St Kilda will start as favourites with Nick Riewoldt in top form ahead of the Anzac Day AFL clash with Brisbane in New Zealand.
First-year Brisbane coach Justin Leppitsch doesn’t envy his defenders having to play on St Kilda’s Nick Riewoldt in Friday’s AFL clash in Wellington.
Leppitsch had done the job himself in his playing days with the Lions.
Riewoldt, 31, is joint leader of the Coleman Medal on 17 goals after five rounds.
Joel Patfull is his regular Brisbane opponent, while Daniel Merrett – in his comeback game from a two-game striking ban – is another option.
“I actually played on Nick when he first started but I can’t come out, though. I’m not too fit at the moment,” Leppitsch joked on Thursday.
“Nick’s form has been unbelievable for an old man. To still be running around and being as athletic as he is at the moment, it’s very impressive for a guy of his age.”
Riewoldt is on track to beat his 2013 tally of 50 goals.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Joel Patfull and Daniel Merrett. I’ve played on those guys before so this week’s going to be a really big challenge,” Riewoldt said.
Asked about his sensational form, Riewoldt says nothing too much has changed in terms of his style of play and effort levels.
“The difference is I’m hitting the scoreboard a little bit more,” the skipper said.
Sixteenth last season, the Saints have made a strong start by posting a 3-2 record.
First-year coach Alan Richardson’s Saints will go in as favourites against the winless Brisbane in windy Wellington.
“We didn’t put any limitations on what we thought we could achieve,” Riewoldt said.
Riewoldt says playing on Anzac Day, as the Saints did in 2013 in Wellington against Sydney, is a grand occasion.
Leppitsch says his main focus has been on improving his team’s defence.
“We’re slowly getting some experience back,” he said.
“We’ve had to probably rely on too many kids in the last few weeks to uphold some roles.
“We’ve been leaking goals too quickly.”
The Lions have their own 30-something key forward in good form. Jonathan Brown, at 32, has kicked 11 goals this season.
Skipper Jed Adcock says breaking the team’s duck is vital for morale.
“It’s important for a young group that you get a win on the board for starters and you never know what’s going to happen after that,” he said.