Saints score a scorcher

St Kilda's Tom Lee thumps home a shot on goal in the Saints NAB Cup win over the Melbourne Demons on Saturday at Casey Fields. 95433 Picture: JARROD POTTER

MELBOURNE and St Kilda christened Casey Fields as the AFL’s newest NAB Cup venue with a 25-point win to the Saints in scorching conditions.
With the mercury hitting peaks no one wants to see at a football match, the AFL scrapped its contentious interchange rules for the weekend, allowing both sides to have six players on the interchange.
After kicking out to a promising lead early in the first term, St Kilda started working its way back via supergoals (nine-point goals kicked from beyond the 50m arc and only available in the NAB Cup) to Nick Dal Santo and young midfielder Jack Newnes just before half-time – opening the floodgates to register a 31-point lead at the main change.
In what was effectively a home-town match for the Saints veteran goal-sneak, Stephen Milne snagged three goals in the second quarter and gave the crowd a bit of his usual theatrics as the Saints marched away with the match.
St Kilda’s local draftee Nathan Wright claimed a prime viewpoint from the stand in the shade – rested after playing the first two matches of the pre-season – said he wished he could always live only five minutes away from an AFL ground.
The promising signs came for the Demons, just not via the scoreboard – as number four-pick Jimmy Toumpas and 17-year-old Jesse Hogan both made an impact some of their first showings for the club.
St Kilda did what it had to in the second half, firing off another four goals to seal the deal in a scorching scene at Casey Fields.
Melbourne’s new roster additions this season stood out in the heat – with David Rodan in and under the packs for 13 possessions while Dean Terlich impressed the coaching staff with 16 touches and six marks out of the backline.
Despite the heat making it tough to watch winter’s favourite sport, 5011 keen AFL fans piled in through the turnstiles at the Cranbourne sports complex, sending a message to the AFL that football will have strong patronage should it return to the venue in the future.
Playing at home was a boon to Melbourne midfielder James Magner, who claimed 16 disposals, nine marks and seven tackles in the familiar surroundings of Casey Fields – having played numerous times for the Casey Scorpions in the VFL last season.
Demons coach Mark Neeld said outside of new recruit Dean Terlich, the rest of the side dropped their heads in the second quarter and it proved costly.
Neeld said the abundance of new faces at Melbourne, and by extension their VFL-affiliate Casey Scorpions, will make it tough to pick a round one side for their season opener against Port Adelaide.
“Today we had nine guys who weren’t at the footy club this year,” Neeld said.
“We’ve got a third of our list that’s new – as to how many – you’d look at it now and Rodan and Byrnes would be strong chances, Dawes clearly a strong chance.”
Pedersen is in a battle with James Sellar at the moment for the position.
With a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at the venue, Melbourne assistant coach Jade Rawlings said it was great to see fans in the outer suburbs get out to watch top-tier football.
“Been to a couple of practice matches out at Cranbourne and they’ve always been loyal and it’s great for the players to play for a regional crowd and come and watch them play,” he said.
The next high-level match at the venue will be the Casey Scorpions’ Round One VFL season opener against Frankston Dolphins on 7 April with three practice matches hosting Frankston, Port Melbourne and Box Hill over the next three Saturdays at Casey Fields. All the practice matches will start at 2pm for the seniors and 11am for the development team.
St Kilda 0.1.2 2.6.8 2.8.8 2.10.13 (91)
Melbourne 1.2.2 1.3.4 2.5.6 2.7.6 (66)
SUPERGOALSSt Kilda: Newnes, Dal Santo. Melbourne: Dunn, N. Jones.
GOALSSt Kilda: Milne 3, Milera 2, Hayes, Dennis-Lane, Riewoldt, Gilbert, Dal Santo. Melbourne: Sellar 2, Byrnes, Tapscott, Rodan, Davey, Hogan, Toumpas.
BESTSt Kilda: Dal Santo, Newnes, Montagna, Milne, Steven, Geary, Roberton. Melbourne: N. Jones, Rodan, Dunn, Terlich, Jamar, Sylvia, Nicholson.