Nine-goal Nick leads Saints to AFL victory

A Nick Riewoldt masterclass has seen St Kilda finish their 2016 AFL season on a high, defeating Brisbane by 58 points at Etihad Stadium.

Riewoldt took his usual aerial dominance to the next level on Sunday, kicking nine goals as the Saints blew Brisbane away in a 25.11 (161) to 15.13 (103) victory.

The veteran skipper took a season-high 21 marks and equalled his career-best goal haul, transforming the near-meaningless match to a spectacle.

Despite the size of the defeat, the Lions avoided the wooden spoon after tallying a decent score of their own.

Brisbane started the day just half a per cent above bottom-placed Essendon, whose defeat of Carlton on Saturday had put last place – and the selection of the coveted No.1 draft pick in doubt.

Riewoldt’s seventh goal had the Lions in last place on the live ladder but late goals to Brisbane meant the AFL strugglers in fact improved their percentage.

The loss could end coach Justin Leppitsch’s time at the club.

In three seasons, Leppitsch has mustered just 14 wins, with season 2016 the worst in the merged club’s 20-year history.

Leppitsch will find out if his future remains at the club he won three premierships at as a player after a Lions board meeting this week.

In a halftime huddle positioned within earshot of the travelling cheer squad, Brisbane captain Tom Rockliff (37 disposals) delivered an impassioned plea to his teammates, pointing to his shirt and 200-gamer Daniel Merrett.

The bruising defender, whose milestone coincided with his last AFL match, enjoyed the Lions’ best moment of the day, kicking a goal that every Brisbane player on the ground saluted.

But St Kilda had too many routes to goal for Brisbane, finishing with 11 goalkickers and their biggest score of the year.

Jack Lonie and Josh Bruce joined in the romp with three goals apiece, while David Armitage gathered 30 touches in game 150.

The Saints will be pleased with a 12-10 season – their first positive return in four years – but they’ll also wonder what might have been.

Alan Richardson’s side miss the finals on percentage alone.

Huge losses to West Coast (103 points), Adelaide (88) and Sydney (70), as well as a round 19 loss against finals rivals North Melbourne mean St Kilda end the season stranded in ninth.

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