The St Kilda Saints finished 14th on the 2019 AFL ladder, but they did manage to amass nine wins for the season, which is a fairly respectable record.
You couldn’t blame St Kilda’s list-building team if they threw their arms in the air out of frustration after the Suns were handed an extremely generous bailout package to help them out of a hole they dug during years of incompetence.
The Saints have got plenty wrong in the past decade, but at least they’re making a concerted effort to improve.
The Dan Hannebery deal was questionable in terms of length, but they had a plan and they got an experienced player without giving up anything of consequence in the trade. And by the time he finally got on the field, the former Swan was actually pretty good.
If the Saints can help him stay something close to healthy, the 28-year-old should still have plenty of good footy ahead for his second club.
Brad Hill is their next target, and the 26-year-old would be another welcome addition to the side – he should have made this year’s All Australian squad.
Pick 6 is the likely price, and it’s one that seems a tad steep. St Kilda don’t have their second-round pick this year, and trading their future first would be a bad idea. Trading down is a good idea – it’s worth asking the Giants for picks 12 and 18 in exchange, with 12 then a fair exchange for Hill.
Patrick Ryder will also head to Moorabbin – the price for the Port Adelaide big man should be negligible.
Both of those players should make St Kilda better.
Too much football discussion is focused on whether a team is on track to win a flag or whether they should rebuild. We’ve all heard the cliched question: ‘Will he be part of their next premiership?’.
And it’s all stupid.
There’s a good chance Max King won’t be a part of St Kilda’s next flag. Winning premierships is bloody hard – no-one knows that better than the Saints.
St Kilda are miles from contending from a flag. If their immediate goal is to build a 12-win team and play finals for the first time since 2011, that’s a pretty solid plan.
It’s easy to snicker at them for chasing Zak Jones, but, hell, if they think he’ll help them achieve that goal, why not.
Unfortunately they’ll lose Josh Bruce, who was sixth in the league for contested marks this season and St Kilda’s second-leading goal kicker with 36. He was a solid key forward and will be difficult to replace.
They’ll be hoping King can provide a facsimile of those numbers, but that’s extremely optimistic for a second-year player.
St Kilda won nine games this year. Maybe a new coach, a few veteran additions and some natural development is enough to land them three or four more wins.
Regardless of whether they succeed, St Kilda deserve to be commended for trying. They could cop-out and play the rebuild card. It would be the easier move.
And maybe it’s desperation rather than anything noble that’s driving them.
I doubt their players or their fans will care how they got there if the Saints are playing finals in 2020 – nine years is a hell of a long time to go without.