The equation is simple for Dave Rennie’s side – beat Argentina in Newcastle on Saturday and at Bankwest Stadium on December 5, they will be crowned Tri Nations champions.
That’s no given based on the incredible Pumas performance to beat the Kiwis, but Australia are rested and also coming off a win over the All Blacks.
But Australia have only lost twice to Argentina at home in 16 games, in 1983 and in 2018.
“All teams have won one game now and there’s an opportunity for us on Saturday to go in front, with the All Blacks having the week off,” playmaker Reece Hodge said.
“We can really put some pressure on the last couple of matches.”
Whether Hodge is part of the starting XV which seeks to bring Argentina crashing back down to earth remains to be seen.
The Melbourne Rebels star was one of the Wallabies’ best players in their own last-start triumph against the All Blacks, having been thrust into five-eighth due to the absence of James O’Connor.
It was a performance which should see Hodge remain at No.10 but if O’Connor’s fit, the versatile 26-year-old could once again be relegated to the pine.
“It’s the age-old question, isn’t it? We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks and going forward,” Hodge said when asked if his long-term future was at No. 10.
“I’ve played a lot of footy at No. 10 growing up – schoolboys, 20s – it’s somewhere I’m definitely comfortable.
“Getting a few weeks of training under my belt there in the lead-up to the Brisbane Test match, I felt comfortable there again. We will see what the coaches are thinking there.
“There are still a few sessions to go before we prepare for the match and it’s a bit of a cliche but genuinely, it’s been such a long build-up now that competition in the squad is really building and you can see guys are getting frustrated with not getting opportunities.
“They’re pushing really hard at training so the standard of training and the competition is unreal. Having come back into camp on Wednesday, hopefully myself and others are pushing the case to either retain or attain a starting position come Saturday.”
While Hodge makes his case to remain in the starting XV, New Zealand are reeling.
The 10-point loss to the Pumas was the first time since 2011 the All Blacks have dropped two straight games but Hodge doesn’t believe that means they have lost their aura.
“It’s up to you guys to extrapolate on that. I think you saw that in (Bledisloe Cup) games two and three, they put us to the sword,” Hodge said.
“Not reading too much into that.”
Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox each weekday. Sign up here.
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
It has been a torturous 3296 days since St Kilda last played finals.
The club has had three coaches and three presidents in the meantime. It moved from Moorabbin to Seaford and back again, winning 37.82 per cent of matches along the way.
Ross Lyon sacking an unaware Steven Baker after an elimination final loss to Sydney might seem like yesterday for rusted on Saints fans, but Max King was in grade five and GWS’ NEAFL captain was Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
Kayo is your ticket to the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season. Watch every match of every round Live & On-Demand. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Lyon departed for Fremantle weeks later, citing a contractual dispute with St Kilda’s hierarchy.
It’s fitting that the Saints defeated the Giants to make finals for the first time in GWS’ history.
To say the club has endured worse decades than 2011-2020 is not really saying anything at all, but it hasn’t been good.
The Road to 2018 strategic blueprint sold hope and a few memberships in 2014, but it failed dismally.
On the night it was unveiled at a season launch event, Dan Markworth and Nick Riewoldt were the players who publicly spruiked it. List chief Chris Pelchen was the architect behind it, watching from the side of the stage. All three were moved on before they had the chance to see it through.
The strategic vision saw the club invest heavily in the draft, but either they picked the wrong players or didn’t have the coaching to develop them appropriately.
Aside from Riewoldt, Richardson had no genuine stars at his disposal throughout his six years at the helm. Was this his fault or the recruiters? Probably a bit of both.
There was no top four finish by 2018 – as the plan boldly declared – and certainly no premiership before 2020. Nor did St Kilda boast an “admired culture” it had forecast.
The road map was shelved for a more aggressive plan when Simon Lethlean arrived from the AFL, but Richardson survived as coach.
The hunt for stability – something St Kilda has never been known for – was admirable, but it proved unfounded. Richardson was dumped in 2019. Key insiders believed he shouldn’t have lasted as long as he did, and that’s putting it lightly.
But chief executive Matt Finnis – who has reshaped the club’s off-field ethos and led from the front in key social areas – had an ace up his sleeve. His name was Brett Ratten.
Even when Ratten joined St Kilda before Richardson’s last season in charge, it became apparent that he would be the next senior coach, according to those that worked in the football department at the time.
