With the Saints winless since Round One, the Monday panel shows have spent much of the last few months applying the blowtorch to the club and Alan Richardson. With the long-awaited second win in the bank after Saturday nights efforts on the Gold Coast, was there a change of tune?
“Get running and back your legs,” is how Alan Richardson recounted his three quarter time address to the AFL360 team. “It was about run. No matter where the ball was it was about getting the ball. It was pretty simple really, we were just going to outnumber wherever the ball went,” Richardson said.
With the coach a regular on Monday night, it was no surprise that there was a sense of celebration about the comeback victory. Hosts Gerard Whateley and Mark Robinson both spoke excitedly of the win in the shows opening segment and Jade Gresham’s winning goal was given a number of airings with it part of the program’s “Close Shave” segment. With their access to the coach, it was always going to be his insight that would be of most interest to Saints fans.
“It was an amazing comeback, an amazing moment,” Richardson described the feeling. “The emotion of defeat and victory is shared by so many in a football club,” he said. “It was a special moment for all our staff, it was a pleasing moment for everyone.”
He expressed that his view that the club had been in strong in the face of the intense scrutiny that they had been under. “I’ve been really proud of our program…we’ve been really strong as a group,” he enthused before suggesting other clubs he had been a part of had not fared as well in the face of similar challenges.
He described how he approached his 3/4 time huddle. “I grabbed the guys before they broke up into their lines,” he explained. “I didn’t give any specifics there was nothing tactical or technical,” he said before detailing the focus of his address was on running out the game strong. Despite the season his team had, the coach was confident that his team could still claim victory. “While we haven’t had victory in recent weeks, we’ve had really strong finishes.”
While his team’s dominance of the clearances was a positive, trailing by 31-points not all was going well. “Our outside game wasn’t working for us some of our entry stuff was as poor as its been actually,” he explained. Along with emploring the team to outnumber the Suns at the contest, there were personnel changes too. “We put a couple of runners to the back and some speed in front of the ball so we didn’t just bomb it away,” he explained.
The changes made and the message delivered, it was up to the players and Richardson was effusive in his praise of their efforts. “Really it was the players just willed themselves to get to the ball and kept surging it forward,” Richardson said. “With a little bit more composure on entry,” he stressed. “I was really proud of the last quarter in general but so pleased that the guys were able to execute in such a pivotal moment.”
Asked about his involvement in the singing of the club song, the first time he has done so, he explained that a Jarryn Geary headlock had played a role in getting him in the circle. Despite the requirement of the skipper’s strong-arm tactics, it was something he was glad to be a part of. “It was one of those nights, we’d been under a lot of pressure..to be able to join in with the boys…I couldn’t resist that one”
A program that doesn’t like to waste time on the positives, Talking Footy opened with a heavy focus on the Blues disaster against the Dockers. Interestingly though, despite Carlton’s 10 goal defeat and a goalless first half, Wayne Carey was surprisingly upbeat about the way the Blues had played out the game.
After 50 minutes, ‘Did St Kilda’s win just paper over the cracks,’ was how the conversation finally turned to events of Saturday night. Campbell Brown, who must have spent the Hawks 2008 Premiership Reunion tuned into the Saints game was particularly animated. “They went up there as strong favourites, you can’t forget that,” he said. “They were completely outplayed for three quarters. They stole that win, don’t get too excited,” he spat out.
Wayne Carey, given his ‘glass half-full’ approach to Carlton’s 57-point defeat, was surprisingly disparaging of the Saints win. “To be 39-points down against a side like the Suns has covered over a lot of cracks,” Carey said. Not content with this, he then made it clear that he was still more impressed with the Blues than the Saints. “We should have led with the Saints,” he surprisingly stressed, seemingly of the view that it much more impressive to be horrible for much of a game and lose by 10-goals than win by two points.
“If the game had finished 90-seconds earlier,” Sam Maclure, with a strange stretch of logic, jumped in to support Carey. “We’d be talking about them losing to the Suns and their feeder team not kicking a goal.” When it was explained to him that a game ends when it ends, he didn’t bother explaining why he is less interested in who wins a game than who leads a minute and a half from the end. “It (winning) shouldn’t change the way we talk about the Saints,” he muttered stubbornly.
Carey, not certain he’d made a big enough goose of himself wasn’t finished yet though. In announcing Hunter Clark as the Rising Star nominee, Luke Darcy suggested that the good news continues for St Kilda. A point that Carey disagreed with. “I’m not sure the good news continues for the Saints though Darce,” Carey said.
Gary Lyon agreed with Gerard Healy’s assessment that despite the win there was ‘still some cracks that are gaping holes’. “Nobody at St Kilda will think that was the panacea that will fix the problems,” Lyon told the panel.
Lyon delivered a pointed criticism of the Saints forward structures. Noting that they had won the Inside 50 count in their losses to Sydney, West Coast and Adelaide he was of the view wasn’t for lack of opportunities that they were losing games. “Their forward line is an horrendous mess, he surmised before Jonathan Brown interrupted.
“Do you think the connection with the midfield is a bit of an issue?” The 2007 Coleman Medallist asked.
“I don’t think there is one,” Lyon bitingly replied. Healy agreed with the former Melbourne skipper. “And its slow if it comes,” he said. “That’s what you’d like to see change. A little more endeavour and a little more speed off half back.”
It wasn’t all brickbats for the Saints forwards, Gary Lyon nominated Tim Membrey as his Couch Gem for the week. “Under pressure when the club’s been under pressure that response has impressed me,” Lyon said noting the forwards strike rate improving from 25% in Rounds 1-9 to 85% in rounds 10-13. “And a big one in the last quarter,” he remarked in relation to Membrey’s important goal during the final quarter surge.
Tom Morris suggested that the recovering Dylan Roberton may not play again. He advised that Roberton is wearing a defibrillator for three months and his heart is not in a good way amidst whispers that he may have played his last game.
Not a lot of time allocated to the Saints. Their breakdown of Gold Coasts failings in the last quarter did highlight the withering nature of the Saints assault.
Damien Barrett suggested the win did nothing more than press pause on the pointy endedness of the speculation surrounding the coach. He was also of the view that for as many questions were answered by the Saints there were an equal amount left unanswered in their falling behind by 39-points.