St Kilda coach Brett Ratten wants to see the Saints’ spirit on display in 2022 as they seek to reach finals and redeem for their below par showing last season.
Having rebounded from a shocking start to last season after an intense period of soul-searching mid-season, the Saints believe they built enough momentum late in the year to enter this season with confidence.
With Jade Gresham, Ben Paton and Rowan Marshall in good shape and an even run with injury (Nick Coffield is one early casualty after rupturing his ACL) they aim to be back in finals contention in what shapes as a critical season for Ratten.
“We know what we have to do now the challenge is to maintain it and be consistent,” Ratten said.
The mid-season review while the club was shut down in Sydney during another COVID-disrupted winter was a reality check for everyone as they re-evaluated why they might have been caught hopping early in 2021.
Their improvement was obvious in the second half of the season as they defended better, but they could not reel enough wins to regain the ground they had lost and their season ended earlier than they hoped.
Ratten noticed a greater purpose throughout the pre-season with Nick Walsh appointed to run the program while they invested in development, appointing respected coach Damian Carroll who had a short stint at Collingwood after being at Hawthorn during their premiership era.
“Pre-season has been challenging and it has been hard, as we are being conditioned to be resilient under extreme pressure,” Ratten said.
“We feel we have got a bit of upside with some of the players who did not perform to the level that we know that we can.”
The club is also enthusiastic about their draft haul with Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Mitch Owens and Marcus Windhager to play against Essendon in the club’s final hit out before round one. How many games they play this season remains to be seen, but the Saints like what they have shown them so far.