St Kilda coach Brett Ratten has defended maligned Saint Jack Higgins after the forward copped criticism for his inaccuracy on goal against the Swans in round 12.
Higgins kicked 1.6 in Saturday’s game and missed two shots late in the fourth quarter which could have gifted St Kilda the lead.
The 22-year-old, who joined the Saints from Richmond this season, was dubbed “Missy Higgins” by multiple media outlets and pundits following St Kilda’s nine-point loss.
However, Ratten was reticent to blame Higgins for the defeat, saying the club’s entire forward line must re-examine its set shot technique.
Despite his wastefulness in front of goal, Ratten said that he was pleased with Higgins’ overall performance.
“I think post-game he was pretty shattered and I reminded him of what he did do well,” Ratten said on Monday’s episode of AFL 360.
“He took 12 marks and had 23 possessions as a small forward. He had a day that he’d like to take back in front of the sticks.
“But really, whether it’s Jack, Josh Battle, Max King … it’s sometimes the process going through that goal kicking (that) we’re probably just rushing a bit.
“Jack’s had a good impact at our footy club straight away and he’s going to be a good player for a long time.
“He just didn’t have the finish that we would have like and what he would have liked.”
St Kilda CEO Simon Lethlean also defended Higgins on Monday, saying he had “put a call into the AFL” following the media scrutiny of the star’s performance.
“There was some feedback about the use of nicknames like ‘Missy Higgins’ and the like for Jack,” Lethlean told SEN Breakfast.
“No one likes young athletes being scrutinised with negativity, but our job here is to put support around those players, which they’ve got, and focus on how to improve.
“It’s all part of the game to be scrutinised. As long as it’s balanced, that’s all part of the industry.
“I put a call into the AFL. I think the AFL saw fit without us getting involved to change the headline yesterday. I’ve seen TheHerald Sun have seen fit to redo it.
“I guess we let the media decide on balance what’s appropriate and what’s not, and we’ll look after the health of our players up here.
“He wasn’t the only talented player across the weekend that missed a lot of shots at goal. He had a pretty influential day, he was probably the best player on the ground apart from his execution in the end there.
“He’s a pretty happy-go-lucky kid. He tries his hardest at goalkicking practice and he’ll be out there again doing that.”
The Saints will hope to bounce back from their heartbreaking defeat when they face Adelaide this weekend.
Despite hefty losses to the Bulldogs, Tigers and Bombers so far this season, finals aren’t yet off the cards for St Kilda.
However, with the two-game gulf between the top and bottom halves of the ladder looking set to widen, Ratten’s side must make the most of winnable clashes against the Magpies and Crows over the next month.
“Our (expectations) were very high and we haven’t delivered so far this year,” Ratten said.