Eli Templeton has broken his arm but skipper Nick Riewoldt’s knee problems are no worse than usual, St Kilda AFL defender Jason Gwilt says.
St Kilda’s push into New Zealand is yet to yield a win, but the Saints see encouraging signs the annual game will grow into a major event.
After losing to Sydney in Wellington in 2013 in the first AFL match played for premiership points outside Australia, the Saints were upset by previously winless Brisbane on Friday night in their Anzac Day clash at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
Not only did the Saints lose by three points as Brisbane held on to win 12.10 (82) to 11.13 (79), but 18-year-old midfielder Eli Templeton is likely to be out for several months after breaking his arm.
Star forward Nick Riewoldt landed awkwardly after attempting a mark during the first quarter and getting up limping.
The skipper played on but was restricted to one goal by Joel Patfull.
Riewoldt had been joint leader of the Coleman Medal after five rounds with 17 goals, but was below his best on Friday night as the Saints slipped to a 3-3 record with a tough match to come against Hawthorn at the MCG next Saturday.
St Kilda defender Jason Gwilt said 31-year-old Riewoldt continued to battle long-term knee problems.
“But he’s a pro and he manages it the best he can,” Gwilt told afl.com.au on Saturday.
“He fought back in the second half and he was really good.”
The Saints trailed by 25 points at halftime before rallying with seven second-half goals to Brisbane’s four.
A missed shot at goal from close range by Farren Ray with 80 seconds remaining was St Kilda’s last chance to steal a win.
A 50-metre penalty against Shane Savage in the final minute was also costly, but Gwilt said coach Alan Richardson didn’t highlight the incidents post-match with his players.
Gwilt said the Saints had let themselves down early.
“We pride ourselves on the contested ball and the tackles as part of the effort but Brisbane were all over us in contested ball in the first half,” he said.
Friday’s match drew a crowd of 13,409. The Saints’ deal to play one game a year in Wellington expires after the 2018 season.
Richardson said the support of Wellington-based fans had been terrific.
“There was an incredibly rowdy bunch here near the race that had their skin painted in St Kilda colours.
“That’s a good effort because it wasn’t overly warm.”