Barren winter ahead for success-starved St Kilda

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    It’s unusual to write an obituary for a team coming off a win and sitting sixth place on the ladder with a 3-2 record and a percentage of 146, but it’s high time that the last rites were administered to this St Kilda side.

    Nick Riewoldt will not win a premiership at St Kilda. Lenny Hayes will not win a premiership at St Kilda. Nick Dal Santo will not win a premiership at St Kilda.

    Neither will Sam Fisher, Leigh Montagna, or Steven Milne. Ditto Justin Koschitzke.

    Jason Blake will retire without a premiership medal or a Brownlow vote. Clinton Jones will hang up the boots content in the knowledge that he got everything out of himself, but without tasting the ultimate success.

    Adam Schneider won a flag at Sydney, so he’ll have reunions to go to, where the drinks will surely flow. His St Kilda brethren will not be invited.

    Apart from Schneider, all of the above will be 29 or older at round one next year, and even Adam will be but a month away. All are still in the Saints’ best 22, with most still in the Saints’ best ten, but there is no improvement to come from any.

    Schneider is suffering from a hamstring injury and is yet to play this year, and Kosi was suspended, but the rest played on Saturday night in a team that struggled to put away a Melbourne side that has handed Brisbane and Richmond their only wins of the year, by 41 and 59 points respectively.

    St Kilda’s 18 point buffer was the lowest winning margin this year against the Demons, a side that is widely tipped to be 0-11 when they hit the bye.

    Also running around for the Saints were Jason Gram and Sean Dempster (both 28 and with obvious limitations), and the likes of Dean Polo and Sam Gilbert, much-maligned 26 year olds, who draw the ire of supporters for good reason.

    At least Dempster will be joining Schneider at those Sydney reunions.

    The fall of Gilbert has been stunning. An All-Australian nominee in 2009, and third in the best and fairest in a grand final year in 2010, he was a once-feared marking and running half-back who now struggles to find the ball, and prefers kicking out on the full or to opposition players when he does.

    With the exception of Dean Polo, the players mentioned so far formed the nucleus of the grand Ross Lyon-led St Kilda. And what a team they were.

    History looks on winners favourably, and as the saying goes, losers can please themselves, but we shouldn’t forget just how good the Saints in 2009 were, despite the fact that Geelong were the premiers.

    With a frenzied, fanatical mindset, they embodied everything good about team defence, and were the hardest team to score against in over 40 years.

    I can still vividly recall a round seven match from that year, against Collingwood who were fifth at the time.

    St Kilda were manic in their intensity, and you could see the fear in the Magpie players’ eyes when they got the ball, because they knew they were about to be swarmed over, with no friendly options in sight.

    The Saints won that match by 88 points, against a side that would finish top four that year and win a flag a year later, defeating the very same St Kilda after having perfected their own defensive press.

    Riewoldt and Co came so close to grand final glory, and but for a well-documented Matthew Scarlett toe-poke here, and an ill-fated bounce of the ball there, they could all be dual premiership players.

    Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t to be, and here we now stand with a side that went up a hill and are coming down a mountain.

    Round two and three thumpings of inept opposition shouldn’t shield the fact that this is a club on the slide, and losses to Port (its only victory this year, and a side that won one of its last twelve in 2011) and Fremantle in Melbourne (which wins in this part of the country roughly as often as there are drawn grand finals) give us a clearer indication of what is to come.

    The price of contending is that you don’t get the rock-solid early draft picks, and the young players on the list are not introduced.

    This has never been clearer than St Kilda under Ross Lyon, and a vacuum has been created in the 19-25 year old age group, with only Jack Steven, David Armitage, Ben McEvoy and Jarryn Geary able to sneak through.

    As the older brigade are retired or traded over the next few years, this tiny core is supposed to lead the next generation into the light.

    History suggests that you need more than that, and I fully expect these four players to be in their 30s by the time the Saints re-emerge as a premiership contender.

