St Kilda won’t be treating next week’s do-or-die clash against Carlton any differently, even with a maiden finals appearance potentially within its grasp, according to senior coach Nick Dal Santo.
The Saints stunned the visiting Lions with a comprehensive 21-point win at a swirling RSEA Park on Saturday afternoon to put themselves a step closer towards a first-up finals berth, finishing the penultimate round of the season in ninth position and level on points with Geelong, Sydney (both inside the top-eight) and Collingwood (10th).
Seven of the nine matches next week will have a bearing on where St Kilda finishes on the ladder with multiple permutations tied to each result, however a win over the Blues - in what is being billed as a pseudo elimination final - is essential.
“I guess by definition (the game against Brisbane) was probably an elimination final. If we didn’t take care of business…. then next week was off the table anyway,” Dal Santo in the aftermath of Saturday’s game.
“I don’t think that conversation (about finals) will be had internally. We’ll be well aware of the scenarios. We’re playing Sunday afternoon so there will be a few games that will dictate the possibility for us by the time we take the field.
“By saying that, we’re clearly trying to improve. We’re well aware of where we sit, areas that we’re dong ok, areas that we need to improve on.
“That will be our key focus for next week. It won’t be the outcome or ‘we need to play finals’: it will be we need to hold up our end of the bargain and see how we go.”
St Kilda will be the first of three Sunday games, with subsequent clashes between Collingwood and Richmond Victoria Park and Fremantle and Sydney at Fremantle Oval to dictate the shape of the eight.
Dal Santo’s side were at risk of dipping out of finals action following last week’s disappointing loss to Walyalup; a match that stood in contrast to the sharp execution which toppled the visiting Brisbane.
The Saints showed ample grit throughout the game, but dug in when it mattered most with four goals against the breeze in the final term to keep the Lions at bay.
“It’s really pleasing. I stand here probably more reflecting on that game (against Brisbane) rather than the possibility of where we go if things go our way next week,” Dal Santo said.
“Losing last week to Fremantle and our thoughts off the back of that and how it impacts the year, I think I said at that stage as well, it sounds really boring, but we needed to take care of each week.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do with no guarantees of what could possibly be the following week, but I’m really pleased with our four-quarter effort.”