Posted in Featured News , Front Page News

By Nathan Schmook, AFL Media


ST KILDA coach Alan Richardson has praised the courage of his players to overcome a heavy injury toll and stand firm, describing Saturday’s 29-point win against Collingwood as the best in his time at the club.

The Saints played out most of the second half at the MCG on Saturday with 19 fit men after captain Nick Riewoldt (concussion), young forward Paddy McCartin (concussion) and defender Dylan Roberton (knee) went down.

As a result the team only used 72 of its 90 rotations and midfielders were out on their feet in the final quarter, but Richardson said his players persevered in a performance he hopes is the Saints’ new benchmark.

“I was really proud of the group, I thought they showed enormous character,” the coach said post-match.

“For the guys to continue to play really physical and aggressive and attack the game and work through what was clearly going to be physically quite challenging was really positive and we’re proud.”

The Saints’ win ended an eight-game winless streak, that included a draw against Geelong last year, and a nine-game winless streak against the Magpies, that dated back to round 16, 2010 and included the drawn 2010 Grand Final.

Asked if it was his best win from 48 games in charge, Richardson said: “I think it is”.

“We had an unrealistic big win against the Bombers last year when clearly the whole weight of the world had fallen on their footy club,” the third-year coach said.

“I would hope it’s one of those games where this is our new level, it’s our new benchmark and we get the opportunity to test pretty quickly against the Hawks this week.”

The Saints made their move on Saturday in the third quarter, kicking six goals to one in a burst that came once their injuries had hit.

Despite the setbacks, the Saints continued to run hard and attack, with Richardson urging his players not to fall into a defensive frame of mind in the fourth quarter, which they won narrowly.

“We just know that the opposite to attack is to say to the opposition: ‘Hey you guys attack as hard as you want and we’ll just try and defend all day'”, the coach said.

“We didn’t want our blokes to be in that frame of mind and we certainly didn’t want the Magpies to be in that frame of mind.

“We wanted to test them and we wanted to keep going.

“There was pretty strong buy in from the group at three-quarter time that while we were a little bit light on from a personnel perspective we felt we still had the run in our legs.”

Richardson singled out midfielder Luke Dunstan for praise after his third quarter, saying the midfielder “turned the game our way” with nine possessions and two clearances for the term.

The 21-year-old finished with 25 possessions and a team-high seven tackles.

The Saints have seven days to prepare for next week’s clash against Hawthorn in Tasmania.

Richardson said the Saints would need to recover well given the extra load carried by a number of players and then “embrace the opportunity to play against probably still the best team in the comp”.