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Ratten defends Hannebery's AFL selection

3 minute read

St Kilda coach Brett Ratten says Dan Hannebery's form as well as experience means he deserves selection to face Hawthorn on Saturday above other players.

BRETT RATTEN, Interim Senior Coach of the Saints looks on during the AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the Melbourne Demons at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.
BRETT RATTEN, Interim Senior Coach of the Saints looks on during the AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the Melbourne Demons at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

St Kilda coach Brett Ratten has defended the inclusion of Dan Hannebery for his first AFL game of the year after ex-skipper Nick Riewoldt questioned the value of the move.

The injury-prone veteran midfielder will line up against Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium on Saturday afternoon in his first senior match since round 23 last year.

Riewoldt said it was a "bit baffling" Ratten would opt for the off-contract 31-year-old over the opportunity to expose youngsters such as Mitch Owens and Ryan Byrnes and build for the future.

But the coach said the value Hannebery brought to the side, who are battling for a finals berth, could not be ignored.

"I think we've given the younger players a fair bit of exposure and when you've got a player of Dan's quality ... if you look at the players that we had back at VFL level, his performance was better than theirs so we do have to reward people that are performing well," Ratten said on Friday.

"He's got a history of big games and performing on the biggest stages so I think his form as a player, regardless of his age, he's in front of a few."

Hannebery, who boasts a 2012 premiership with Sydney among his 223 games, has played only 15 senior matches in his four seasons with the Saints.

But Ratten said he gave his teammates confidence with his on-field coaching.

"If you're at the ground as a supporter you'll probably hear him, that's the influence he has.

"We don't expect Dan to have 35 (touches), we just expect him to do his role but what he will bring is direction, leadership, voice and he gives confidence with that to his teammates so that's what we'll get out of Dan."

St Kilda's last-round win over West Coast ended a miserable period in which they managed only one victory from six games to tumble out of the top eight.

Hawthorn sit 14th after banking their last three and Ratten said his team must control the tempo to get on top of their rivals.

They must do it without two stars - forward Jade Gresham who requires major knee surgery and midfielder Jack Billings (back).

"They're playing fast and direct and they've been up and about so their confidence is high," Ratten said.

"I think they're averaging 60 inside 50s in the last three or four weeks, so they're giving their forwards a lot of opportunity.

"I'll be a game of control - can we control the speed and get the ball back? If we can't, we'll have to defend really well, but if we can get it back that will be an opportunity for us."

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