    Arguably the best of the St Kilda players is Brendan Goddard, noticeably yet to be mentioned.

    Two or three years younger than the rest of the top-end talent, a player of his quality could play well into his thirties either behind the ball or in front of it, and there is some slim chance that he could live the Shane Crawford fairytale by retiring a 300-game player with the final one resulting in a premiership medallion. Not for mine though.

    Make no mistake, the St Kilda Football Club are on the precipice of a long, dark, cold winter, akin to something out of Game of Thrones.

    Which is a shame for a champion team that didn’t win the ultimate prize, and a shame for the champion players who have carried them for so long.

    But such is their fate. So rug up Saints fans, you’re going to be out in the cold for a while yet.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (40)

    • April 30th 2012 @ 8:00am
      Ophuph Hucksake said | April 30th 2012 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      If Winter Is Coming for the Saints, then the Pies will definintely be the Lannisters.

      • Roar Guru

        April 30th 2012 @ 1:11pm
        Redb said | April 30th 2012 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

        The Saints are the Greyjoys never destined to rule for long. 😉

    • April 30th 2012 @ 8:13am
      Steven said | April 30th 2012 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      Yet another Roar article writing off the saints. Keep producing it month after month, and you might get it right one day. The only thing is, filling a team with draft picks might get you a team like Melbourne. The same team you imply St Kilda should have beaten by 50 points in the wet.

      • April 30th 2012 @ 8:50am
        D.Large said | April 30th 2012 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Well Steven, you just cost me a $10 wager with a mate. I was sure that no Saints supporters were actually delusional enough to think they weren’t on a terminal slide. Oh well, live and learn.

        • April 30th 2012 @ 9:16am
          Steven said | April 30th 2012 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          A fool and his money…

          It is this i disagree with: ‘Make no mistake, the St Kilda Football Club are on the precipice of a long, dark, cold winter, akin to something out of Game of Thrones.’

          We will play finals.

          • Columnist

            April 30th 2012 @ 9:28am
            Cameron Rose said | April 30th 2012 @ 9:28am | ! Report

            It’s the ‘we’ that gives you away Steven. Nothing wrong with emotion in football, it’s what we all thrive on, but it means you can’t be objective.

            St Kilda are not even a remote finals hope, and even if you were, what would be the point? To lose in an elimination final, or maybe win by a goal and lose the week after?

            We know the Saints were the toughest team around, and it’s tragic for fans that they couldn’t win the big one. But now they’re going to pay the price for contending for so long. And that price is going to be a costly one.

            • May 1st 2012 @ 6:36am
              Steven said | May 1st 2012 @ 6:36am | ! Report

              What would you have had us do? Rebuild last year even though we were amongst the top few teams in the second half of the season? Rebuild like the Demons, or do it like the Swans? There is no need for full scale rebuilding. And there is always a point to playing finals. Having said that I would love a premiership at some point!

              • Columnist

                May 1st 2012 @ 8:07am
                Cameron Rose said | May 1st 2012 @ 8:07am | ! Report

                Steven, I don’t think it’s a blame game, and to me Ross Lyon did everything right in order to win his side a premiership, and it was worth trying again last year for sure.

                Sometimes things don’t work out though, and the consequences must be suffered. If the Saints can do it like the Swans, then good on them, but I just can’t see it. No doubt you’ll hope i’m wrong!

              • September 29th 2013 @ 10:33pm
                Steve said | September 29th 2013 @ 10:33pm | ! Report

                I am 61 and have been following the Saints for as long as I can remember. Support base in my family is in its 4th generation. As a child I remember the glorious win in 66 not knowing that 47 years would pass without another flag in that time. I only hope I am not pushing up daisies when the second one comes around!! It’s tough being a loyal saints supporter!

          • April 30th 2012 @ 9:41am
            Ian Whitchurch said | April 30th 2012 @ 9:41am | ! Report


            Yes, but they will need to make sure they go somewhere in this years.

