St Kilda are set to welcome back three key figures for Friday night’s clash against Richmond, at a time coach Brett Ratten says his side is working towards having a harder edge and elite preparation.
The Saints are refreshed after their mid-season bye, the week off being a time of introspection, coming after a calamitous loss to the Crows in Cairns left them with a 5-8 win-loss record, almost certainly out of finals contention and having to handle questions as to whether Seb Ross and Tim Membrey should have been allowed to miss the match because of family reasons.
Seb Ross said he was torn before deciding to return to his family.Credit:Getty Images
“I have chatted with Seb pretty much daily on it and we have spoken a lot about it,” he said.
“The thing that happened on the Monday with everybody talking about it, they didn’t have the information about Queensland. We didn’t know we were playing there. We thought he might come back. There were so many different variables to that story. He is all good about it.”
Ruckman Rowan Marshall has not played since injuring his foot against Geelong in round nine but his importance is shown in that the Saints have won three of the five matches he has played in this season. He missed the round five debacle against the Tigers when the Saints lost by 86 points.
He will be on limited minutes but his return ensures a strong ruck combination with Paddy Ryder and also eases the spotlight on Max King for Marshall and Ryder can both go forward.
“He [Marshall] is probably underdone slightly but we need him to play and he has put his hand up and is ready to go,” Ratten said.
The Saints are undergoing an internal review, dubbed “bridging the gap”, in a season which had promised a deep finals run but has degenerated to the point one where president Andrew Bassat has attempted to ease member and supporter frustration by declaring the Saints believed their “genuine [premiership] window would more likely start in 2022 than 2021”.
The Age also reported that chief executive Matt Finnis and football boss Simon Lethlean fronted the board about a month ago and identified concerns in the playing group’s professional standards.
The pair spoke of the need for a harder edge and elite preparation, indicating the capitulations in some matches were a deeper issue than the club’s significant injury list.
Ratten said the players and coaches were working on improvement, and the players were later asked at training by Ratten how they were going to “bridge the gap” on Friday night.
“It’s something as a team, there are multiple things we need to work on. When you are not winning games and football and being where you want to be, you can pick a lot of things,” he said.
“Across the board, we are just chipping away at it. Whether we see the results come this week, next week, by the end of the year, it’s something we are going to push re]ally hard for.”
Dean Kent, who was concussed at training last month, is also available for selection, but Zak Jones (quad) remains a week or two away.
Dan Hannebery, who has had ongoing calf issues and has not played at all this season, could only watch on from the gym as his teammates took to the field. The former Swan, a high-priced recruit, has managed only 13 senior matches in two-and-a-half seasons. Ratten said the Saints hoped he would play a couple of matches by the end of the season.
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