The Saints paid a heavy price for their First Round Fosters Cup victory over West Coast in 1991. They would advance to the second round of the knockout competition but would be without the services of Tony Lockett, who was taken to hospital with a back injury. From the moment ‘outsiders’ were barred from the Saints rooms at half-time, the seriousness of the injury would be shrouded in mystery (officials describing it as either a kidney injury, a rib problem or possibly vertebrae damage). It would remain so, with a number of comeback dates announced and by the club, until he made a triumphant return against the Crows in Round Seven.
It was a bitter blow for the 1987 Brownlow Medallist who had, after completing his first full pre-season since winning the medal, shed 12 kilograms and primed for an assault on the AFL record of 150 goals in a season. But, with hopes high that he would return in Round One, hopes that would remain until teams were announced on the Thursday before the first game, Lockett’s injury failed to take the gloss of St Kilda’s first pre-season competition victory in seven years.
Trevor Barker was particularly impressed by his former teams performance that saw them overcome a fourth quarter deficit to record a 17-point victory. While four goals from Stewart Loewe would prove to be the difference on this night, Barker was full of praise for the Saints recruits in his column in the Sunday Herald the following day.
“St Kilda not only won a Fosters Cup game for the first time last night, but it unveiled what seems certain to be another batch of recruiting coups,” the club legend exalted. While reserving special praise for his ‘pick of the crop’ – Gilbert McAdam, Brian Wilson, and Russell Morris, the efforts of Stephen Newport, Jamie Shanahan, and Sean Ralphsmith did not go unnoticed by Barker.
Wilson kicked a goal with his first kick and Barker liked what he saw from the 1982 Brownlow Medallist. “His experience showed out clearly and he will be a definite asset for the Saints,” he wrote. “Especially if Lockett is off the scene for a prolonged period.”
Russell Morris work when moved behind the ball impressed Barker. “Morris started on the half-forward line and did well but he looked even more comfortable when he was moved to the half-back line where he was a prolific kick getter.”
Not surprisingly McAdam’s pace and skills captured Barker’s attention. In an eye-catching performance, he kicked three goals, including one at the end of a 60 metre run. “McAdam, in particular, looks a high-class acquisition, demonstrating terrific pace and ball skills on the half-forward line and on the ball,” he wrote. “He has the same uncanny ball sense as teammate Jimmy Krakouer and the suspended Nicky Winmar. It will be a day to remember when the Saints get all three firing on the forward line on the same day.”
The Plugger-less Saints run in the 1991 Fosters Cup would end in the next round against the Adelaide Crows. While the AFL new boys might have benefitted on this occasion from the absence of the burly spearhead, they would not be so lucky the next two times the teams met.
With Lockett finally back from his rib/kidney/vertebrae injury, and kicking 12 goals, the Saints would record a then-record 131-point victory over the sorry Crows in Round Seven. He would kick a further 10 in Round 22, including his 100th goal in just his 15th game of the season, in a 51-point victory that all but wrapped up a berth in the finals for the first time in 18 years.