THE SAINTS won no friends with their miserable performance on Good Friday, but Sportshounds writer PAUL GOUGH has deeper concerns about the club:
SOMETIMES you really do have to wonder just what is the point of the St Kilda Football Club? For so long the lovable losers in the suburban VFL days, now in the 21st century the Saints seemingly look out of place in the professional, modern day AFL.
While at various times the Western Bulldogs, Richmond, Melbourne, even Carlton and especially North Melbourne have had their viability questioned – little is ever mentioned about St Kilda despite one disaster after another and being $10 million in debt.
On Good Friday the Saints were finally given their opportunity on the big stage – a marquee game in only the second ever AFL match played on one of the most sacred days on the AFL calendar against North Melbourne.
Eyebrows were raised when the AFL – in their infinite wisdom – decided to change last year’s successful inaugural match between the Roos and reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs and instead this time had the Saints facing the Shinboners.
And how did the club repay the faith shown in them by the AFL? By producing one of the worst performances seen in years in kicking just five goals for the game in perfect weather.
The Saints somehow managed to lose by 52 points to a team widely tipped to finish on the bottom of the ladder.
And one which was coming back from a gruelling trip to Cairns – where they lost to the Gold Coast Suns in a match PLAYED IN A CYCLONE.
Hardly the best preparation!
But still the Saints “licked milk” to use an old racing parlance and even worse their dwindling fan base failed to support the match.
Just under 34,000 fans turned up to the 53,500 capacity Etihad Stadium for the match – down on the nearly 43,000 that attended last year’s North-Bulldogs match.
But what did the AFL expect – the Saints crowds have been average for years and while other clubs (notably Hawthorn and to a lesser extent the Dogs and North) have been able to build up their lowly supporter bases, the Saints have stagnated.
Again, this is hardly surprising.
When the Saints almost won a flag under Ross Lyon they did everything possible to alienate the media and limit access to their team of stars for the public, thus losing a valuable connection.
And now when they are devoid of stars – their captain Jarryn Geary could dead set walk down Bourke Street in peak hour and not be recognised – they simply fail to generate any interest.
But even worse this is a club that took $4 million of ratepayers’ money eight years ago from a Frankston Council representing a low socio-economic area to move to Seaford and then failed to engage with the local community in any meaningful way.
Aren’t the southern suburbs of Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula supposed to be the club’s supporter stronghold.
Well as someone who lives on the Peninsula, let me tell you it’s rare to ever run into a St Kilda supporter.
The players grizzled and sooked for eight years about having to drive all the way to Seaford and how there were no trendy coffee shops in the area – with former skipper Nick Riewoldt saying the move ripped the heart out of the club.
Funny how the Hawks move from Glenferrie to Waverley Park didn’t have the same result.
But then the Hawks are professional and have won 13 premierships in the past 57 years while St Kilda has won a record 27 wooden spoons and one premiership (by a solitary point with a kick that should have bounced out of bounds) in 121 years.
Really that tells you all you need to know about the professionalism of the AFL’s worst performed club in history.
Author: Paul Gough
PAUL GOUGH covered the AFL from 1990 to 2010 for the Herald Sun, Australian Associated Press, the AFL website and Sportal.