St Kilda’s journey under the guidance of Alan Richardson will start writing a new chapter on Saturday afternoon when the Saints face Melbourne in the opening round of 2017.
The Saints have risen from four wins in Richardson’s first year in charge in 2014, to six and a half in 2015 and up to 12 wins last year, as the club fell narrowly short of a finals berth due to an inferior percentage.
Appearing on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 on Monday night, where he will be a weekly panel member in 2017, Richardson said St Kilda is determined to build on their positive season in 2016 by becoming a more consistent force this winter.
“What would the journey look like? It would be we’re much more consistent in the way we want to play, the way we want to defend, the way we want to attack, the way that we are in contest. We want it to be a journey of improvement and of growth,” Richardson said.
“We obviously had a positive year last year – 12 wins, 10 losses – some really good footy; we think our good footy is going the right way, there’s a bit of a gap between our best and our worst and that’s really been our focus.”
While it’s difficult to recall the anticipation ahead of Round 1 ever being bigger, both from a club perspective and across the competition, Richardson said the game is no more important than the one after and the one after that.
But after a summer of optimism, the fourth-year coach says the Saints are well prepared to embrace the added expectation in 2017.
“It’s bigger because the build-up is so big. For us, it’s almost six months work. It’s big for our fans who have been waiting for a while. The reality is this is the most important game because it’s the next game,” he said whilst sitting across from Geelong coach Chris Scott.
“I know that last year in the last six weeks when we were a chance to play finals our team responded the way you’d want them to respond and embraced the challenge. We didn’t get everything right but we got a lot right. We’re really looking forward and embracing the noise.”