A single coaches’ vote against Brisbane in Round 17 is the only plaudit Jimmy Webster has to show from the season just gone.
It was a performance, like many others from the diligent defender, which slid well under the radar this season, but that’s exactly how he prefers it: no fuss, no fanfare, just a job well done.
All-Australian Charlie Cameron was kept to just five touches and held goalless for the first time in 11 games courtesy of Webster’s presence. In fact, the dangerous Lion’s only clean shot on goal came when his opponent was taking a short spell on the interchange bench.
The best part of Webster’s season was that these types of games weren't isolated: they occurred week on week, all with meagre external credit or due recognition.
Since stepping into the injured Ben Paton’s role as the club’s lockdown defender in 2021, the wily Tasmanian hasn’t made life easy for the competition’s best small forwards.
Making the general day-to-day that little bit harder is something his teammates can truly attest to.
Every turn down a hallway at RSEA Park is now done so with an instinctual peek around the corner for fear of a grinning Webster – the club’s resident “funny bugger” – lying in wait ready to startle them with an ear-piercing yelp.
But as soon the No. 29 enters the field of play, his mission is on making sure his opponent has to put in a bloody good effort to get off the leash.
In the words of Jack Sinclair, it’s that very trait which “makes my life super easy”.
Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin, Tom Papley, Jamie Elliott, Liam Ryan and Brad Close are among those to have felt Webster’s unsuspecting influence this season, with Papley the only player to pinch multiple goals against him.
It’s no surprise that the two games he didn’t play in this season due to concussion (Round 3) and a groin issue (Round 6) saw small forwards Jake Stringer (four goals), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (three), Steven Motlop (three) and Orazio Fantasia (three) deliver dagger-blows to St Kilda’s defence.
His sound displays have been the textbook example for Tom Highmore, who emerged in 2021 with the same composure and courage of his defensive counterpart.
“Jimmy’s just about the most underrated player at the club,” Highmore told saints.com.au.
“Every week he’s just gone out and been able to do his role for the team so well. He does it with absolutely no-fuss and he’s such a good fella away from the footy club.
Webster hit his long-awaited 100-game milestone earlier this year after 10 seasons at the club, but it’s one that almost didn’t eventuate after spending almost a year-and-a-half on the sidelines.
Successive hand, back and hamstring setbacks took their time to work through for the injury-hit defender, and by the time he was available for selection in the tail-end of 2020, St Kilda’s defence of Hunter Clark, Ben Paton, Nick Coffield and Ben Long were well settled and had overtaken him in the pecking order.
Fast-forward to the end of 2021, and Webster’s position and role in the team shows no signs of budging. He’s proven his capabilities as a shutdown player while not forfeiting his sweeping left-foot skills rebounding out of the back half.
His value to the side can’t be understated, with his on-field courage, consistency and no-frills demeanour held in high regard by his teammates.
Given his recent wave of injuries, the larrakin Saint would be forgiven for not hurtling into contests with the same admired recklessness in seasons prior. Fortunately, that trait isn’t one that’s wavered despite his time out of the game.
“The way Jim goes back with the flight, it’s honestly inspiring,” Highmore said.
“You see he’s always willing to put his body on the line and do anything to help the team and get a fist in there. He always jumps straight back and there’s no fuss.
“It’s inspiring for all the other defenders down there and the rest of the team.”
Webster is well-positioned to poll his fair share of votes at this year’s Trevor Barker Award, but as for this year’s Brownlow Medal count, his 113-game voteless streak is likely to carry into another season.
It’s part and parcel of the lockdown role he’s adopted in 2021: unrewarding when it comes to external distinctions and often unnoticed by the general pundit, but particularly revered by his teammates around him.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way.