            And Im pretty convinced they cant beat West Coast, Sydney or Carlton.

          • April 30th 2012 @ 10:58am
            Matt F said | April 30th 2012 @ 10:58am | ! Report

            I agree with you Steven that the Saints don’t have to nescessarily bottom out. The Swans, and to an extent the Crows, have managed to be very competitive, and in the Swans case even win a flag, without seriously bottoming out. Though it needs to be said that whilst they both never really finished at the bottom, they did have a year or two where they missed finals.

            Bottoming out can help as it does get you access to the best talent but identifying, drafting and developing these players is more important then just having a top pick.

            That being said I can’t see you guys making the finals this season. You’re currently 3-2 despite having a very nice draw for the first 5 rounds and you have to play Hawthorn, Carlton, West Coast and Sydney in the next 4 rounds. You won’t be near the bottom this season, and despite what some people say there does appear to be a few good kids coming through, but I can easily find 8 teams better then the Saints this season.

    • April 30th 2012 @ 8:55am
      D.Large said | April 30th 2012 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      Yes the Saints are done, but I think that was evident mid way through last year. Apart from maybe the Dogs, no other team in the AFL has such a gulf between their elite and their also rans, this is the reason (like the Dogs) I agree they will be out of contention for years. No happy end in sight unfortunately for a team that has deserved at least 1 flag for their efforts in the 2000’s.

    • April 30th 2012 @ 9:06am
      Rob said | April 30th 2012 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      Its a tough game but St Kilda had their chance and couldn’t take it, the next few years will make those memories even more painful, one occasion where time will not heal all wounds.

      When you look think about 2-3 years time, it would be a brave person to suggest the Saints will not be in the bottom few, surely GWS or Gold Coast have more chance of winning a flag this decade? That really says something about where the Saints are at.

      Now lets hope that’s Collingwood next year, slipsliding outside the 8.

    • April 30th 2012 @ 9:19am
      Paul said | April 30th 2012 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      Could not agree with you more, the Saints couldn’t take their chance when it was there to be taken. Watching the game on Saturday night Reiwoldt (albeit kicking 2 goals) was beaten by a 19 year old 5th gamer in MacDonald. Dal Santo, Fisher, Haynes all dragged the Saints over the line however it looks to be that there is too much being left to too few.

    • April 30th 2012 @ 9:23am
      Ian Whitchurch said | April 30th 2012 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      In my view, the Sainters had to be more aggressive in trading with GC and GWS, either directly or through lowballing free agents so they look for greener pastures and send compensation picks back with them, but they tried to keep the premiership window open too long.

      It’ll be a tough rebuild.

      • April 30th 2012 @ 10:04am
        SurlyPie said | April 30th 2012 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        You’re right Ian. They needed to make some tough choices after the 2010 dual grand final defeats and move some players on and get some picks back from GC/GWS. If they’d done that, then they may have been able to revive their list sufficiently to still be a genuine contender. Alas, the horse has now bolted.

        Still, I’m a Pies fan, so no tears shed for St Nick and his cohorts over here!

        • April 30th 2012 @ 10:25am
          Ian Whitchurch said | April 30th 2012 @ 10:25am | ! Report


          Id make the same argument for Collingwood as well. I think Collingwood did it with scheme and Malthouse, and firing him for Tony Shaw mk II will close the Pies window awfully fast.

          • Columnist

            April 30th 2012 @ 10:33am
            Cameron Rose said | April 30th 2012 @ 10:33am | ! Report

            Ian, I like your initial comments, and now Scott Watters is stuck with a poison chalice.

            But I don’t think the Pies window is going to close as quickly, as they won their flag with good young players. The likes of Cloke, Pendles, Beams, Sidebottom, Reid, N.Brown, Wellingham should still have their best football in front of them, and Swan will be around for a while yet. The ruck is their only area of concern.

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