As a valued supporter of the St Kilda Football Club, I wanted to take this opportunity to write to you and provide an update on events surrounding our List Management program and the 2013 AFL Trade Period.
May I start by acknowledging that we appreciate that some members have queries or concerns relating to the direction and approach being employed by the Club at this time - particularly around certain senior players within our player group.
I would like to assure you that we place great importance on the commitment and contribution of all Saints players and will always conduct matters involving their welfare and well-being with genuine integrity and respect.
It is important that as members, you realise that much of the media speculation involving our players is simply just that - pure speculation. As a Club, we simply cannot answer every rumour or innuendo raised about Saints players as it would be impossible and impractical to do so. Having said that, we appreciate that you should be kept informed of our activities and as such, make every effort to find the delicate balance between providing important information to both you and the media.
In that regard, I would like to make specific reference to three of our senior players - namely Nick Riewoldt, Leigh Montagna and Nick Dal Santo - all of whom have been mentioned publicly during recent weeks.
Firstly, can I reassure you that neither Nick Riewoldt or Leigh Montagna have been discussed for trade by St Kilda at anytime during the 2013 AFL Trade Period and both are contracted and committed to playing for the Saints in 2014.
Similarly, Nick Dal Santo has a contract extension available to him for 2014. Both Nick and the Club have discussed the options available to them ahead of next year and respect that Nick's preferred option may be to transfer to another club. Obviously, our discussions should remain private - but I would like to stress that while the relationship between Nick and the Saints is strong, we both acknowledge the interests of each other at this time. Should we agree to part ways then Nick will go with our sincere appreciation of an outstanding career with the Saints.
As has been well-publicised, St Kilda is in a period of transition.
A transition from a talented, mature core player group who proudly took the Saints to the verge of two AFL Premierships to a young and exciting group of developing players who will position this Club for its next tilt at ultimate success.
While we have genuine appreciation for those who have represented this great Club - both past and present - we are charged with making the decisions that will move the Saints forward to once again become a feared and respected team in the AFL Competition.
As our immortal 1966 St Kilda Premiership Coach and personal friend of 25 years, Allan Jeans said to me in 2011, only a short time before he passed away -
"Understand that you are all custodians of the St Kilda Football Club...you are responsible for making the difficult decisions to make this Club great. Those decisions will not always be popular, for popular decisions are easily made - but those that will truly make us great are those that challenge us most."
We at St Kilda accept the responsibility bestowed upon us with a sense of pride and service. We have learnt much from our forefathers such as Allan Jeans and each time we are faced with making a difficult decision, I consciously think to myself..."what would 'Yabbie' do?"
In 2013, we have already been faced with one of those difficult decisions. Yesterday's trading of Ben McEvoy to Hawthorn for Shane Savage and Pick 17 in the upcoming AFL National Draft, was challenging to all of us. Ben is an impressive young man who has represented the Saints with distinction during his 91 games in red, white and black. While Shane Savage will provide us with much needed midfield 'run and carry', excellent kicking skills plus the opportunity to secure a valuable first round draft selection.
The importance of this additional draft selection cannot be overstated because St Kilda is committed to an active rebuild that will transition the Club to its next era of success.
In June 2013, an extensive 40 page document was presented to St Kilda's Board of Directors outlining a complex and deliberate list management and recruiting strategy aimed at delivering the Saints its next AFL Premiership. This plan was based on similar strategies developed during my time at Port Adelaide from 1996-2004 and Hawthorn from 2005-2011. Broadly speaking, this document studies AFL Premiership teams over the past 10+ years and provides a detailed analysis of the current St Kilda player list compared to all other 17 clubs in the AFL Competition. It also encompasses a structured three year recruiting model and our relative management strategies relating to the AFL National Draft, AFL Trade Period, Free Agency and TPP position.
We are not simply leaving our future to chance. We recognise where we are at as a Club and what is required to take us forward. Our decision making is based upon a proven formula of success. A formula that requires the understanding and support of you, our members. Because indeed, you are integral to our success.
Our strategy includes increasing our draft activity by 50% in the first 3 rounds of the AFL National Draft over the next four years. Initially, our plan was to secure three selections inside 20 at this year's draft - an outcome we remain determined to achieve prior to the end of the 2013 AFL Trade Period.
St Kilda will not be actively pursuing Free Agency options in 2013 as it does not form part of our strategy for this year. Current Free Agency rules provide for players aged 26+ years old - hence, this demographic does not represent our key focus at this stage of our list transition.
We have deliberately re-positioned our TPP model over the past 24 months from an extremely defensive (ie. constrained) position to a more balanced position in 2014/15 that will then allow us to aggressively pursue Free Agent players from 2016 onwards.
While the AFL National Draft remains a strategic priority for the Saints in the short term, we will continue to be active during the AFL Trade Period going forward. We understand the need to restore the balance to our player list through both forms of recruitment - essentially, the draft and trade systems.
In closing, may I say that although we anticipate 2014 will present similar challenges as this year, we remain committed to the task of making the difficult decisions to make us great again.
As members, you are the reason we look forward to the future with such hope and expectation. Your support of the Saints is the very foundation of the decisions we make - the research, the planning and eventually, the delivery of our next AFL Premiership.
After all, it's what 'Yabbie' would do!
Head of Football
St Kilda Football Club