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Watters' Saints: the team that time forgot

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Preview: St Kilda Saints

Michael Gleeson and Jake Niall preview the St Kilda Saints ahead of their 2013 AFL season campaign.

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It's not often a team wins 12 games, loses another five by 13 points or less, finishes ninth on the ladder, then gets so completely overlooked in final eight speculation the following pre-season it's as if it ceased to exist.

Remember St Kilda? It was a kick away from two premierships a couple of years back.

Bright future: St Kilda coach Scott Watters and captain Nick Riewoldt.

Bright future: St Kilda coach Scott Watters and captain Nick Riewoldt. Photo: Getty Images

Played in four straight finals series. And last season made short work of eventual premier Sydney.

But there's barely a tipster in the land who has the Saints finishing any higher than 12th in 2013. And as Scott Watters' side kicks off its new season with a trip to the Gold Coast on Saturday, enough plumping for the fledgling Suns to start that slide immediately.

Watters is hardly insulted. He confronted the same indifference leading the club for the first time 12 months ago. "It was very similar. People were unsure how to view our list," he says.

Ahmed Saad, just one of the bright lights for the Saints in 2012.

Ahmed Saad, just one of the bright lights for the Saints in 2012. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

"Our focus doesn't change. We've got some older players that we need to continue to coach and challenge really hard, and we've also got a large portion of players on our list that we need to develop. We've got a responsibility to keep finding players and continue to do that whilst remaining competitive.

"I think every side, from grand finalists the whole way down the ladder, is always evolving its list. That's why you'll never hear me talk about a rebuild or being patient." Part of the contrasting popular uncertainty is that when it comes to the Saints, list demographics threaten to deceive. Much of the focus remains on the old hands – Nick Riewoldt, Lenny Hayes, Stephen Milne, Nick Dal Santo, Leigh Montagna et al – who in age terms provide some serious skewing.

The Saints across the board are older than any club except Sydney. They rank fifth for average games played. Yet there are also no fewer than 26 players aged 23 or younger, and fewer 50-game players than just about any club bar new boys Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney.

St Kilda has made 21 changes to its list in only a 12-month period. As captain Riewoldt said last week: "The change rooms down at the club are pretty much unrecognisable from those [grand final] years personnel wise."

And as important as the contribution of the veterans remains, the continual focus on them is for the Saints and their fans, something of an anachronism. Last year, they were more excited about the stepping up of midfielders David Armitage and Jack Steven, defender Tom Simpkin and forwards Ahmed Saad and Terry Milera.

Now the buzz is about the likes of Jack Newnes, the fast-emerging Arryn Sippos, Jimmy Webster and draftee Brodie Murdoch. More mature key forward Tom Lee. Or some lower-profile pick-ups from other clubs, ruckman Tom Hickey, forward Trent Dennis-Lane and defender Dylan Roberton.

"You'll continue to see them emerge this year," says Watters.

"If you look at all those changes to our list, there's probably not a player over 23. I think that sends a pretty clear message on the sort of foundation we're trying to build. They must be given opportunity, and birth certificates are irrelevant as far as I'm concerned."

Likewise at the other end of the age scale. "Some of our senior players I still expect and can still challenge to be better. Nick Dal Santo had an OK year [in 2012] but he's had a very strong pre-season, and I expect better from him this year. I expect Stephen Milne to hold his ground. I expect Nick [Riewoldt] to hold his ground. 'Joey' Montagna has still got a lot of good footy in front of him."

As for the departed Brendon Goddard, Watters isn't going to waste time looking for a replacement.

"There's talk of Arryn Sippos filling the shoes of Brendon Goddard. But I want him to be the next Arryn Sippos," says the coach. "We don't need to replace any one player, that has never been part of our discussion. What has been is the continual evolution of a whole number of players."

And with that, the St Kilda of the next few years.

"We've added depth in the areas we needed to, and that will continue. We'll be very, very aggressive at the end of this year looking for key defenders and an A-grade midfielder. Our salary cap is in a very good position, but it takes a number of drafts to get your list in a position where you can really move forward, and we're about halfway there."

Which explains plenty about the popular view of the Saints. Faced with a choice of the glass half-full or empty, it's easier to see the group of names so familiar with St Kilda's last decade, then their birthdates, and conclude that this is a team that will get worse before it gets better.

Harder to predict is the extent to which the Saints' lower profile but capable support cast can step into the leading roles while the process continues. But when you're coming off as solid a base as in 2012, we're not talking serious makeovers.

And in that context, St Kilda in 2013 has the opportunity to go from being the team forgotten in finals speculation, to the one who causes the pundits the most embarrassment.

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Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
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Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
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SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
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ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
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Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
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RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
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Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
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ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
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BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
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Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
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MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
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Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
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Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
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WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
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Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
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Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
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CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
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Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
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COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
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Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
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RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
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GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
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Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
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SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
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HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
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CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
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Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
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COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
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MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
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Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
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RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
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ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
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HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
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Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
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GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
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MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
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Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
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GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
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MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
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Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
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COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
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WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
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STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
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Round 20
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ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
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WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
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Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
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Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
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NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
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Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
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GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
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STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
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Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
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GEE ($2.75)vs ADE ($1.42) 13:05SS
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