Jack Sinclair is shocked but delighted to be playing finals football so soon under coach Ross Lyon. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

Finals a bonus for Saints in Ross Lyon’s return year

Shayne Hope September 8, 2023

St Kilda’s march to the AFL finals in Ross Lyon’s first season back at the helm – dubbed a “year of exploration” by the experienced coach – caught Jack Sinclair by surprise.

But now the moment has come, the creative playmaker is determined to help the Saints inflict as much damage as possible.

He believes anything is possible in September, starting in Saturday’s elimination final against GWS at the MCG.

“I definitely thought we were capable of playing finals but I wasn’t sure it would happen so quickly (under Lyon),” dual All-Australian Sinclair told AAP.

“We started the year really well and I don’t think many of us expected to do so off the back of a few big injuries.

“We had some low points through the middle of the year and with a new coach and new system, we’re still building.

“I didn’t really want to waste my best years not playing finals, so I’m really excited for it to come around.”

Spearhead Max King (rested) and Seb Ross (hamstring) are back to bolster the Saints, who are chasing a first premiership since their sole VFL flag in 1966.

GWS named key defender Sam Taylor (hamstring) to return for a likely battle with King and also recalled Finn Callaghan.

Sinclair is one of several Saints likely to spend time opposed to Giants star Toby Greene, wary the All-Australian captain is capable of winning games off his own boot.

“It’s a tough one … he’s a great player and he can do a bit of everything,” Sinclair said.

“We’ve had some guys do some pretty good jobs on him in the past but it will definitely be a challenge.”

Sinclair featured in the Saints’ only other finals series of the last dozen years in 2020, but said that unusual experience in a Queensland hub now “doesn’t feel real”.

While St Kilda’s top-eight return this year was a surprise, the Giants’ surge to September has been even more remarkable.

The competition’s youngest club looked set for a rebuilding phase when they parted ways with long-time coach Leon Cameron in May last year and finished 16th.

But rookie coach Adam Kingsley has breathed fresh life into the “Orange Tsunami” this season, with the Giants posting a club-record seven-match winning run as they went 9-2 after the halfway point of the campaign.

“They’ve been really impressive, especially in the second half of the year,” Sinclair said.

“They’re playing a really direct style of footy and they’re like the Giants of old that we got used to when they were up and competing in grand finals.

“They’re back to their best so it will be a great challenge.”