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The Saints' troubled home life

Tale of two homes: Justin Koschitzke (left) and Nick Riewoldt at a St Kilda training session at Seaford.

Tale of two homes: Justin Koschitzke (left) and Nick Riewoldt at a St Kilda training session at Seaford. Photo: Paul Rovere

IT REMAINS one of the most fateful days in St Kilda's 115-year history, but it is five years since the Saints' former boss, Archie Fraser, stormed out of a marathon session with the City of Kingston and declared: ''We're gone, we're out of here.''

Fraser was talking about deserting Moorabbin, the club's home since 1965 and the heart of the St Kilda Football Club - a heart which continues to beat with a melancholy rhythm. As it does so, the team and those around it attempt to make the best of one of the game's more unfathomable decisions in recent history.

That decision was the move by the club to give up on Moorabbin and move to a satellite venue at Seaford, the reconstructed Belvedere Park. It was a decision dreaded by players, coaches and staff alike, and a move which now - almost 18 months since it took place - remains a regretful and occasionally bitter talking point among all at the Saints.

For many Saints, Moorabbin is still the preferred home.

For many Saints, Moorabbin is still the preferred home. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Even the AFL privately believes more could have been done to save Moorabbin and reach a deal with the local council to push ahead with what was then a proposed $10.5 million upgrade, which fell apart over a bureaucratic stumbling block involving 80 poker machines.

The league is well aware that the players have not completely embraced their new home and also concedes that the club has already begun to outgrow what Fraser promised would prove a ''world-class facility''.

The Saints administration has already more than filled its new offices and the club's high-performance trainers remain concerned at the long hours footballers spend each week driving to and from the venue - for many players, closer to two hours than one hour each day.

1965: Workmen in the foreground screw down seats in the grandstand as the players do their warm-up lap. Click for more photos

Saint's haven

St Kilda left Moorabbin, its cosy home since 1965, after a dispute with Kingston council over its redevelopment. They last played at the southern suburbs venue in 1992. 

Quite apart from the more trivial concerns regarding the geographic reality of a headquarters boasting no neighbouring infrastructure and situated by the side of a freeway, the Linen House Centre boasts no lap pool and no theatrette and already sits well behind the AFL's best practices in terms of training facilities.

And now the club is very quietly but firmly eyeing a return to its former home. While there is no suggestion the Saints will leave Seaford - where it holds a 25-year lease with an option of a further 25 years - the hope is that a push combined with AFL Victoria to create a centre of excellence around the still-pristine Moorabbin Oval will lead to the footballers spending half their weekly training hours back at Linton Street.

The City of Kingston's chief executive, John Nevins, confirmed this week that he had held a series of talks with St Kilda chief executive Michael Nettlefold and the club's general manager of new business Anthony Moore with a view to putting Moorabbin as a community football hub back on the map.

''If St Kilda is keen to continue using Moorabbin, we'd be very keen to look at that,'' Nevins told The Saturday Age, pointing out the Saints still held 28 years on their lease with Moorabbin. ''It is on the drawing board. They have a very strong local supporter base and the people of Kingston remain very proud of their relationship with St Kilda.

''St Kilda has been here since the early 1960s and they remain very much a part of this community and the people in it.''

Nevins confirmed ''a shared interest'' with the Saints in opening Linton Street up for community use, as well as creating a community football hub to be used by the Sandringham Dragons, the Southern Football League and the 430-team South Metro Junior Football League.

Fraser, who quit the Saints in 2009 for an ill-fated move to run the A-League, claimed this week that the move to Seaford involved an agreement with the City of Frankston that remains the envy of many other clubs. But the pull towards Moorabbin remains magnetic.

And the falling out with the council five years ago appears another classic case with which St Kilda's history is littered - the story of a conflict between personalities getting in the way of the big picture.

St Kilda still trains at its old home at least once a month - significantly more over the pre-season - despite the absence of changing rooms, which were demolished when the grandstand was pulled down. The players also still enjoy the use of the old gymnasium and a recent members' day at Linton Street attracted more than 1000 fans.

Whether the Saints move towards a stand-alone reserves team, the club remains keen for either a St Kilda VFL side or Sandringham - to which the club remains wedded until the end of 2013 - to train in future at Moorabbin under the AFL Victoria model, which involves a push to create centres of excellence in both rural and metropolitan communities.

No one at St Kilda would publicly criticise Seaford this week and certainly no one wants to offend the City of Frankston, which contributed close to $4 million to the Linen House Centre - a facility which was to have been based at Frankston Oval before building restrictions led to the project budget blowing out by more than $5 million.

But the club's newly restructured football department has worked to alleviate the players' various logistical issues with their new home. The recently renegotiated collective bargaining agreement, which demanded one full day off for players, means that during the season the team must travel to the Linen House Centre only four days each week at a maximum - not five.

While it is true the players now enjoy significantly better facilities than previously, the big question that remains is whether all this heartache could have been prevented.

Not according to Fraser. The major thorn in the club's side in 2007 was Kingston councillor Greg Alabaster, who some at the Saints believed harboured a green agenda which included ejecting the club from Moorabbin altogether.

Certainly, Alabaster, no longer a councillor at Kingston, criticised in a submission to the Victorian government a failure by bureaucracy to recognise the importance of public land. ''The state government needs to act now to … recognise and protect our existing public land and open spaces.''

The view of the Saints administration at the time was that Alabaster led a refusal to approve the relocation of St Kilda's poker machines to a proposed boutique social club nearby on South Road - leaving that politically sensitive decision to the Victorian government.

''Had we gone ahead and built that facility, we would have gone broke,'' Fraser said this week. ''We would have gone into debt and been caught in the middle of a conflict over poker machines between the Victorian and Kingston local governments. It was a business model which would have flattened us.

''We were not in a position to take on that battle. We didn't even have the money to knock the stand down, and our directors were unable to start a foundation to raise private money.''

Fraser pointed out that the Saints cut a deal with the City of Frankston, under which it is charged a relative pittance - $30,000 a year - for the upgrade of the Seaford facility, compared with an annual $450,000 at Moorabbin. He also stressed the future value of the Mornington Peninsula in terms of supporter growth.

''In 20 years' time, people will say it was an inspired decision,'' he said.

But there is a view at St Kilda now - one shared by the AFL - that the club could have exerted more patience and persistence in making the Moorabbin upgrade work.

In the words of St Kilda premiership player and 300-gamer Barry Breen at the time of the move: ''It was sad that the club and the council couldn't come to grips with what each other wanted and set up a whole precinct there from South Road to the oval as a community centre.''

Said Nevins: ''They made their decision and we all just have to move forward from there.'' However, he described the current proposals to reinvigorate Moorabbin as ''an exciting prospect''.

It is true that while the club complains it struggles to attract football media to Seaford and the new Linen House Centre has disenfranchised Saints fans, the move towards satellite facilities is a worldwide trend embraced successfully by European soccer.

Essendon will soon leave Windy Hill for Tullamarine and even West Coast has not ruled out setting up a new home away from its Subiaco roots should the club and the West Australian Football Commission fail to come to terms over a redevelopment.

Tell that to St Kilda supporters who feel they have lost touch with their club - a club which has long boasted a unique relationship with its fans and its heartland. And tell that to the players and coaches trying to make the best of a relatively soulless facility while significantly closer to home sits one of the best football ovals in the state, surrounded by enough land to have built an indoor training venue comparable to the Westpac Centre.

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AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
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Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
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Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
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Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
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Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
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Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
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Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
Sydney Swans 8 6 2 0 127.36 24
GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
View all
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