Butler kicks sealer, Saints pip GWS in AFL

·2-min read

The cavalry is coming for AFL club St Kilda, but on Sunday they showed depth and desperation by toppling Greater Western Sydney by eight points in slippery conditions at Giants Stadium.

The undermanned Saints, whose list of injured absentees included Zak Jones, Dan Hannebery, Max King, James Frawley, Rowan Marshall and Jarryn Geary, rallied late to triumph 13.8 (86) to 11.12 (78).

GWS utility Lachie Keeffe's goal ensured the topsy-turvy game was up for grabs throughout the final four minutes.

Dan Butler, the Saints' leading goal-kicker in 2020 who otherwise had a reasonably quiet Sunday, produced the game-sealing effort with 40 seconds remaining.

Butler raced in and knocked the ball loose from Callan Ward's grasp, earning a holding-the-ball free kick then slotting his resultant set shot.

Pundits debated whether it was the right decision, but opposing coaches Brett Ratten and Leon Cameron had no issues with the verdict.

Ratten, who expects to regain Jones and King for Saturday night's clash with Melbourne, expressed admiration for his charges' fight throughout the wet-weather contest.

"It's the roller-coaster of coaching isn't it? The emotions you go through ... it reminded me that I better get the heart checked out again," Ratten said.

"It was great maturity by the group to find a way and scrap.

"We just fought tooth and nail to get a win.

"Our list is developing. To think we can call on anybody to contribute, that's a credit to the players and who we've brought to the club. It's exciting."

Key forwards Harry Himmelberg and Tim Membrey each kicked three goals for their respective side, belying conditions that made marking the ball difficult.

Himmelberg, asked to step up in the aftermath of 2019 Coleman medallist Jeremy Cameron's departure to Geelong, slotted goals either side of three-quarter time to put the Giants in front.

GWS coach Leon Cameron, desperate to set the tone for this season after a 10th-placed finish to 2020, expressed mixed emotions.

"There were some really positive signs. We know we have eight young lads, 15 games and under, and they're going to fluctuate with fundamentals," Cameron said.

"It's frustrating ... it's disappointing. Because wins are hard to find.

"But I'm not disappointed with our effort."

Jack Billings tallied a game-high 30 disposals for the Saints, while teammates Jade Gresham and Hunter Clark were also influential.

Toby Greene, one of numerous players from both sides to spray shots out on the full, was unable to spark the Giants but put in an early nomination for mark of the year when he climbed above Dougal Howard.

Ruckman Matt Flynn excelled on debut for the Giants, helping himself to 34 hitouts and 18 disposals while getting the better of fellow first-gamer Paul Hunter.

Flynn and Saints speedster Bradley Hill limped off during the third quarter, but both quickly returned to the fray.