Ross Lyon era after holding off fast-finishing Bulldogs

The sleeping giant has woken.

St Kilda announced themselves as back in town after winning their first final since 2010 with a breathtaking 10.7 (67) to 9.10 (64) win against the Western Bulldogs at the Gabba.

The Saints displayed all of the hallmarks of the team they want to become with a powerful aerial display, a courageous attacking brand of ball movement and the knowledge that the experienced players they brought to the club were all finals-hardened stars.

For much of the game, the aerial contest wasn’t even a contest as St Kilda took an extraordinary 21 contested marks – the most by any team this season.

Teenager Max King looms as a star of the future and he absolutely dominated the air early with four contested marks and two goals. It didn’t matter that he was surrounded by Bulldog defenders, he was simply too good.

King was playing just his 17th AFL game but looked like a seasoned pro. His efforts prompted Dermott Brereton to declare King would be a million dollar player within two years.

Paddy Ryder was also influential in both the ruck and as a forward where he kicked two goals.

The Bulldogs lost key defender Zaine Cordy to an ankle injury during the second quarter but they were losing the aerial battle before then.

The Dogs struggled to stop St Kilda on the ground too.

Jack Lonie, Jake Carlisle and Jack Sinclair of the Saints celebrate after the Saints defeated the Bulldogs.
Camera IconJack Lonie, Jake Carlisle and Jack Sinclair of the Saints celebrate after the Saints defeated the Bulldogs. Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The Saints rolled the dice in defence playing high risk football as they kept the ball alive at every opportunity and tried to race the ball down the field.

St Kilda looked in awful trouble several times after putting teammates under pressure, but they found a way to extricate themselves and got the ball down the field to where the Dogs didn’t have the chance to get numbers back.

St Kilda took eight marks inside 50 in the first half and 12 for the game. They only averaged nine per game throughout the season.

The Saints led by 26 points during the third term and the game looked over. But it wouldn’t be a St Kilda final without drama and the Dogs mounted a stunning late challenge.

The Dogs showed the dare. They were the ones taking the game on and it worked with four goals to one for the term.

But St Kilda refused to be denied.

Strength and speed are a powerful combination. They are a match winning combination. They turned into finals winning combination.

Unlikely stat

Jarryn Geary is hardly a contested marking machine. The St Kilda captain was a defender and then moved forward to lock down on the opposition’s most dangerous rebounding backman. But he made the Dogs worry about him by taking four contested marks. Geary had taken only three contested grabs for the season.

Big game player

St Kilda got Dan Hannebery to the club hoping his finals experience would eventually stand out. He stepped up big time in his first final for the club. Hannebery was one of Sydney’s best players during the 2012 premiership and loves the big occasion. He was superb for the Saints with a team-high 20 disposals.

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