St Kilda are demanding a response to their bad AFL loss last weekend and Jack Billings’ surprise omission emphasises the point.
Billings is prominent among a whopping six changes to the Saints’ side to play Carlton on Sunday at Etihad Stadium.
While the Blues are now the feel-good story of the season with six wins from their last seven matches, the Saints are suddenly in trouble.
The Crows mauled them at Adelaide Oval by 88 points and captain Nick Riewoldt heads four players who were forced out this week because of injury.
Riewoldt (knee), Sean Dempster (knee), Paddy McCartin (concussion) and Hugh Goddard (Achilles) are unavailable, plus the Saints dropped Billings and Brodie Murdoch.
Billings is one of the Saints’ brightest prospects and his omission was a big statement by the Saints.
Coach Alan Richardson has made it clear that the Saints have to rebound immediately from the Crows loss.
“We’re looking at it as another opportunity,” Richardson said.
“It’s on the back of a disappointing performance, so what footy clubs do is they come together probably a bit tighter and review really strongly.
“That’s certainly what we’ve done and we make it really clear that we need to respond.
“We let ourselves down, we let our fans down, we let our footy club down – it’s happened twice now when we’ve travelled, against good teams.”
Richardson was also referring to round eight, when West Coast blitzed them in Perth by 103 points.
“It’s shown there’s a bit of a gap and we need to do whatever we can in a hurry to bridge that gap,” he said.
But the Saints coach is also adamant that they are improving.
“We’re playing better footy … our good footy is better,” he said.
“Our good footy is more reliable and it’s underpinned by the right stuff – pressure and a really strong commitment to defend.
“It’s not about getting forward of the ball and kicking a big score.
“But all of that really positive footy that sees us have better performances this year is still too inconsistent, so that’s our challenge.”
Luke Delaney, Tom Lee, Nathan Wright, Blake Acres and Darren Minchington will come into the Saints side, while Lewis Pierce will make his senior debut.
The Blues named Jack Silvagni as an emergency and recalled Liam Sumner for Nick Graham.