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Magnificent seven's hopes flagging

St Kilda icons Nick Riewoldt, Lenny Hayes and Brendan Goddard are nearing the twilight of their careers.

St Kilda icons Nick Riewoldt, Lenny Hayes and Brendan Goddard are nearing the twilight of their careers. Photo: Paul Rovere

EIGHT-AND-A-HALF years ago, some young Cats and Saints were considered the up-and-comers of the AFL. They played off in the grand final of the pre-season competition.

The Grant Thomas-coached Saints beat the Cats in front of 50,000 and captain Lenny Hayes held the premiership cup aloft. But a sour-faced Thomas and tight-lipped Hayes didn't get overexcited. They sent a message to the footy world that they had bigger fish to fry.

On the list were seven Saints who were to become the faces of the club over the next decade: Hayes, Nick Riewoldt, Stephen Milne, Brendon Goddard, Nick Dal Santo, Leigh Montagna and Sam Fisher.

Eight years on, the Saints still haven't cracked it for a smile, and their big names are destined to have unfulfilled careers. Meanwhile, Matthew Scarlett, Jimmy Bartel, Corey Enright, Paul Chapman and co proudly look at their three premiership medallions and know that they can rest easy in retirement.

Three years ago it could have been different when these two teams played off in one of the closest and toughest grand finals. St Kilda led narrowly at quarter-time, but couldn't kick a goal in the final term. The Cats kicked three to take the glory. Among St Kilda's best that day were Hayes, Goddard and Montagna. A year later, the Saints played in two more grand finals - the draw with Collingwood and then the loss. The best players in that finals series were again Hayes, Goddard and Montagna, along with Riewoldt, Fisher and Dal Santo.

Tonight, the Cats and Saints meet again.

But you just have to wonder if the dream has gone now for the Saints, and in particular the seven stalwarts who have given so much but are now coming to the end of distinguished careers. Just what do these seven Saints stars have left in the tank?

NICK RIEWOLDT

The captain now plays on wonky knees and is forced to play closer to goal. That's OK, and, after two ordinary seasons, he is having a good one in 2012. He may well give up the captaincy at the end of this season and enjoy his last couple of years.

NICK DAL SANTO

Now into his 11th season and with 235 games the durable midfielder has missed just one game in the past three seasons and is on track for another top-five finish in the club best and fairest. Should play four more seasons and pass the 300-game milestone.

STEPHEN MILNE

The little man with the big mouth is the Saints' most disliked player by those outside of the club but one of the most valued within. He plays in one of the hardest spots on the ground - small permanent forward. His 255 games have delivered 536 goals, a terrific return but, in his 16 finals games, not once is he mentioned in St Kilda's best players. At 32, another two years, at most, will see him out.

BRENDON GODDARD

Of the seven topliners, Goddard has the most football left. A good five years will get him to 32 and 300-plus games. He made a real name for himself with quality performances in St Kilda's three grand finals in 2009-10. He dropped away last year to finish ninth in club voting after being top three in the previous two years. He was a bad bounce away from being a St Kilda hero for life after his spectacular mark and goal late in the 2010 grand final. Now, he has to decide whether to stay a Saint forever or take the money and run.

SAM FISHER

The 30-year-old has won two of the past four club best-and-fairest awards. His ability to read the play to take intercept marks makes him the team's best defender. The other defenders rely heavily on him to present in the right spots to help them run the ball out of defence. Most teams don't let him run free, and his career will be cut short if he has to play on ''monsters'' such as Travis Cloke or Tom Hawkins, so it's imperative the Saints find some big defenders to protect him. Two or three more years will see him out.

LEIGH MONTAGNA

The small man will be 29 next year when he enters his 12th season. He rarely misses a game and will notch his 200th game in 2013. He is the only Saint to finish top six in the best and fairest in each of the past five seasons, so he continually gives quality output. Once again, he is having a fine season. Could play on for four more years.

LENNY HAYES

I, along with all other football followers, hope that the 32-year-old champion plays on next year, as he has said he wants to. After a year out with injury, Hayes has returned to play hard, effective football once again. He leads the way in so many areas: No. 1 for disposals, clearances, tackles, inside-50s and contested possessions. You would like to see the 2010 Norm Smith medallist go out a premiership player, but the reality is that's unlikely to happen. He will, however, have the respect of all the football world, and very few can boast that.

31 comments so far

  • Oh it's not all bad, look on the bright side Luke Ball is a Premiership player.

    Commenter
    AC
    Location
    Collingwood
    Date and time
    August 17, 2012, 8:17AM
    • But unfortunately for him, he'll have to celebrate it at Collingwood functions for the remainder of his life with only O'Brien, Jolly and potentially Maxwell capable of having a coherent / socially-relevant conversation with him. I'm sure he'd gladly hand the medal back to have one more crack to do it with teammates he actually respects.

      Commenter
      Tom
      Location
      Brighton
      Date and time
      August 17, 2012, 9:07AM
    • He doesn't look to unhappy personally mate. Also, I would be a little careful claiming the high ground regarding socially relevant anything when referring to the Aints.

      Commenter
      AC
      Location
      Collingwood
      Date and time
      August 17, 2012, 9:47AM
    • On the assumption you're a Pies fan, that Sir, is irony defined.

      Commenter
      Tom
      Location
      Brighton
      Date and time
      August 17, 2012, 10:25AM
    • If anything Luke Ball must be eternally grateful that events conspired to have him join a club that recognised his talent and assign the recources to enable him to fully recover from Ostestis pubis. So much so he took a pay cut, the football world owes Ross Lyon and The Aints.

      Commenter
      Pieron
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 17, 2012, 10:53AM
    • Carefull what you say Tom of Brighton, Chris Dawes is an old Brighton Grammar boy. Clearly you didn't major in "Having a sense of humour."

      Commenter
      Jeff
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 17, 2012, 11:18AM
    • AC, that's the wittiest comment I've seen posted in a long time. May their misery continue for many years to come!

      Commenter
      Albert
      Location
      Victoria Park
      Date and time
      August 17, 2012, 11:41AM
    • @Jeff - what are you talking about? I graduated with honours in "Having A Sense Of Humour" from the University of Phoenix

      Commenter
      Tom
      Location
      Brighton
      Date and time
      August 17, 2012, 3:46PM
  • St Kilda should have traded Milne years ago, once it was clearly evident that he chokes in finals games. Not amongst the best in 16 finals, and some of these were shockers. Not much good kicking goals during the h/a games if you can't produce when it counts.

    Commenter
    JD
    Date and time
    August 17, 2012, 9:09AM
    • Gotta kicks goals during the home and away season to make it to the finals. Way to over look that one.

      Commenter
      AdamA
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 17, 2012, 11:28AM

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