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St Kilda are not in the worst position in the AFL. Here's why

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Roar Pro
8th February, 2019
19
1236 Reads

It seems that there is always a fascination with St Kilda as a club.

The number of times on football forums that St Kilda’s poor history is mentioned out of nowhere is fascinating. It always strikes me as a bit of insecurity; “Well, we may be bad, but look at St Kilda – they are horrible”.

Oh well, the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.

But now a piece has appeared on this site which must be responded to. It claims that, of all the clubs in the league, St Kilda is in the worst position going forward. And that is not a claim that can go unchallenged.

The Saints, last season, were awful. There is no debate about that at all. Four wins for a team that many tipped to be on the cusp of finals was simply not good enough. But, the question has to be, why were they tipped to be on the cusp of finals?

Did the experts and pundits get it totally wrong, or were there specific reasons and issues that affected the saints last season?

Nathan Freeman

St Kilda – are they in trouble? (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Let’s first address some of the criticisms that are made about the Saints. Firstly, recruitment. Now it’s definitely fair to say that the recruitment and development of the Saints between the Lyon Era and the beginning of the Richardson era was full of failures. But to suggest that this has continued since is nonsense.

To say that Shane Savage and Logan Austin have not been good recruits is simply wrong. Savage has been important off half back since he arrived at the club, and Logan Austin has been at the club for barely a season.

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It might be a little early to write him off. The same goes for Billy Longer – he still has a role to play (as frustrating as he is sometimes). Similarly, to say that Jake Carlisle has been brilliant is overstating it slightly. Certainly he has been a good recruit, important to the team and arguably a level above the other recruits at the Saints.

But to call him brilliant, while calling Shane Savage and Logan Austin bad is simply wrong. Arguably, in the short term, Nathan Brown has been just as important to St Kilda’s defence as Carlisle has been.

An overlooked player here is Jack Steele, who is now on the cusp of becoming St Kilda’s most important player. He was third in the Best and Fairest last year. He was recruited from GWS, but since he doesn’t fit the “St Kilda’s recruitment is rubbish” angle, he is strangely absent from the discussion.

Jack Steele Josh Bruce St Kilda Saints AFL 2017

St Kilda’s Jack Steele (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

The incessant attacks on Jack Billings are also getting tiresome. The weakest aspect of his game is goal kicking, and his slated move to the midfield this season will do a lot to nullify that weakness. Further, last season, despite St Kilda’s problem with scoring, Billings was number one at St Kilda, and equal seventh in the league for Goal Assists. That is not the stat of a poor player.

And, if Paddy McCartin can actually get a run of games going, then we might actually see what he can do as a player, rather than judging him as a failure already.

The argument that the current debt at Moorabbin is problem is compelling. However, the performance of the club in 2018 made that impossible. It’s typical that the improved stadium deal occurred in the same season as the Saints’ poor performances. No club would have made money last year playing the way St Kilda did.

Poor performances equal poor crowds. But, membership has not collapsed and more stages of development have already been approved at Moorabbin. Had the Docklands deal been giving its fair share of the revenue to St Kilda from its beginning, debt wouldn’t even be mentioned. Does this debt put St Kilda in a poor position now? Of course, but considering the position that they have been in in the past it’s not panic stations, yet.

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It’s also argued that the Saints have poor leadership on and off the field. But now that the club has tried to rectify this by recruiting a player of the calibre of Dan Hannebery, that is also called out as desperation.

Even with all the money in the world, a club in St Kilda’s position cannot just recruit a ready made, fully healthy leader at the peak of their career. What the Saints have done is taken a player oozing leadership, who is in need of a fresh start and who is a proven star with plenty left to prove after a few interrupted seasons.

It is a risk, but one definitely worth taking. And from training reports it seems to be working. Training is reportedly much louder, and communication much higher when Hannebery is on the field.

At first glance, it looks like St Kilda is not in a good position. But they were in a much worse position in the middle of last season. Off season acquisitions of players and coaches have sent a new vibe of positivity around the club.

After 2017, many in the media jumped onto the Saints as one of the next big things. After last season just as many jumped off.The results of a single season do not tell us much about the direction of a club. It is much too early to suggest that St Kilda are in the worst position of any club in the league.

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The results of this season will tell us so much more about the trajectories of clubs near the bottom of the ladder.