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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 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all

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