St Kilda 2012: The Thrill of the Unknown

St. Kilda Supporters
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Sometimes the greatest feeling of excitement is the one that accompanies having no earthly idea what is going to happen.

It is a feeling that has disappeared from the standard range of emotions for St Kilda fans watching their team play over the last few years.

While they have enjoyed a consistent performance and level of moderate success (although not moderate in the comparative history of the seaside club), over the years presided over by Ross Lyon as coach, the style has been reliable rather than flashy.

Don’t get me wrong, there has been a wonderful piece of mind that has gone with turning up at Etihad Stadium to watch my beloved Saints play. That feeling was that regardless of opponent, the effort would be close to total, the performance would be of the sort you could set your watch to, and the result would almost certainly be in the positive.

But there was little excitement during Lyon’s reign, even the excitement of the unknown usually attached with the arrival of a new coach. When Lyon was brought in by St Kilda, everyone knew what the Saints were purchasing: a tough attitude highlighted by a commitment to winning the contested ball, and a “defence wins premierships” philosophy.

However, now that Lyon has left the Saints for greener pastures at Fremantle, a buzz of excitement is surrounding St Kilda that has been missing for some time: the thrill of the unknown.

Some of that excitement is associated with those youngsters who made their debut for the Saints in 2011, when injuries and poor form made their selections somewhat inevitable, even under Ross Lyon’s tried and true selection policy.

Arryn Siposs, Jamie Cripps, Daniel Archer, Nick Winmar, Tom Simpkin and Tom Ledger all commenced their senior AFL careers in 2011, and all are back in 2012 to build on those beginnings.

To add to these names is another bunch of youngsters, with Seb Ross, Jay Lever, Daniel Markworth, Ahmed Saad and Terry Milera now in the red, white and black fold.

These players will replace stalwarts such as Steven Baker, Andrew McQualter, Michael Gardiner and Robert Eddy, who despite showing full commitment to the Saints’ cause over a number of years, were an entirely known quantity.

In the box, Scott Watters is also untried and unproven at this level. How he will attempt to rejuvenate a playing group who, despite so much undeniable talent, has been labelled in the media and other footy circles as tired and downtrodden by years of ultimately unrewarded hard work and “scandals”, remains to be seen.

Nick Riewoldt endured what for him has been described everywhere as a “year from hell”, but for almost anyone else in the league would have been a highly productive year. His high standards will demand a return to his pre-hamstring injury form.

Lenny Hayes was missing for almost the entire year, and the parallels between his last year ruined by a knee injury (2006) were there for all to see. James Gwilt also suffered a season-ending knee injury, and others like Jason Gram, Leigh Montagna, Brendon Goddard and Sam Gilbert were down on performance.

Hopefully a new coaching staff and a new energy will lift the weight from these players’ shoulders. Stephen Milne, Sam Fisher and Nick Dal Santo led the way in 2011, and hopefully their output can be relied upon again.

The main improvement needs to come from those who have not been relied upon for great output. Collingwood and Geelong have proven in recent years that depth may be the most important ingredient to ultimate success, and it is something that has been identified by many as lacking in the St Kilda playing group.

Who knows what is going to happen? On some level, it’s good to feel like that again.

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