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Accepting an unacceptable season at St Kilda

I come to bury St Kilda’s season, not to praise it.

The good of a season can often be lost in the mire of disappointment. Likewise, focusing, or even sometimes mentioning, positives can open you up to accusations of either foolishness, blindness or unhelpful optimism.

This St Kilda team overcame Fremantle in Perth, belted Richmond into the ground, outran minor premiers Geelong, and ran over the top of the still up-and-coming Carlton.

But they were not a good team.

Max King kicked 52 goals for the season and yet the focus was on his poor goalkicking. This is a man who constantly has to fight against three defenders hanging off him before even getting a shot at goal.

While this raises serious questions about the forward and midfield structure that the Saints are running with, with King as the only serious target, it does give some explanation about his sometimes wayward kicking. The man is carrying the forward line all by himself!

At the start of the season I said much would depend on King, and so it turned out. An accurate King made a good team better, an inaccurate one kept a bad team in its position. Next season, an accurate King could drag a bad team up to being good.

Max King of the Saints celebrates a goal.

Max King of the Saints celebrates a goal. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Because remember, this is a club that’s nowhere near success.

And let’s not forget Ben Long. Every week he gives the effort that every player should, but doesn’t. His performance against Sydney should now be his benchmark. He’s always been magnificent in patches, he could be game changing if he maintained the performances as he did on Sunday.

And Jack Sinclair, having earnt his first All Australian, has proven what it looks like to maintain a high level of performance throughout the season. He has done the 35 jumper proud. Aside from the haircut, you could be mistaken for thinking he was Robert Harvey reborn, such is his reliability.

Remember though, this is a poor team.

While we’re here, the two academy prospects of Windhager and Owens have slotted in very nicely into the team. Windhager’s rising star nomination, earnt for shutting down some of the best players in the game, was an unexpected but correct decision by the AFL.

With only seven games, Owens of course didn’t reach the same heights as Windhager but his game against Sydney was his best, which is an encouraging sign for next year and the future.

The football intelligence and skill of Wanganeen-Milera are evident. If he is a long-term prospect, watching how he now develops will be an exciting subplot of the next phase of this St Kilda side.

This season was a failure. Depending on your perspective, either 97 or 123 of the 124 seasons that St Kilda have competed in have been failures. And while it’s easy to give into despair in those cold days of mid-winter, as yet another season slipped away, the first glimpses of Spring lends a different perspective on things.

I tell you the team had a poor season, but lurking just underneath is something else, something beyond the mid-ladder obscurity which has cursed the recent St Kilda sides.

The club survives with 60,000 members. The core is more than competent. The youth is exciting. The off-field image of the team is being remade from the state it dropped to after Ross Lyon fled to Fremantle.

But that’s an image that could so easily be destroyed if recruiters are not careful. The club can survive poor performance, but not players wrapped in scandal.

I’m not here to offer blind hope about the future, simply to state that things are not as dark as they appear. There is the glimpse of something bright on the horizon.

And now, as the first winds of September tease us, maybe with some Priest-ly intervention, the St Kilda Women will bring the club much-needed success.

May Moorabbin be filled with 10,000 Saints fans this Spring, cheering for the new age that surely has to come soon.

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