Saints cope with AFL match cancellation

St Kilda expect only minor tweaks to their training this week in the wake of Sunday’s AFL pre-season cancellation.

Saints football performance manager Jamie Cox said not much had changed in making sure that their last NAB Challenge match against Melbourne next Sunday was a full dress rehearsal for the start of the regular season.

Torrential rain meant the Saints and Brisbane had to call off their game in Mackay.

“The people of Mackay did some wonderful things to try to put on an event,” Cox said.

“But unfortunately it just got foiled by a natural disaster.

“We just have to do our best now.

“The adjustments will be subtle … we won’t do anything dramatic.

“(Sunday) is now our last, full dress rehearsal and we need that to work.”

Before leaving Mackay, the Saints had a running session at a ground near the waterlogged AFL venue.

“We got as much into our guys as we could, just to make sure we were going okay,” Cox said.

Mackay was supposed to be the first pre-season game for established players such as Leigh Montagna, Sam Fisher and David Armitage.

Captain Nick Riewoldt was a late withdrawal because of illness, but should be ready for the Melbourne game.

While St Kilda’s preparations have taken a hit, Melbourne will go into the game with two NAB Challenge wins.

“We would have hit it hard anyway,” Cox said.

“We won’t treat it a lot differently – we’ve always seen this as our last attempt to try to get things right.

“It’s an important day, no doubt, but we’re tracking well towards it.”

Meanwhile, AFL operations manager Travis Auld defended the pre-season format.

Games in Wagga Wagga and Shepparton on the weekend were also played in intense heat.

“These challenges are far outweighed by the benefits,” Auld said.

“You look at the benefit (for) those communities … if you look right across the first three weeks of the NAB Challenge, there have been some incredible highlights.”

Auld said crowds at regional games, attendances overall and TV ratings had been solid.

He also noted that the AFL had played pre-season matches in Townsville in the last couple of years without any problems.

North Melbourne football manager Geoff Walsh also backed the pre-season format.

“It’s a pretty good thing for the game to be taken to the regions,” Walsh said.

“I know we’re subjected to some of the one-offs like the St Kilda-Brisbane game.

“But overall, I think the pluses outweigh the minuses.”

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