Saints want fast start against Hawks

St Kilda coach Alan Richardson is looking for his team to come out swinging in their AFL clash with defending champions Hawthorn on Sunday.

The Saints take on the Hawks at Etihad Stadium in what Richardson says is their biggest test of the season so far.

It’s also a key match for their gun midfielder Jack Steven, who will mark his 100-game milestone.

Richardson says his young team have been happy to let their opponents dictate play early in recent weeks and they can’t afford to let the Hawks get the hop.

The Saints, who roared home to beat Brisbane last week, haven’t won a first quarter since round four against Carlton.

“We have been conservative and have almost waited for them to throw the first punch,” Richardson said.

“It’s as if we’ve gone out not wanting to lose as opposed to playing to win.

“We were really pleased with the way we played last week after quarter time so we need to build on that.”

Richardson said Steven, as well as fellow in-form midfielder David Armitage, had been responsible for turning the tide and he wanted everyone to buy into that.

“Jack and Armitage have been really strong for us and we need them to be in a young group,” Richardson said.

“They’ve been the ones who have led the way with their physicality and effort but it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

Steven made his debut against Hawthorn in 2009, when an undermanned Saints caused an upset win.

“My first game was pretty special … I still get star-struck playing against the Hawks,” Steven said.

“It was a great experience and I’m sure on Sunday it will be another one.”

After signing a new five-year deal in March, Steven said he was excited by the thought of his next 100 games at the Saints.

“The way we’ve been playing is a lot more exciting and we’re kicking a lot more goals and it feels like we’re in the game a lot more,” Steven said.

“This year we’re really showing some positive signs and everyone’s really buying in.”

St Kilda will need to make at least two changes with Maverick Weller suspended and Daniel McKenzie struggling with the after-effects of concussion.

Richardson said Seb Ross, Tom Curren and Farren Ray were in contention while Sam Gilbert needed another VFL game before he returned to the top line-up.

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