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Thicker skin the silver lining for Saints

Henry Playfair believes the scars of St Kilda's tumultuous 2018 are fuelling the fire to respond. - St Kilda Saints
Henry Playfair believes the scars of St Kilda's tumultuous 2018 are fuelling the fire to respond.
Richo allows us to take control of our areas and drive them really hard, so hopefully we can repay the faith with getting some wins for him.
Henry Playfair

St Kilda had to learn the meaning of resilience the hard way in 2018.

Four wins and a raft of high-profile injuries led to a calamitous year for the boys from Moorabbin.

But despite the Saints’ disappointing year, defensive coach Henry Playfair believes a reinvigorated coaching group can lead the charge upwards in 2019, led at the helm by Alan Richardson.

“Richo hasn’t chopped and changed his operating style too much, which I think is a really good thing,” Playfair told saints.com.au.

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“Fundamentally who he is – as a coach and a person – has stayed the same, and for me that’s a great sign of a strong leader.

“He allows us to take control of our areas and drive them really hard, and trusts us to do our jobs, so hopefully we can repay the faith with getting some wins for him.”

The four-win season led to some inward soul-searching for everyone involved at RSEA Park, and Playfair conceded even he harboured his own self-doubts.

“Last year was a really difficult challenge,” he said.

“When you’re losing, you’ve got to find things to stimulate your players and try to build some confidence and faith, and keep them doing the work.

In some ways, it’s a good challenge to go through as a coach, because you start questioning yourself – ‘am I doing the right things?’ – you question everything.”

But the off-season appointment of experienced duo Brendon Lade and Brett Ratten has bolstered the Saints’ football acumen considerably, a change Playfair has seen affect the entire club.

“They’ve been really great for the whole program,” said the ex-Swan.

“They’re experienced coaches, so they’re not just focussed on their area. They’ve got an awareness of the whole club and what we need to do as a whole program, rather than just offence or just stoppages or just defence.

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“They’ve got a good understanding of how it all fits together, which is really important, so they’ve been sensational.”

A crescendo of external noise surrounds the Saints’ future fortunes, but Playfair is determined the men in red, white and black have what it takes to box their way off the ropes.