From day one, Seb Ross has had to fight tooth and nail for every single game to his name. And he’s proud of that fact.

Even heading into his 200th game this weekend in front of what is anticipated to be the largest crowd the midfield veteran has been a part of, he's open in saying there's no guarantee of being selected. 

“Hopefully the Boss gives me a game this week!” is the veteran’s cheeky reply via text when asked if he’s free do some quick media ahead of his milestone match.

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Being subbed out in the penultimate outing to his double ton last weekend admittedly doesn’t help things. But Ross is in. 

On Thursday night, he’ll officially become a 200-gamer of the red, white and black - one of just 32 Saints to do so - in what is one of the most significant dates on the Saints’ calendar, Spud’s Game.


“The way I’ve approached my career, I’ve never felt the sense of safety in being selected every week,” Ross told in the lead-in to his milestone outing at the MCG.

“I’ve always felt that I have to be performing to be selected: it’s never been that I’m going to be selected because I’m the senior player, I’ve done this in the past or I’m currently doing this.

“That was one of those lessons I learned off Lenny Hayes when I was young, and he probably wouldn’t even know it. He would absolutely dominate on the weekend, but as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday rolled around he was fully focussed on the next week. 

He just knew that whatever he had done didn’t count for the following week. I’ve felt that, even now and in the years I won Best & Fairests. I still approach every week and every training like 'I have to perform here so the coach picks me'.

- Seb Ross

With Lance Collard being injected into the game in place of the 30-year-old midfielder last Saturday night, it was a sign of what comes to all footballers in time; the youth, as it always does eventually supersedes the experience.

But Ross is more than content with that. He knows he’s closer to the dusk than he is the dawn, and that the blooding of youth from Ross Lyon means he has to fight harder than ever to claim his spot. “Things happen”, he says nonchalantly.

Until that time comes though, the two-time Best & Fairest is digging in the heels to push on for as long as he can. 

“That’s what happens in a performance environment ultimately. We’re here to perform and that’s how I approach my footy. That’s the hard thing about this caper: you can be in and out so quickly,” Ross said.

“I’ve just got to try and stay healthy, available and performing, because I know as soon as I’m not doing those things, I’m probably getting shown the door. And I’m fully aware of the reality of all that. 

“I suppose that’s the challenge in one way, but what makes it easier to focus on coming in each day and trying to get better every day and extend my football career for as long as I can.”

199 games later, that’s held him in good stead.

Since the then-19-year-old Ross debuted as the substitute against GWS back in Round 22 of 2012, he’s watched 90 other teammates do the same; first-gamers Darcy Wilson and Lance Collard being the most recent.

Some, like Jimmy Webster, have been there for almost every step of the way while others have been and gone, moved on to other clubs or never featured at senior level in red, white and black.

Back then, it was the iconic names of Hayes, Riewoldt, Montagna, Koschitzke and Milne who were the grizzled and weathered campaigners with a stack of games to their name and the war wounds and accolades to back it up.

The first of 200 and counting. Seb Ross on debut in Round 22, 2012 against GWS. Photo: AFL Photos.

Fresh-faced, spry and adjusting to city life after being plucked from Horsham with pick No. 25 of the 2011 draft, being anywhere near those big names in terms of games played and life lived seemed impossibly far away. 

“I still remember those early years, all the older boys around like Kosi, Schneids, Milney and Lenny, the same thing happened to them when they were young,” Ross said.

“The older boys always tell you how quick it goes and you’re young and naïve, so it’s just water off a duck’s back. Now to be in this position that they were in, it is a bit weird.

“Lenny played his 250th in my first year, and even to him that feels like yesterday. A year or two later there’s Kosi and Schneids and these guys all playing their 200th games.

“It seems so far away as a young bloke, but before I know it I’m about to run out and be a 200-game player as well. It is crazy.”

Life goes on away from the track. He’s over four years married to his wife, Marnie, and being father to daughter Charlotte and twins Vinny and Henley certainly keeps his hands and heart full away from RSEA Park. 

A click of the fingers, and Charlotte is starting primary school. Ross can hardly believe it.

“The seasons they go so quick now. Last year just absolutely flew by, it was a new year for everyone and we won more games than we lost,” Ross said.

“Certainly when you’re winning the weeks just all mesh together and you get halfway through the season before you know it.

“It’s a really hard thing to do, but you just have to come in here every day and enjoy it as much as possible. Once you’re finished, you’re a long time retired. But it is hard to slow it down.”

