The quality of Toby Greene’s disposals, rather than the quantity, will pose the biggest threat to St Kilda in Canberra on Friday night, according to Saints coach Brett Ratten.
Greater Western Sydney’s superstar co-captain will make his long-awaited return to senior footy at Manuka Oval after serving his six-game suspension for making contact with umpire Matt Stevic in last year’s elimination final against the Swans.
The Saints are prepared for Toby Greene’s return.Credit:Getty Images
Ratten said Greene would be a key part of the Saints’ planning and that he wasn’t preparing for anything less than the champion small forward’s very best as the Giants seek to keep their season alive after winning just one of their first five games.
“I suppose the big thing is he’s been out for six weeks and he would’ve done work back at home and done a fair bit,” Ratten said.
“But he’s got to front up and play and the pressure will be hot, he is a star of the competition when you talk about him.
“So we’ll monitor what he does and his influence on the game. It might not be about quantity for him, it might be just all quality – that’s what he is – so we’ll have to watch that as well.
“Great player, but he’s one of 22 for them so we’ll have things in place.
“We really respect him as a player.”
St Kilda will regain Jimmy Webster for the clash, but will have to do without Zak Jones for at least another week.
Jones returned through the VFL last week, after taking time away from the game to deal with personal issues. He performed strongly and was on the verge of a senior recall, but he entered COVID-19 protocols during the week after contracting the virus from his wife.
Webster comes back after exiting those same protocols.
“He had a bit of a cough and a bit of a splutter just to get a bit of phlegm off the chest, but he’s good,” Ratten said.
The St Kilda coach will return to the coach’s box after he was also forced to sit out the Saints’ win over Gold Coast last week due to COVID-19.
“I’m good, it took a few days to get over, but it was just like a head cold and on you go,” he said.
“It was just a headache and a bit of runny nose but all good.”
The Saints have made a barnstorming start to the season, winning four games in a row to sit fourth on the ladder with a 4-1 record.
Ratten’s fill-in last round, assistant Brendon Lade, revealed that a team conversation following their loss to Sydney last year sparked the club’s turnaround in form.
Since that chat, the Saints are 9-6, and Ratten described the meeting as “pivotal”.
“We probably haven’t strayed too far from that conversation with our focuses and what we’re aiming to do,” Ratten said.
“That’s been in the forefront of the players’ [minds] and the staff and everybody around what we want to do, and we don’t need to change too much.
“We went through some key areas and what we wanted to do and where we rated ourselves against where we want to be, and it showed some gaps in our performances.
“We were a lot like snakes and ladders last year in the early part – we would take two steps forward and one back.
“We’d play a good quarter, we’d play a good half, we’d play a poor half, and we’d win one week and then we’d lose the next.
“It was just a good break, pause, just to reflect.”
Meanwhile, Ratten was all for the crackdown on umpire dissent that became a huge talking point last round due to the inconsistent application of the new interpretations across the nine games.
“I think it’s fantastic, I really applaud the AFL for making a stand,” he said.
“We’re 6000 umpires short in community level and we need umpires out there.
“I went the other week to watch my son play and there was a 15-year-old umpire and every decision he made, nobody booed or cried out, they just let him umpire and it was so pleasing to see and that’s what we want.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time to get used to it, but you look at other sports and other codes in Australia and around the world, the respect for the umpire is critical.
“It is the damn hardest job there is.”
Ratten also confirmed that youngsters Marcus Windhager and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera would keep their spots in the side to face GWS after making promising starts to their careers.
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