So it made sense that when Richardson left, Ratten stepped up. The players felt rejuvenated and the club felt fresh again. Ratten was a better coach than his Carlton self. Equally as focused, but more relaxed and less of a micromanager.
At the Blues, he would tell a girl in membership how to do her job. At the Saints, he would say g’day and ask the staffer what she did on the weekend.
He quickly became not just a popular member of the football department, but a hugely respected one. And whenever he’d fret about something out of his range, he’d have Lethlean, Finnis and co to pull him back. And by then, he had learned to smile and joke with his players, something that was rare at Carlton.
But as any senior coach will attest, they are only as good as magnets on the whiteboard.
There remained significant holes in the list. There was no point putting every egg in the draft basket again. Instead, Lethlean, Gubby Allan and new list boss James Gallagher attacked the trade period with gusto rarely displayed.
Other clubs noted how the Saints seemed in a rush. Privately, St Kilda asked ‘what’s the hold up?’ Fans loved the bold approach. Players were reinvigorated and some were put on notice.
They pushed out Josh Bruce and some draft picks, but won the signatures of Zak Jones, Dan Butler, Bradley Hill, Paddy Ryder and Dougal Howard in return. Jack Steven wanted to go and was allowed to do so on humanitarian grounds more than anything.
St Kilda supporters asked how a four-time best and fairest could be traded for a draft pick no more valuable than the club’s vending machine. The answer was simple: It’s a new era. ‘Trust us.’
Get all the latest AFL news, highlights and analysis delivered straight to your inbox with Fox Sports Sportmail. Sign up now!
The acquisitions of Butler and co followed Dan Hannebery the year before and all of a sudden, the Saints list had some electricity. Things began to work. The ball began to move swiftly and smoothly rather than at a million miles per hour.
A few years earlier, players had refused to even chat to St Kilda because they didn’t want to drive to Seaford. Now, a tour of RSEA Park was a selling point.
Rowan Marshall was picked as a rookie and has developed into one of the finest young hybrid forward-rucks in the game, while Jack Steele arrived in return for a second rounder and is in most experts’ All-Australian 22.
Indeed Steele exemplifies the club’s improvement. In 2016, pro scout Wayne Hughes watched Steele through binoculars every second week. By the end of the year, the Saints had their man. But Richardson used him in a negating role. The midfielder was a great tackler, but didn’t feel free to run and chase the footy himself.
Ratten took the reins and treated Steele like the club’s best on-baller. And now he has responded.
Hope and belief were manufactured and short-lived in the Richardson era. Under Ratten, the glass half full approach is organic. It’s based on hard work, a clear plan, and strong feedback.
Jarryd Roughead’s influence from a leadership perspective should not be underestimated. The Saints were even happy to let him play in 2020 to get the four-time premiership player in. He decided against it, but has imparted significant wisdom off the field.
Since 2011, the Saints have had a variety of membership slogans. From Line in the Sand and Loyalty Unites Us to Together We Rise, St Kilda reinvented itself constantly in the hope of appealing to as many latent fans as possible.
Most slogans missed the mark not because they were bad mottos, but because the team simply could not live up to them.
In 2020, the club bumper sticker reads: Proudly St Kilda. And after a decade in the wilderness, it’s finally a slogan that rings true.
Amid the most difficult of all seasons in which the entire club has been away from home, the Saints are finally back where they promised they would be seven years ago.
For long-time toilers Seb Ross (138 games without a final), Jack Billings (123) and Geary (one losing final in 202 games), it is better late than never.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that the star player’s reputation could be taken into account when weighing up whether the public would be able to tell the difference between the two brands.
In doing so, it upheld a ruling by the EU’s General Court in 2018 that the footballer was too well known for confusion to arise.
Massi, which sells cycle clothing and equipment, was successful in its initial challenge to the Barcelona striker’s application. But it lost out when Lionel Messi brought an appeal to the General Court, which ruled in his favour.
Messi, 33, who wears the number 10 shirt, has been crowned world football player of the year a record six times and is the world’s highest-paid soccer player, according to Forbes. It puts his total earnings for 2020 at $126m (£97m).
In August, he made headlines by sending a fax to his club declaring his intention to leave.
But when Barcelona responded by insisting that any team that took him on would have to honour a €700m (£624m) release clause, he changed his mind, saying he did not want to face “the club I love” in court.