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Goodwill from Saints' win goes up in smoke

St Kilda's romantic farewell at Etihad Stadium last Saturday erased so much of the pain of the 2013 season.

Forgotten briefly was the Saints' lack of competitiveness, the challenges posed by Stephen Milne's situation, the loss of Brendon Goddard and the anti-doping tribunal hearing facing Ahmed Saad.

St Kilda may have come heartbreakingly close to two premierships; might be struggling for money, form and profile but it had been one hell of a ride and no one could fail to be moved by the romance of the retirements of three stalwarts last week.

But it took only two days for the club to erase that goodwill with its Mad Monday debacle at the hotel in Albert Park. Barely a week after the AFL had sent its welfare team in to mentor the footballers so famous for off-field scandals, the club hired two dwarf entertainers with one set fire to after some players did so to themselves.

Just who at the club took ownership of the booked outing is unclear but that seems to be the way things roll there. Certainly Leigh Montagna, who rose at dawn on Friday to address a Very Special Kids fundraiser, has been embarrassed by his part in the affair, and Clinton Jones humiliated and fined.

Nick Riewoldt should also be embarrassed. His season has been stellar but somewhere along the line on Monday his leadership failed. Riewoldt must take responsibility now for St Kilda's terrible reputation and the most recent fall-out. His legacy as one of the greatest Saints is secured, but right at this moment Riewoldt could not say he will leave the club better than when he assumed the captaincy. That must be his ambition as he enters the twilight years.

It is not Riewoldt's fault that the structures off-field are so flimsy.

Whether Scott Watters will prove to be a good coach is unknown, but what is clear is that Watters needs more experience around him and a strong football department boss.

It appears that the coach alone chose to play Saad in the midst of the anti-doping investigation without consulting those above him and, in doing so, gave a giant finger to the AFL and the wider sporting community. Where was the wise head to talk him out of it? The very fact that Saad was taking something without the club knowing demands scrutiny.

The tangible signs are that the entire club, led by Riewoldt in player terms, has vowed to engineer a cultural shift.

Brisbane Lion Daniel Rich's incident involving a man in a wheelchair on Sunday night will draw more scrutiny to post-season celebrations but the focus remains on the Saints because scandal continues to define their brand.

Monday marks one year since Port Adelaide's John McCarthy lost his life and yet, for so many clubs, the message still has not hit home. But, in the short-term at least, things seem to be changing at St Kilda. The players declared mid-week they would not drink alcohol at Friday night's best-and-fairest count and cancelled their after-party.

A group of players cancelled their end-of-season trip to Thailand. On Friday, the players called or emailed every member who had vented their disgust at the club to apologise and filmed a ''sorry'' video for the club's website.

All are steps in the right direction but they should not underestimate the damage caused by their latest scandal.

''There has been a lot of soul-searching this week,'' said club chief Michael Nettlefold.

''What took place on Monday was not the St Kilda Football Club we want, or the St Kilda our members want. The buck stops with everyone and it stops in my office. Things have to change.''

This could prove a last chance for St Kilda.

The players have made the right noises, as has the CEO, but both have plenty of work to do and the first step is to put some major off-field restructuring in place.

For too long the emphasis on media management has been given disproportionate priority when compared with strong leadership at every level.


  • St. Kilda will never change, these shenanigans have been going on as long as I remember, I saw 3 players drunk the Thursday before the Adelaide grand wonder they lost

    Date and time
    September 07, 2013, 7:46AM
    • That was 16 years ago, and the culture at St Kilda has improved a great deal since then. Injuries hurt them on that day too. But obviously they still have some way to go. I am hopeful for their future, but as for seeing them win a GF, that might be left to my great-grand children.

      Steve G
      Date and time
      September 07, 2013, 8:00AM
    • Look at me comments like this are fruitless to all bad you. I am a Melbourne supporter, so no doubt you will now take aim as I state what is obvious.

      Date and time
      September 07, 2013, 8:38AM
    • The prank was silly and childish (although I know five year olds with more sense and moral compass) however it did not deserve the medias and publics hysterical reaction.

      The over the top number of column inches devoted to this story is ridiculous.

      At the risk of being attacked by the hordes of the lemming political correct I say save the outrage and moral indignation for those issues, locally and overseas, which demand it more compellingly.

      Date and time
      September 07, 2013, 10:16AM
    • @ Socrates,

      You think setting someone on fire is just a silly prank unworthy of scrutiny? I am horrified to think what sort of hazing you might inflict on a fellow human being if you consider setting someone on fire to be a silly joke.

      Had this been done by an ordinary person, they would have been charged with assault, or at the very least with reckless endangerment.

      Date and time
      September 07, 2013, 11:49AM
  • I am not a member but I have barracked for St Kilda since I was seven years old. I will do so no longer.

    Date and time
    September 07, 2013, 8:15AM
    • its supporters like you that we don't need off you go and barrack for someone else.

      Date and time
      September 07, 2013, 10:06AM
    • @Libran56,

      You're wrong. St Kilda needs supporters who are willing to stick by the club, but speak up and say that certain behaviour is unacceptable.

      Date and time
      September 07, 2013, 11:50AM
    • So you haven't contributed anything to the Saints in the past and now you have made the world changing decision to not contribute anything in the future. It could be argued that St.Kilda will be stronger without the likes of you so I guess a thank you is in order.

      Date and time
      September 07, 2013, 12:27PM
  • Sadly, the Saints have just been going through the same old, same old. I have been a supporter/member for most of my life, nearly 50 years in fact. But there are times when it just gets too much. Nick R is the leader, Lenny the spiritual one, but off field? Too little to late in my eyes. One more year from me? Maybe.

    Mike of Victor
    Seaford Rise
    Date and time
    September 07, 2013, 8:28AM

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    Round 23
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    Round 24
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    Round 25
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    Round 26
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    Round 27
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    AFL 2015
    Overall standings
    Team P W L D % Pts
    Fremantle 22 17 5 0 118.73 68
    West Coast Eagles 22 16 5 1 148.22 66
    Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
    Sydney Swans 22 16 6 0 127.12 64
    Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
    Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
    Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
    North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
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