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Sinners to Saints: How St Kilda turned it around

1 6 0
26.04.2019

Shane Savage.Credit:AAP

The temperature was heading north in late February as the Saints' intra-club finished in front of a crowd at Moorabbin that included movie star Eric Bana and former skipper Nick Riewoldt.

As officials from the club website interviewed the coach Alan Richardson, head of conditioning Matt Hornsby sprung a nasty surprise on the players.

He told them that despite running about 13 kilometres during the match he wanted them to run four more 400s before ending the session with some 150-metre run-throughs for dessert.

To say running defender Shane Savage was shocked at Hornsby's call for extras would be misleading as the players had been conditioned to expect the unexpected throughout the summer.

But that didn't make the demand any easier to fulfil as the sun beat down on his tired body.

"That was probably one of the more brutal runs," Savage said.

Savage, in his sixth year at the Saints, understood however why the approach was being taken to bulletproof the list, building load as well as resilience into the players following a disappointing season at the Saints when they won just four games.

In 2018 as initial optimism disappeared quicker than a magician's rabbit, some at the Saints became desperate.

Plans chopped and changed and those in charge eventually appeared more focused on what the team couldn't do rather than what it could do well.

"It was tough to bloody walk out of my house at times last year to be honest with you but we went away and made a pact with each other that sort of stuff wasn't going to happen again," Savage said.

"The way the boys came back I just knew things were going to be different."

Richardson had remained after a rocky year where he made mistakes but the surroundings changed as football boss Simon Lethlean, who spent his first year in the job evaluating what was needed, began making key appointments.

Brett Ratten arrived from Hawthorn with a brief to challenge Richardson, a move the coach was sensible enough to accept.

Brendon Lade arrived from Port Adelaide and Jake Batchelor from Richmond........

© The Age