When you’ve got a senior coach who’s led a side to four Grand Final appearances and senior assistants with three flags, a Norm Smith Medal and 56 finals matches between them, you better believe they’ve got September in mind.
It’s been evident for Max King as St Kilda barrels towards Saturday’s elimination final against GWS at the MCG, with the key forward noting there's been no stark shift between how the Saints have approached the regular home-and-away season and what will be their first finals appearance in Victoria since 2011.
“We know that finals footy is a step above the normal season and we’ve been training for that all year,” King said at this afternoon’s press conference.
“Ross has been prepping us through the whole year for September. This is where we want to be, and I guess there’s not a whole lot of change because we’ve been preparing each week like it’s September anyway.
“A lot of us are in the same boat with not a great deal of finals experience. We’re really lucky that Ross and all our other senior coaches are really experienced in finals as players and as coaches as well.
“We’ve certainly taken a lot from them and we’re all just really excited.”
Twin brother Ben may be soaking up the sun in Mykonos, but down in the far less beach-friendly Melbourne is where Max would much rather be this time of year.
It was only a few short weeks ago where the Saints spearhead was effectively ruled out for the season after an innocuous subluxation of his shoulder in the opening minute of St Kilda’s Round 17 match-up with Melbourne.
Only a few days later though, the possibility of a late-season return emerged after an arthroscope revealed a full shoulder reconstruction wouldn’t be required.
King returned in Round 21 against Carlton, bagging 11 goals from three outings - including a six-goal haul over the Tigers - before being rested for the final game of the season against Brisbane.
“It’s definitely a good feeling around the club. I guess when you sit out (of finals) for a couple of years you really appreciate still being at the club this time of year,” King said.
“I guess when you have a couple of setbacks and your season’s up in the air a bit, I’m just really grateful to be out here training and playing each week. I’m really excited to get into it and you don’t take it for granted when you have a few hiccups along the way.
“I thought early days after the Melbourne game it was all up in the air, but we took the emotion out of it and had a few really good chats. I’m just really grateful we landed in this position that let me play out the back-end of the year and let me contribute in September.”
Seb Ross and Dougal Howard have returned to full training in recent days as they eye a place in the line-up, while Josh Battle has exited concussion protocols after being subbed out of Round 24 against the Lions.
Despite the week off, King is coming into September in a promising vein of form; this week’s opposition the side he slotted four against in what was his first game of the season.
“It’s always nice to kick a few goals. I guess we’ve really got our process right and we’re moving the ball really well, so us forwards are always going to get on the end of a couple when we get so much right up the field,” King said.
“We feel like our footy is in a really good place and it’s come at a good time for us to attack September.”
“(The Giants) obviously showed against Carlton what they can do and we feel like if we get our process right, we can stack it up (against them).”
Like a fair chunk of St Kilda’s list, King has only two finals to show against his name, both of which coming from the club’s 2020 finals berth.
The Saints got over the line in a nail-biting elimination final thriller against the Western Bulldogs, before succumbing to the eventual Premiers, Richmond, in the following week’s semi-final.
“We obviously had that great win against the Bulldogs in our last series, and ever since that we’ve been really hungry for more,” King said.
“We’re always fighting to get back to that stage again, so to get another opportunity is great. We’ll take a bit of confidence out of our last finals series: we know we can stake it up on the big stage.
“We know to go deep in finals you have to play well at the ‘G. It’s a big ground, we’re a good running team and it’s really exciting. I guess it’s weird we had a taste of finals, but not playing at the ‘G... it doesn’t quite feel the same, it doesn’t quite feel like Melbourne finals footy.”