Saints urged to seize AFL finals moment

St Kilda’s inexperienced finals combatants have been urged to draw inspiration from one of their opponents in Friday night’s AFL semi-final against Richmond.

The Saints fielded 14 players without any previous finals history in a narrow win over the Western Bulldogs last week – the club’s first finals appearance in nine years.

But coach Brett Ratten said the lack of games played at the business end matters little to his side as it seeks to bring down the curtain on the Tigers’ premiership defence.

Ratten pointed to Richmond’s fairytale flag star Marlion Pickett, former Hawthorn champion Dermott Brereton and ex-Carlton teammate Matthew Hogg as players who have stepped up in big moments despite their relative inexperience.

“We’ve spoken about everyone’s opportunity,” Ratten said.

“Finals series, whether it’s your first final or first game for the year, you look through history and it’s littered with people who have come in and had an impact.

“All the way back to Dermott, you can go through ’95 with Matty Hogg or last year Pickett with the Tiges.

“People are going to get these opportunities and it’s whether you can grab them with both hands and make the most of it.”

The Saints have been dealt distractions in the build-up to the Metricon Stadium clash, including losing much-loved veteran Paddy Ryder to a season-ending hamstring injury.

Key defender Jake Carlisle withdraw from this week’s team for family reasons, with his heavily pregnant partner due to give birth, and Ben Long lost his tribunal appeal over a one-match suspension.

“We’re just trying to keep everything normal … we didn’t get bogged down by it,” Ratten said.

“We let others play their roles and do what they had to do and just waited to hear what happened (with Long’s appeal).

“I didn’t take any momentum from us.”

Ratten is hopeful Carlisle will be available for a preliminary final, if St Kilda qualify.

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