At a glance:

  • Senior coach Brett Ratten has shed some light on St Kilda's mid-season stint in Sydney on the Sounds of the Saints podcast.
  • The club went through a series of player-led team meetings while in NSW prior to Round 12, with the "risk" of complacency outweighing that of any ramifications caused by the ensuing honest sessions.
  • Ratten pointed to the elevation of players Jack Sinclair, Zak Jones and Dan Butler in spurring the side towards a stronger second half of 2021.

Senior coach Brett Ratten has shed some light on St Kilda’s mid-season stint in Sydney, along with the “risk” posed by addressing such a raw topic midway through the season.

Following significant defeats to Essendon (75 points), Richmond (86) and the Western Bulldogs (111) in the opening half of the season, Ratten and the Saints took the opportunity while in their Harbour City quarantine to “thrash out” several pressing concerns through a series of honesty sessions and team meetings.

While the results didn’t immediately show in the two games following, the cumulative impact helped feed into the club’s drastically improved second half of 2021, which included victories against finalists Sydney and Brisbane as well as reigning Premiers, Richmond.

Opening a potential Pandora’s Box mid-season posed the very real threat of derailing the beaten-up brigade, yet Ratten says complacency shaped as the biggest danger.

“You could look at it like that (as being a risk), but I think the risk was not dealing with it and allowing the trend to keep going.” Ratten said on the Sounds of the Saints podcast.

It was more around what are we going to do and how do we get back on track as a group. I think the risk was just to sit there on your hands and allow the ups and downs to continue and say ‘oh well, we won one, we lost one’.

- Brett Ratten

“The way we (had) went about it (left that) bad taste in your mouth.”

Post-bye, the change was noticeable across the board.

St Kilda’s biggest loss of 30 points came in a disappointing performance against Carlton, but unlike the opening half of the season, it was the outlier in a series of promising outings.

Although the “spike” in mentality and output was precipitated by St Kilda’s core leadership group both on and off-field, it was the elevation of players such as Jack Sinclair, Zak Jones and Dan Butler which kept the Saints mingling with fellow finals contenders right up until Round 23.

“There was growth and I think there was more accountability and responsibility for the roles that people play in the team,” Ratten added. 

“I thought our communication lifted across the board… I just think sometimes putting responsibility and accountability on people gets a spike.

“We can’t just have this as ‘oh, we’ll hope it happens’, we’ve got to demand it happens. That’s what the good teams do. They’re relentless in that space and they get a lot of things right and they don’t have these drop-aways.

“That’s the challenge of leading a team. You’re going to have moments like that and it’s not going to be perfect.

“Maybe we thought the growth of the group was a bit lineal, going up, and some of the players would just naturally improve because of their age and being a profile of 20, 21, 22 – oh, they’ll just get better – but it just doesn’t work like that.

“I think it’s been a good lesson for a lot of people – staff included, and myself – it just doesn’t happen naturally. We’ve just got to get to work.”