St Kilda's start to the 2021 AFL season hasn't quite met expectations, and pressure is mounting on boom recruit Bradley Hill after the Saints were pummelled by reigning premiers Richmond on Thursday night.
Five days after a thrilling comeback victory over West Coast, the Saints dropped to 2-3 for the season after getting belted by 86 points in a dispiriting display.
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High-profile recruit Hill, who the Saints lured to Moorabbin with a six-year deal reportedly worth roughly $900,000 a year, registered only 10 disposals.
The disappointing return, which follows a patchy first season with the Saints in 2020, prompted former premiership coach Mick Malthouse to suggest the former Hawthorn and Fremantle star ought to be dropped.
Expectations were high for the Saints heading into the season, after finishing 6th and winning a final last season.
“The Saints will rebound — they won’t embarrass themselves again — if Brett Ratten does the right thing and drops players who should not be in that side,” Malthouse said.
Asked who should go, Malthouse immediately answered with Hill.
Malthouse wasn't the only AFL great to make the suggestion, with Tim Watson telling SEN Radio on Friday morning that Hill needed to work harder to keep his place.
— SEN 1116 (@1116sen) April 16, 2021
“He feels he doesn’t need to compete, and his only job is to get on the outside and receive,” Watson said.
St Kilda coach Brett Ratten though, wasn't buying into the criticism and backed the pricey recruit, saying he'd been one of the Saints' best just a week earlier against the Eagles.
#AFLSaintsTigers Surely the only fair thing would be for Brad Hill to donate his salary to Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision. At least by the end of the night/year he could say he’d contributed something.
— Glenn Connley (@GlennConnley) April 15, 2021
You can’t be playing five pure inside mids - Steele, Crouch, Bytel, Dunstan, Ross - and get whacked at clearances (inc 14-6 centre bounces to 3QT) #AFLSaintsTigers
— Mitch Cleary (@cleary_mitch) April 15, 2021
Saints season so far
Severely depleted all year but that only tells a small story.
Round 1 Gutsy win
2 Scrappy loss
3 Horror show
4 Super win
5 Horror show
Injuries don’t help but doesn’t explain the ball use, extreme lack of pressure. Nor does it explain last week’s response.
— Darren Parkin (@Darren_Parkin) April 15, 2021
Brett Ratten stands by under-fire star Brad Hill
Ratten backed the 27-year-old to rediscover his best form.
"No, we won't drop Brad Hill," he said.
"It was a five-day turnaround, he didn't perform to the level that he can, he played well last week.
"We need to back him in, and he needs to get going too. It's like all of them.
"It's the same as (Nick) Coffield, the same conversation I had with him this week. He needs to get going because we can't keep giving games.
"But Hilly's had some okay performances - the GWS game he didn't get a heap of the ball but what he did with the ball was brilliant in really wet conditions and last week he played pretty well.
"So I think everybody's just putting the spotlight on him, but there's a few others as well."
Ratten conceded Hill's workrate had been down against Richmond but pointed out he was far from alone in that regard.
"Hilly's a proud person and he'll bounce back," he said.
"At times he had to work harder - and that wasn't just him. So you can't just categorise him because there was a few others in that boat."
Ratten said Thursday's loss was "hard to swallow" and showed St Kilda weren't as close to the benchmark as they'd thought - especially coming two games after a similar big defeat to Essendon.
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