St Kilda’s Dylan Roberton retires from AFL ahead of 2021 season as he puts ‘family and future first’


St Kilda defender Dylan Roberton says he has made his family and health his top priorities by deciding to retire immediately from the AFL.

Roberton, who played 129 senior matches for the Saints and Fremantle, announced his retirement this afternoon, two weeks out from the opening round of the AFL season.

He had played just one AFL match since collapsing at Kardinia Park due to a heart condition while playing for the Saints against Geelong in 2018.

The 29-year-old has been away from the club since January as he weighed up his future.

“I’ve come to a point where I need to put my family and future first,” Roberton said in a St Kilda statement.

“Football has been a huge part of my life for such a long time and I’ve never lost my passion for the game.

“But after lengthy discussions with my family and on the advice of my doctors, I’ve made the extremely hard decision to hang up the boots.”

Following his on-field collapse in 2018, Roberton suffered another incident of heart irregularity during a 2019 preseason match in Ballarat.

He sat out the entire 2019 season but returned to the field in round one last year.

The 2020 season was suspended following round one because of the coronavirus pandemic and Roberton did not feature again at the AFL level following the premiership’s resumption in June.

Saints coach Brett Ratten said the club would continue to support Roberton.

“Dylan is a much-loved and well-respected member of our club,” he said.

“He should be really proud of how he has dealt with everything life has thrown at him — it’s a real credit to his character.

“Dylan has a great footy brain and he’ll remain an asset to our program for the remainder of 2021.”

Roberton played 92 matches for St Kilda after joining the club from Fremantle.

He made 37 senior appearances for the Dockers, having debuted in the 2010 season.

Roberton became a key figure in St Kilda’s defence during his time at the club and made the 40-man All-Australian squad in 2017.

AAP/ABC

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Could St Kilda’s rent-free experiment help restore glory to Melbourne’s iconic shopping strips?


Sophie Brabenec grew up in St Kilda, and gets emotional talking about what Fitzroy Street means to her.

“It was vibing back in the day,” she said.

“From an arcade that used to be here where we’d hang out before school and check out the hot boys, to Leo’s spaghetti bar where I used to have spaghetti with my family, the chemist I used to pick up my grandma’s prescription from, the Prince of Wales [bar] for dollar pots and playing pool.

“It’s a part of my heart and soul and it was busy and it was vibrant.”

After spending 13 years working as an actor across London and Los Angeles, Ms Brabenec returned to Melbourne during the pandemic last year to discover Fitzroy Street’s shine had faded.

There were about a dozen vacant shops, not much foot traffic, and even the usual overseas backpackers aren’t there, because of the pandemic.

Closing the Gatwick Private Hotel, which operated as a rooming house for decades, doesn’t seem to have helped.

But now, Ms Brabenec hopes she is part of a new era for the once-grand promenade, which connects Albert Park Lake to St Kilda Beach.

She has set up an indoor plant business in what was an empty shop — the landlord has agreed to offer a 30-day rolling lease for free.

“The renaissance starts here, we’re going to come back and for me to be in the forefront is just, yes! Watch this space,” she said.

It’s one of four shops that are part of a joint program with not-for-profit Renew Australia and the City of Port Philip.

Mayor Louise Crawford worked as a waitress on Fitzroy Street for 14 years, at the Pelican.

“Fitzroy Street is such an iconic street and it needs a bit of love to come back into the community,” she said.

Cr Crawford said the program aimed to complement local businesses, not compete with them.

As well as the indoor plant shop, there is a clothes shop, a shop selling boutique soap and an artist collective.

“We actually want locals to come back, we want people to come and spend money and spend time and bring their friends so it’s about the foot traffic to the street,” she said.

The Fitzroy Street Traders Association has previously called on landlords to lower their rents to attract more businesses to the strip.

President David Blakeley said offering shops rent-free was a “different way of thinking” for landlords, but it was worth it.

“Having an empty shop attracts it being vandalised, and it’s hard to lease out a shop when the three shops next door are empty,” he said.

“When you’re not getting rent anyway, and you’ve got someone looking after your shop, it looks better, it presents better.”

He hopes other shops will come on board.

Renew Australia chief executive Angela Simons said the aim was to generate momentum.

The social enterprise began in Newcastle and has since been involved in urban renewal programs in Geelong and Docklands.

“It’s about bums on seats in its most basic form,” Ms Simons said.

“It’s much more easier to sell, market and lease a loved and active space.”

She believes the approach could benefit some of Melbourne’s other shopping strips with empty shops, and highlighted that the most important thing was to understand the needs of locals.

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What does the Brad Crouch addition do for St Kilda’s midfield?