Lenny Hayes was one of the first players a teenage Ross latched onto when he was onboarded to the red, white and black over a decade ago.

The two were locker buddies back at Seaford, and for the wide-eyed Saint just starting out in the No. 6, having the club’s great No. 7 right next to him was the perfect opportunity to instigate an apprenticeship under one of the best. Now, the two have been reunited, this time with Hayes as a part of the Saints’ coaching ranks.

Ross’ first game in red, white and black had him coming into the game as a substitute for Hayes. In some strange way looking back on it years later, it was a changing of the guard as the new crop eventually took over from the long-serving veterans. 

Seb Ross and Lenny Hayes in action in what was the latter's final of 297 games for St Kilda. Photo: AFL Photos.

“He’s obviously come a long way, the kid from Horsham,” Hayes told

“He’s etched out such a good career. When he came in, you could always tell that he was going to be a good player and early on you could see there was the drive that he wanted to play and he wanted to get better. It’s probably no surprise to me that he’s made it to this milestone.

Reflecting on it, that’s the way he’s done it too. He’s always been really disciplined, team-oriented and someone who has got the best out himself. That’s why his mates love playing with him.

- Lenny Hayes on Seb Ross

Hayes and Ross only played a handful of games together, but - despite Hayes moving on to GWS in a coaching capacity following his retirement - kept his eye on the budding No. 6 in the years afterward.

While it isn't necessarily the flashiness or flair that has characterised Ross’ 199 games in the system, it’s the team-first mantra and selflessness shown week-on-week that has left the biggest impression on Hayes over the past decade.


“That’s the thing that’s stood out. Even in the last 18 months if we’ve asked him to do a certain role, he’s always like ‘yep, no worries, I’ll do it’,” Hayes said.

“If something needs to be done for the betterment of the team, he’ll do it straight away. There’s an enormous amount of trust with what he can do and deliver.

“He’s a smart football person, a great role model and a great leader. That wasn’t something he was doing day one; he’s built that over a period of time and that’s why he’s in the leadership group and why the young guys look up to him.”

“It’s a good listen for the younger players about the way he thinks about that 'sense of safety': if they hear him saying that’s how he thinks, that’s probably the reason why he’s got the best out of himself.

“It’s a good mindset to have. The game is funny. As soon as you feel comfortable, it bites you.”

Ross has had more losses than he’s had wins in club colours, but that ledger is starting to even up as the Saints march forward.

With all the talk around St Kilda’s exciting youth headlined by Mattaes Phillipou, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Mitch Owens and Marcus Windhager, sometimes it’s easy to forget about how essential the experience is in seeing the next generation reach their full potential.

‘Exciting youth’ is the buzzword around St Kilda, but don’t discount the impact Ross has had - and continues to have - across his 199 games to-date in red, white and black.

Mitch Owens is presented his debut guernsey by Seb Ross in Round 1, 2022. Photo: AFL Photos.

He’s a two-time Best & Fairest and St Kilda Life Member, captained the side for close to a year in his second Trevor Barker Award-winning campaign when Jarryn Geary went down with significant injuries, has served in the club’s leadership group for seven seasons and put in a mountain of work behind the scenes to be the player that Lenny Hayes was to him all those years ago.

The apprentice in time becomes the master, and now as a new generation comes through, the wisened and seasoned Ross is now in the role of the latter in the blink of an eye.

That said, he feels like he doesn’t have to impart that knowledge and the years of experience as directly as he received them when he took the first steps in his AFL venture. In his words, and to his satisfaction, the Saints’ current crop are “ahead of the curve”.

“Those guys, Nas, Chito, Windy, they’ve already figured it out in a sense in terms of the professionalism and all that sort of stuff,” Ross said.

“The quicker you figure it out the longer it might feel. I sort of don’t really need to talk to them about that stuff because they’ve got such great mentors in Damian Carroll and others.

It’s funny, they’re still classified as ‘development players’, but it’s weird in a sense because they’ve figured out what they need to do off the field to get themselves ready for AFL.

- Seb Ross

Youth may be what’s important in the Saints’ climb, but Ross still has that feeling of being young at heart. He’s 31 in early May and the second-oldest player on the Saints’ list behind Tom Campbell, but being part of the march forward is what keeps him going.

With everything over the past 12 seasons and counting, it’s the team memories that last and endure for Ross. That’s the bit he cherishes, and is going to cherish for as long as he can.

“Where we’re at as a team at the moment is certainly exciting. I absolutely loved last year, running out on the ‘G twice with 60,000. I’ll be striving to do that again.”