St Kilda coach Alan Richardson still has a lot to find out about his side with just two games left in the AFL season.
After limping to the line in the past two years, Richardson has demanded a strong finish to this campaign.
He also needs to find a replacement for skipper Nick Riewoldt, a reliable back-up for first ruck Tom Hickey and to gauge which players are willing to fight back from adversity.
The Saints, who face Richmond and Brisbane in their remaining rounds, have improved considerably this season and sit 10th on the ladder with 10 wins and 10 losses.
But they were badly outclassed by Sydney in a 70-point demolition in round 21.
“Collectively we weren’t quite at the level so we’ve got a bit of work to do,” Richardson said.
“At the moment we’re even-stevens win-loss, we’ve got a real focus to have a positive year in terms of win-loss and we have that opportunity.
“We play the Tigers, who I think we’d all acknowledge have been building the last couple of weeks, so they’ll want to finish off positively, which represents a real challenge.”
An onfield leadership handover has been on the cards for a while, but Richardson confirmed on Friday that Riewoldt would pass the captaincy to a younger, yet-to-be-named successor in 2017.
Jack Steven, Jarryn Geary and David Armitage are considered leading candidates to take over but Richardson wouldn’t be drawn on the likely successor.
With Hickey likely out for the rest of the season with a calf injury, rarely sighted American import Jason Holmes was given the chance to press his claims ahead of former Brisbane ruckman Billy Longer.
Jack Lonie and Geary were also included in the team, while Darren Minchington was dropped, and Sam Fisher (hamstring) and Tom Hickey (calf) were injured against the Swans.
Richardson admits it’s unlikely Hickey will play again this season but says Fisher is a chance to make it back for round 23.
The Tigers made four unforced changes, bringing in Kane Lambert, Todd Elton, Callum Moore and Connor Menadue at the expense of Ty Vickery, Ben Lennon, Nathan Drummond and Anthony Miles.