St Kilda seemingly came out of leftfield to snare Adelaide midfielder Brad Crouch, as the likes of Geelong and Port Adelaide pulled out of the race.

SEN’s Sammy Edmund exclusively revealed on Wednesday that the Saints have secured Crouch as a free agent and are set to pay him between $3.5 and $4 million over five years.

The question now turns to how Crouch fits into a St Kilda midfield consisting of Jack Steele, Dan Hannebery, Zak Jones, Jade Gresham, Jake Billings and Seb Ross with Brad Hill on the outside and Hunter Clark likely to move into more of an on-ball role.

Garry Lyon believes Crouch isn’t a perfect fit for the Saints, but unquestionably adds something they needed.

“He adds undeniable depth to the midfield group. Coming out of the lost final, most of the assessments were that they needed to add to their midfield group,” Lyon told SEN Breakfast.

“What sort of midfielder did they need to add? In an ideal world it was going to be a really polished midfielder.

“I’m a big Brad Crouch fan, he finds the footy for fun, but he can be a bit of a ball banger so he’s got to tighten that up.

“But if we go back to normal footy next year, he’s 25 to 35 possessions in the middle of the ground every time he plays.

“He’s had some injury problems, but he’s a 25 to 35 possession player and that adds to your midfield big time.”

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St Kilda’s Ben Long to miss AFL semi-final against Richmond after appeal fails



St Kilda has failed in its bid to overturn Ben Long’s one-match ban for rough conduct, meaning the defender will miss Friday night’s semi-final against Richmond.

The Saints fronted up to the AFL appeals board on Wednesday night in a last-ditch bid to overturn the ban after the tribunal upheld the decision to suspend Long for his high bump on Western Bulldogs midfielder Jack Macrae last weekend.

Long had already pleaded guilty to careless conduct and high contact, but the Saints felt the offence should have been classified as low impact instead of medium impact.

A classification of low impact would have resulted in a fine instead of a suspension.

St Kilda launched an appeal claiming an error of law had occurred and that the classification of the offence was excessive.

Lawyer Jack Rush, representing Long, said the fact the tribunal’s jury was “surprised” that Macrae was not injured showed they had “got lost” in the potential for the hit to cause injury, rather than focusing on the force of the hit itself.

Mr Rush said the fact Macrae suffered no injury “must be because the impact is low or minimal”.

He also argued that Long’s momentum was not significant and that Macrae’s momentum from the other direction was not properly taken into account by the tribunal.

“This is not momentum of someone coming in off the line, running at high speed into the contest,” Mr Rush said of Long.

“We would contest, like a tennis player at the net, that he is ready to go to either side.

“The failure of the tribunal to properly take those matters into account has led them into error.”

But the AFL’s legal counsel, Jeff Gleeson, successfully argued that no error of law had occurred and that the classification of the offence was not manifestly excessive.

The dismissal of the appeal means the Saints will now be without Long, Paddy Ryder (hamstring) and Jake Carlisle (personal reasons) for their clash with Richmond.

AAP



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St Kilda’s Jake Carlisle ends his season, leaving hub to join his partner ahead of the birth of their child


St Kilda defender Jake Carlisle will not play any further part in the Saints’ AFL finals campaign after leaving Queensland ahead of the birth of his child.

The Saints on Monday confirmed the 29-year-old had departed the team’s Noosa hub to be with his partner Mel, with the couple imminently expecting their third child.

Carlisle said he was shattered to not be hanging around as St Kilda looks to build on their first finals win since 2010, a three-point victory over the Western Bulldogs.

“I’m devastated to leave the guys, but it’s going to be a great opportunity for other guys to step up, and to be successful you need more than 22 players,” he said.

“You do everything for family and part of the emotions (after the win) was knowing it was my last game for this year.

St Kilda chief operating officer Simon Lethlean said he was grateful to Carlisle for staying as long as he did and the club supported his decision.

While expected, Carlisle’s absence is a further blow to St Kilda as they prepare for their semi-final clash with reigning premiers Richmond at Carrara on Friday night.

Paddy Ryder was injured late in the Saints’ win over the Bulldogs.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

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Veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder has been ruled out for the rest of the season after tearing his hamstring in the dying stages of Saturday’s thrilling three-point elimination final win against the Western Bulldogs.

Ryder starred in the first finals victory of his 257-game career.

The 32-year-old faces a lengthy rehab stint as he requires surgery on the hamstring tendon injury.

“A little bit flat with the injury but it’s been an awesome year,” Ryder said.

“Just looking forward to seeing the boys go out and hopefully get another win this week and march on from there.

Defender Ben Long could also miss the game against the Tigers after being slapped with a one-match ban for rough conduct.

Long crunched Bulldogs midfielder Jack Macrae with a high bump.

