This weekend against Richmond, Alan Richardson will become the second longest-serving coach in St Kilda’s history, surpassing Grant Thomas’ 123 games.
It could also be his last game as coach. He is one loss away from losing his job.
A performance like the one St Kilda dished up against Brisbane on the weekend cannot be tolerated by fans or sponsors for much longer. Unlike other games, the Saints had no excuses in this game. It’s becoming a running theme of Richardson’s tenure: the team cannot win the important matches. And not only do they lose, they lose badly.
In 2017, St Kilda were on the brink of playing finals when they met Melbourne in Round 21. A win would have put them in the eight. But they ended up losing by four goals.
In 2018, St Kilda met North Melbourne on Good Friday in one of the club’s only marquee games of the season. After the abysmal first half, North ran away with the game, and the Saints lost any chance that they had to maintain this fixture long term.
And this weekend the Saints had the opportunity to place themselves only percentage outside of the eight, with what has been described as the easiest run home of all clubs. A win would have put finals right on the agenda. Even a close loss would have left the door open. But the ten-goal margin and the manner of the defeat have basically killed that opportunity. The percentage loss alone is almost irreparable.
There has been an excuse for every other loss this year. Be it injuries or illness or simply the other side being much better. But the Saints were at least in those games, except against Port Adelaide, and that performance definitely had excuses behind it.
But allowing a team such as Brisbane – who should be around the same level as St Kilda – to score ten goals in a quarter is simply unacceptable. Especially when there are no excuses.
It was a home game and two important players in Dan Hannebery and Jake Carlisle returned to the lineup, making it arguably one of the strongest sides that the team has played this year. Sure, four players from last year’s top ten in the best and fairest were out, but that still does not excuse the performance.
And unfortunately, since it’s become a pattern, the coach must take ultimate responsibility.
So, why not just flick the switch and sack Richardson this week? Because the club and the coach need one more opportunity to make amends for the weekend.
Against a Richmond side that has not exactly been setting the world on fire, St Kilda have one last opportunity to shake up the finals make-up.
Win and the draw suddenly opens up, with games against North Melbourne, the Bulldogs, Carlton, Melbourne and Sydney all being winnable. Win these and the team are on the cusp of finals.
However, a loss against the Tigers on the weekend and not only will the door on finals be slammed shut, but those winnable games suddenly look less winnable.
It’s a cliche to say that there are no bad teams, but this year it is undoubtedly true. These winnable games are all 50/50 prospects, but the confidence hit from a big loss to Richmond will lower those odds even further.
If the Saints lose to the Tigers on the weekend, be it a big loss or a small one, then the club must look to the future.
And that future cannot include Alan Richardson as coach.
But, if the team and the coach can finally prove that they can win an important match, then Richardson is safe for a week at least.
His reign as coach remains very tenuous. With two other clubs already on the lookout for a new coach, the merry-go-round of coaches during this off-season promises to be dramatic. And the Saints cannot be last out of the blocks if they are to find the replacement that they want.
It’s true that Richardson has led the Saints well through a difficult period for the club, but if St Kilda are to make meaningful progress, something has to give soon.