Danny Frawley’s guernsey “couldn’t have gone to a better person” in Marcus Windhager, says the St Kilda great’s eldest daughter, Chelsea Frawley, as the club’s new No. 2 looks to follow in the footsteps of the late Saints champion.
Windhager was today bestowed the famed number - which had been retired for the past two seasons - in place of his old No. 17, with the honour not lost on the young midfielder as he looks to embody all that made ‘Spud’ one of the AFL’s most respected and cherished names.
“I think now to wear the No. 2, it’s very exciting and definitely a privilege. It’s a huge honour and my responsibility now as a custodian of the guernsey is to enhance that legacy and leave it in a better place,” Windhager said at this afternoon’s press conference at RSEA Park.
“It’s a huge honour and something I’m definitely looking forward to. When you walk through the door you hear about Spud’s legacy and it’s definitely something that resonated with me.
“Since walking through the door, I feel I’ve put my foot forward and really led the boys, especially the younger group, to achieve higher standards and really put each other to the test by working hard.
“I’ve tried to build a culture around keeping higher standards and I think that’s definitely the direction they’re going too.”
The Frawley family received a call from close family friend and current assistant coach Robert Harvey about the possibility of bringing Spud’s number back into circulation for Season 2024, which eventually saw Windhager receive the esteemed club honour.
St Kilda’s No. 2 has long been synonymous with Frawley and all he stood for as a captain and teammate; a legacy that has only been enhanced following his passing and the subsequent establishment of the Danny Frawley Centre to provide a beacon for the community to focus on and improve their mental and physical health.
Although only 37 games into his career as a Saint, Windhager has exemplified Spud’s spirit on and off the field. They’re well-established traits of his that Chelsea Frawley believes her late father would be incredibly proud of.
“I think the No. 2 couldn’t have gone to a better person than Marcus. I’m sure (dad) would be really proud to see Marcus wearing his number,” Frawley said.
“Looking at the No. 2 and what it means to us as a family and also St Kilda football fans, it should go to a true leader. I work at the club so I’m privileged to see him out here training regularly. He has such a great work ethic and is a real culture to drive here at the club.
“That leadership quality that he instilled here at the club really transcended throughout his whole life.”
Windhager is at the forefront of pushing the Saints’ young core to build upon last season’s sixth-placed finish, which brought the club into the opening round of September despite an injury-ravaged start to the new era under Ross Lyon.
The emergence of St Kilda’s youth in Mattaes Phillipou, Mitch Owens, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and Anthony Caminiti throughout 2023 - coupled with Windhager’s deployment off half-back - shapes as another promising prospect heading into the new year, with the fresh injection of even more young talent through the draft in Darcy Wilson, Lance Collard, Angus Hastie, Hugo Garcia and Arie Schoenmaker primed to add to the mix in the coming seasons.
“Me and Mitch Owens were sitting in the locker room counting how many first-to-fourth-year boys we have at the club now, and I think it’s nearly half our list,” Windhager said.
“We’ve got a super exciting young group and I think that this week we’ve had together has been really good for us to build a connection and I think it’s really important for us to show the older boys when they come back on Monday the high standards we’re trying to adhere to.
“Both defensively and offensively we need to keep improving. Last year I think we were ranked (number) 1 for majority - if not all - of the whole season in our defence.
“I think over the pre-season we’ll have a clear focus on improving our ball movement, but I think that fast attacking style with the players we’ve brought in, you’ll see a lot of that in 2024.”
A vast majority of the Saints’ older cohort clocked in ahead of schedule with the full squad due back on deck next Monday, however eyes undoubtedly drew towards Max King as he builds back up following post-season shoulder surgery.
“He’s been in nearly every day of the off-season trying to get his shoulder right and it’s a credit to him,” Windhager said.
“I can put my hand to heart and say that I think he’ll have a good year next year for the amount of work he’s been putting in. I’m excited to see him when he’s back in the full swing of things.”