AAP



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Essendon’s Dylan Shiel banned after marathon AFL tribunal, St Kilda’s Ben Long accepts three weeks


Dylan Shiel will miss two matches for rough conduct over the bump that floored North Melbourne’s Curtis Taylor after the Essendon star was unsuccessful in appealing the severity of his suspension at the AFL tribunal.

The jury on Tuesday night agreed with the match review officer’s initial grading of the incident as careless conduct, high contact and high impact, and declared: “It was fortunate the consequences were not greater.”

Taylor played out the match on Saturday night after passing a concussion test and scans later cleared him of structural damage.

In an unusual hearing that lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, Essendon’s main argument centred around their belief that the impact grading should be reduced from high to medium or low.

Essendon’s legal counsel Adrian Anderson also raised an infamous incident from the 2017 preliminary final, where Shiel was hit high by Richmond’s Trent Cotchin.

Cotchin was cleared of wrongdoing, playing in the Tigers’ premiership the following week, and Shiel said that incident had changed the way he contests the ball to focus more on protecting himself.

In a last-ditch attempt to reduce the ban, Essendon called on Port Adelaide premiership coach Mark Williams to provide a character reference for Shiel.

Williams was one of Shiel’s coaches at Greater Western Sydney and his daughter is the player’s long-term partner.

Dylan Shiel prepares to kick as a Dockers opponent tries to put pressure on him.
Dylan Shiel will miss matches against the Bulldogs and Adelaide.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

But the jury made up of former AFL players Stephen Jurica, Shane Wakelin and David Neitz was ultimately comfortable with the bump’s high impact grading and the two-match ban.

The jury made note of the bump’s potential to cause injury, Taylor’s vulnerable position, Shiel arriving at the contest at speed, the significant force involved and the fact Taylor was tested for concussion.

Shiel will now miss Essendon’s meetings with the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide before he is available for selection again in round nine.

Ben Long accepts three-match ban

A St Kilda AFL player attempts to palm off a Carlton opponent while holding the ball in his right hand.
Ben Long did not contest his proposed ban during his short hearing.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

Earlier on Tuesday night, St Kilda’s Ben Long pleaded guilty to a rough conduct charge over the bump that concussed Fremantle ruckman Sean Darcy and was banned for three matches.

The 22-year-old did not contest the careless conduct, high impact and severe impact grading of the incident, but argued Darcy quickly dropping to his knees had contributed to the high contact.

Both the AFL and St Kilda agreed three weeks was an appropriate penalty.

Darcy was concussed by Long’s bump and played no further part in the match on Saturday, which was won in dramatic fashion by the Dockers.

The Dockers’ medical report the day after the match also noted Darcy had mild ongoing neck pain and concussion symptoms.

The ruckman is in doubt for Fremantle’s clash with cross-town rivals West Coast on Sunday.

Long will miss the Saints’ meetings with Adelaide and Port Adelaide in South Australia next week, as well as a round nine fixture that has not yet been scheduled.

AAP



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Is this the man behind St Kilda’s revamped forward structure?


Tim Watson and Garry Lyon have hailed Jarryd Roughead’s impact in revamping St Kilda’s forward line and mentoring the club’s key position players.

The Saints are the number one team in the competition for kicks retained and marked inside 50 and scores per inside 50 and their efficiency in front of goal has improved out of sight.

Thursday night’s 18-point win over Carlton moved Brett Ratten’s side to 3-2 and temporarily into fourth spot on the ladder.

Roughead, a four-time premiership star at Hawthorn, joined the Saints’ coaching department in a wide-ranging role that includes working with club’s emerging key position prospects.

“Was it 10 marks that they (St Kilda) actually took inside their attacking 50 in one quarter of football? That is extraordinary,” Watson told SEN Breakfast.

“That doesn’t happen by accident, does it? That’s the way that they’re set up. That’s the way their players leave space or that’s the way players return to space. That’s instruction, that’s a coaching thing, that’s a teaching thing.

“It’s no surprise to me that Jarryd Roughead is there at St Kilda. What was one of the key hallmarks of the way that Hawthorn played their football and still play their football in terms of their forward structure?”

Lyon replied: “Separation. Not flying for the same mark.

“The best forward set ups are ones that are moving constantly and don’t allow opposition defences to get set on them. Once they get set then they can intercept then they can read the play, that means they know where you are.

“Running around the back of a defender makes him turn his head and then you’re back in the proactive position as a forward, and that’s what I’m seeing with St Kilda. I love it, I love every minute of it.

“(Tim) Membrey, (Jonathon) Marsh, the big guy (Josh) Battle came down and was an option and then they’ve got the smalls buzzing around. It was fantastic.”

