St Kilda and North Melbourne are defending their high performance practices despite both suffering from an early season bout of fadeouts.
Five rounds into the year, the Saints and Kangaroos have been the biggest culprits in coughing up three-quarter time leads.
While the Roos are winless in second-last place and St Kilda sit11th on the ladder with two wins, each would be considerably higher had every game so far this season ended at three-quarter time. St Kilda are in the top four in the “three-quarter time ladder”, while North are in the top eight.
The Saints conceded eight final-quarter goals to one against Geelong at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, falling to a 38-point loss. It was the second time in five rounds that St Kilda lost a game after leading at three-quarter time. Alan Richardson’s side relinquished a six-point advantage at the final change in round two against West Coast, ultimately falling by 19 points to the Eagles.
The Saints’ high-tempo game plan has raised eyebrows around the league, with questions raised about whether they have the midfield depth to play consistently at an intense level. However St Kilda are understood to be confident that their fitness levels and game plan are not a significant issues, feeling that they have finished strongly enough in games against Melbourne and the Brisbane Lions to be comfortable they are fit enough.
The Roos were overhauled late by Fremantle on Saturday night at Domain Stadium, having previously fallen to Geelong (round two) and the Western Bulldogs (round four) following three-quarter time leads. The defeats have brought back unfriendly memories of North’s 2013 campaign, a season in which they were plagued by fadeouts and narrow defeats.
The Roos insist their early-season losses do not have anything to do with the reduced presence of high performance manager Steve Saunders. Credited as a factor in the club’s excellent start last year, Saunders remains at the club three days a week despite living in Adelaide. He is commuting from South Australia in what the club calls a “senior performance consultant” role. It’s understood the Roos are considering whether to bring in a full-time replacement.
Having shed an immense amount of experience at the end of last season, North may be facing more tough calls on senior players, with the places of former captain Andrew Swallow and goalsneak Lindsay Thomas both in question following poor starts to the season. With the club’s finals chances incredibly slim, North could consider a further influx of youth for Saturday night’s game against Gold Coast at Etihad Stadium.
While the Roos and Saints have been left wanting late, the unbeaten Cats’ remarkable second-half record has helped catapult them to second on the ladder. If not for last quarters, Geelong would have just two wins this year. However the Cats aren’t buying into any hype about their late-game record, with coach Chris Scott playing down talk about their fitness after the win over the Saints.