Ross Lyon isn’t letting the noise surrounding Collingwood getting in the way of Thursday’s blockbuster Spud’s Game fixture, with the senior coach determined to see his side “button down” ahead of the landmark occasion.

Last year’s premiers are yet to record a win following their two opening matches against GWS and Sydney, however Lyon is adamant on making his side’s focus around that of their own football and not their high-calibre opposition.

The Saints are coming off what Lyon conceded was a “frustrating” Round 1 encounter against Geelong on the road. Despite drawing to within a point in the final term to almost clinch the four points against the odds, St Kilda’s inconsistent first half at GMHBA Stadium went against the way Lyon wanted his side to execute and allowed the Cats to take control of majority of proceedings.


“You’ve got to write your own story. We’re aiming to write our own story, we feel like we’re in control of our effort, control of our system, and we know it’s good enough to win lots of games of footy, so we want to bring that to life against a quality opponent,” Lyon said at this morning’s press conference.

“We know Collingwood are going to have their backs to the wall, but it’s a challenge we’re up for. We’re seeing around the competition everyone’s maybe not as buttoned down as they thought they were, so we’re trying to button down pretty quickly.

“We feel a lot of pressure, we want to win AFL games. We’re not sneaking around the competition: you’ve got to turn up and you’ve got to get it done. 

“Our expectation… was that our system was buttoned down a bit more than it was. But we were challenged in a number of ways, so it was a sharp reminder that we need to all button down on the system and get our own game right without worrying about the oppo too much.

“The four points are an outcome on what you deliver process, system, effort-wise.”

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Reigning Best & Fairest and All-Australian Jack Sinclair will be a key part in helping the Saints batten down the hatches in time for Spud’s Game, with the 29-year-old needing to pass a fitness test at this morning’s training to confirm his availability. 

Sinclair, who has dealt with a calf niggle over pre-season, is firming as the Saints’ sole inclusion for Thursday night as hinted by Lyon, with Dan Butler likely to make his return from ankle surgery via the VFL this Friday.

“(Sinclair) brings his own form - he’s an All-Australian attacking half-back who complements Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and Riley Bonner, who will really help him,” Lyon said.

“But he gives us great leadership. We feel we lost (that)… which is easy to do when you’re under pressure. We didn’t crumble and we fought on and could have won that game, but the first half we just didn’t deliver what we needed to.

“When things are wobbly, you really see Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Howe… they’re just great on-field generals. I think we had 10 players under 50 games (on Saturday) so that’s exciting that we can stand up against an experienced Geelong team, but that leadership on-field is really important for us.”

Spud's Game on the big stage

Sinclair’s potential inclusion will be vital in St Kilda’s mission to topple the reigning premiers and register its first Spud’s Game triumph since the match was first introduced in 2021.

This year, representatives from all 18 clubs and some of the game’s most legendary faces, together with the AFL, will unite at the middle of the MCG to bring mental health to the big stage in observance of the traditional two-minute delay.

This year's moment will also feature musical guest Pete Murray and respected media personality, AIA Ambassador and good friend of the late Danny Frawley, Hamish McLachlan, to help raise much-needed funds for vital programs run through the Danny Frawley Centre.

“There’s a lot of emotion wrapped around that and it’s a really important cause. We love the connection with the community, we love honouring Danny Frawley’s legacy to the club and the ability to help the community,” Lyon said.

“It’s been a sad day in the past, but if you can turn that around and flip the script and make a positive contribution to society and mental health which is what the DFC’s doing… I think that’s really important.

“We’re all on a pendulum, right? None of us are perfect - there’s perfect and there’s zero and we all move along it. But it’s not fixed for any of us, so I think that’s important to acknowledge. Then that just takes away the stigma for anyone: it’s not a permanent state and we’re all vulnerable at times. 

“Emotion’s not going to get it done for either team. Our job is to play good footy on-field and honour the day with commensurate effort.”