St Kilda have been able to create space in behind opposition defences and score several counter-attacking goals as a result.

“There always seems to be players that have stayed back in some way or they beat their defender back into that space. But that’s coaching and instruction, isn’t it?” Watson said.

Lyon responded: “It is. Not too often they look up and there’s no one there.

“Or if they do go into a forward line that’s been vacated it’s because it’s (Dan) Butler running back onto the footy or it’s (Dean) Kent running back onto the footy.

“It just seems that there’s system.”






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St Kilda’s sparkling style enlivens low-scoring AFL season, while Richmond lacks synergy


In a low-scoring season, negatively influenced by overly cautious ball movement, fear of turn overs and an emphasis on defensive structures, St Kilda is one of a few sides providing a sense of football fulfilment.

For the second time this season, I commentated a game involving the Saints on the weekend and came away wanting more.

The Saints approach to Saturday’s clash with Richmond was a stark indication of the self-assuredness flowing through the side from Moorabbin.

A careful approach to ball movement and denying the Tigers possession has been an effective method for stifling the reigning premier. But rather than follow the pack, St Kilda played its style. A style that’s both compelling to watch and effective.

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The Saints filled a clear void in their playing list by adding genuine speed and evasive line-breakers. Bradley Hill, Zac Jones and Dan Butler have given them much-needed zip, zig and zag.

The Saints’ wins over the Bulldogs and Richmond were built around a style of football that’s exciting to watch and a departure from the modern defence-first mindsets that detract from the spectacle.

Brett Ratten has given his side the freedom to enjoy the game — to play with instinct and natural flair. There’s a want to move the ball quickly, a willingness to use the centre corridor or go long to a forward-line contest.

And when the ball is on the ground, look out. A crew of crafty crumbers including Butler, Jack Lonie, Dean Kent, Jade Gresham and Jack Billings, is ready to swoop.

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Richmond clearly isn’t playing to the usual Richmond standard, but I fully expect the Tigers to be relevant again at the business end of the season.

In modern football, teams that are even just a few per cent off their best get beaten.

The Tigers are lacking their usual synergy and aren’t bringing their trademark pressure on a consistent basis, but write them off at your peril.

The slow start to 2020 has led to valid questions about Richmond’s desire and the form of key players has been rightly scrutinised.

Last year’s premiership-winning side is clearly frustrated by its lack of performance and that’s been reflected in several undisciplined acts in recent weeks.

Defender Nick Vlastuin lost his composure against the Saints on Saturday, while Jack Riewoldt’s forearm to the back of Hawk James Sicily last week was out of character.

Jack Riewoldt has scored 635 goals for Richmond in 266 AFL games, but has just one in his last three games.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

Riewoldt has been a magnificent servant of the Richmond Football Club. A three-time Coleman medallist and heart-and-soul competitor.

Much like the team, he seems flat. Grandstand expert and former Essendon Premiership player Adam Ramanauskas wants Riewoldt pushed up field to gain some confidence.

“But he wasn’t in the game today, the ball went to Lynch a lot.

“I just think Jack needs to come up the ground a little bit, just get himself into the play, come behind the ball, even put him on a wing for 10 minutes in a quarter just to get him going.”

On Thursday night Richmond plays West Coast on the Gold Coast. It’s a crunch game in this condensed season and one likely to shape the fortunes of two sides expected to contend this season — two sides slow out of the blocks and needing to take Usain Bolt strides from here.

A Port Adelaide AFL player pumps his left fist as he celebrates kicking a goal against West Coast.
Charlie Dixon nabbed six goals against the struggling Eagles.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

While Richmond and West Coast have perplexed, Port Adelaide has produced. The Power is the AFL’s only undefeated side, with a whopping percentage of 236 and a power-forward finding ominous form.

Physically, Charlie Dixon is a beast of a player and a nightmare matchup for defenders. He’s aggressive and imposing — like an old-growth tree surrounded by saplings in marking contests.

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But despite these attributes, Dixon’s only been a sporadic performer, often cruelled by a few wonky limbs.

His six majors against the Eagles have him leading the Coleman medal. If Dixon can find some consistency he’ll take some beating this season — something his side has already proven.

Dixon’s former side, Gold Coast, claimed a third consecutive win with a 13-point victory over Fremantle. The Suns have been this season’s surprise packets and sit inside the top four with three wins and only one loss.

Gold Coast enjoyed a similarly productive start to 2019 and proceeded to lose their next 19 games. But this appears a different and, dare I say it, more trustworthy outfit.

The Suns will travel to Kardinia Park this weekend with justifiable belief they can win at a venue where they’ve lost on all five visits — three times by more than 100 points.

It’s a huge test, but don’t rule out a huge upset. After all, this is 2020.



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