St Kilda Coach Alan Richardson believes there is enough talent on the list at Linen House Centre to snap a six-year absence from September, but the Saints must narrow the gap between their best and worst if they want to play finals in 2017.
After guiding St Kilda to 12-10 last season – the first time the club has produced a winning season since 2012 – Richardson has overseen more change during the off-season with the acquisition of midfielders, Koby Stevens and Jack Steele, along with full-back, Nathan Brown, and the return of the suspended Jake Carlisle.
Despite making significant inroads in 2016, the Saints were still susceptible to poor performances against the best sides in the competition, with blowout losses against West Coast (103-points), Adelaide (88-points) and Sydney (70-points) tarnishing an otherwise encouraging season of development.
“What you want as a coach of a footy club is to make sure you have enough talent and we have definitely got that now,” Richardson told the Herald Sun on Tuesday.
“I have no doubt that this group is going to be a really, really strong footy team, and of course we are working towards that in 2017.
“We had some really strong performances last year but the gap between our best and poorer performances were still too big, and a couple of those were on the road, a couple of those were at home.
“We won 12 games, we lost 10. Yes, we had a really strong finish to the year and beat a couple of powerful teams in the run home. But there was still too often that we were not as competitive as we would like to be and that is our challenge.”
Former Greater Western Sydney onballer Steele began his time at St Kilda in the rehabilitation group, but Richardson says the 21-year-old has since transitioned into the main group and is quickly catching up to speed ahead of the JLT Community Series.
"‘Steely’ had an issue with his foot and wasn’t able to do a lot of work pre-Christmas, but he is back doing everything in the main group now,” Richardson said.
“He is a very impressive athlete, we are just trying to get him up to speed, like all the boys, with our method and the way we attack and the way we defend. He adds a different dimension (to the midfield mix).”
Richardson said the Saints other midfield acquisition – former Bulldog and Eagle Stevens – has won the respect of the playing group through his application to his craft.
“He has played a lot of footy and done a lot of pre-seasons and is a very hard worker on the training track, so he has won the respect of his teammates already with the way he has applied himself. We are really excited by what he can do for us,” he said.