‘Unacceptable’: Ratten turns to players as Saints’ finals hopes fade

St Kilda coach Brett Ratten said how his side responds to the devastating loss to Adelaide in Cairns would be a true test of his players, who now deal with the prospect of missing the finals this year.

The Saints have fallen to a 5-8 win-loss record heading into this week’s bye after wasting a six-goal lead to fall to a one-goal loss to the Crows on Saturday night.

Saints coach Brett Ratten and assistant Jarryd Roughead watch on during the round 13 clash with the Crows in Cairns.Credit:Getty Images

Having kept Adelaide scoreless in the first term for only the fifth time in Crows history, the Saints had led by six goals early in the third term when Brad Crouch converted against his former club. But it would prove to be the Saints’ final goal in wet and humid conditions.

The Crows booted the final seven goals, including two in the final term from emerging key forward Riley Thilthorpe – the first after a controversial free kick against Dougal Howard, and the second, a match-winner, when his miracle left-foot snap over his head with a minute remaining gave the Crows the lead.

Ratten was left to rue a final term where his side was crunched in contested ball.

“We were plus-20 at three quarter-time in contested ball, and we lose a game by minus-23 or something – minus-23 in a quarter, we are just not strong enough and hard enough,” he said.

“This is unacceptable. This is something that hurts us this year. It’s been a bit of an issue for us with momentum.”

Ratten, frustrated by another close loss, said how the Saints respond to this defeat would be another test for his players.

“I think this is more about where the players want to go with it, their footy personally and, hopefully, that affects us collectively,” he said.

“For three quarters, we were pretty good. The game doesn’t stop at three quarter-time. That, for us, has been an issue this year. To just give away huge numbers in stats and momentum, we just have to keep working at it.

“We will find out a lot about our list and personnel this year and, hopefully, it can put us in good stead for what is to come. But we are going to be working extremely hard.”

Riley Thilthorpe kicks the match-winning goal against the Saints.Credit:Getty Images

Saint Hunter Clark faces time on the sidelines after he had his jaw broken in a sickening collision with Crow David Mackay when both men were attacking the football in the second term. Clark lay on the ground for several minutes and was bleeding from the mouth when he left the field. The incident is set to be reviewed by the match review officer. Ratten said he had not seen the incident.

The Saints face what shapes as a treacherous month when their season resumes, for they open with Richmond, and then have Collingwood, Brisbane, Port Adelaide and West Coast.

“It’s going to be an unbelievable result for us to make it (finals), especially with our percentage,” Ratten said.

“And the quality of players we have out doesn’t make it easy.”

Having returned to the finals last season and won an elimination clash against the Western Bulldogs, the Saints had been tipped to even challenge for the top four this season. But poor form, including a 111-point loss to the Bulldogs in round 10, goal-kicking issues, injuries and, now, understandable player absences because of hub life in Sydney have put the club under immense pressure.

The Saints walk from the field after giving up a commanding lead against Adelaide.Credit:Getty Images

President Andrew Bassat even issued a letter to members and supporters after the debacle against the Bulldogs, raising eyebrows when he declared that the list profile of the side indicated “that our genuine (premiership) window would more likely start in 2022 than 2021”.

That was at odds with the Saints’ approach in recent years, when they secured established talent from rival clubs in a bid to vault up the ladder.

On the injury front, the Saints hope defenders James Frawley (shoulder) and Darragh Joyce (concussion), Dan McKenzie (calf), Shaun McKernan (toe), Rowan Marshall (plantar fascia) and Leo Connolly (shin) are available immediately after the bye, or soon after.

However, Zak Jones (quad) and Dan Hannebery (calf) are likely to remain sidelined for longer.

Hannebery has not been since last year’s finals series, having hurt his calf in January and recently suffering a relapse.

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