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Savage proud to play his part

RD 5 | Demons feel full heat of super Saints pressure St Kilda applied some serious pressure to force free kicks and turnovers in their upset win
Richo’s been awesome, and no doubt everyone’s bought into what we’re about this year.
Shane Savage

When asked how he judged his performance against Melbourne, Shane Savage immediately spoke about his fellow Saints.

27 touches at 89% efficiency, seven rebound-50s and 443 metres gained made Savage clearly one of the best afield on Saturday.

But the humble defender was quick to deflect any individual praise.

It may sound like your typical footy cliché, but the 28-year-old’s team-first mantra is a shining example of why the Saints have started the season so strongly.

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And Savage summed up his feelings for his team in one word: “proud”.

St Kilda’s stirring win over the Demons on Saturday afternoon was the most recent milestone in a start to the season few saw coming.

“It’s been outstanding, I think we’re starting to build real belief. It’s started with the Hawks last week and we carried it into Melbourne this week,” Savage told saints.com.au.

“I’m really proud of the boys, it was a real four-quarter effort, we played to our system, we were fierce and then I thought we really got them on the outside.

“It was an impressive win, but we’ve still got to keep building.”

While there have been many drivers in the Saints’ resurgence, none have been more important than senior coach Alan Richardson.

“Richo’s been outstanding, and no doubt he’s been influenced by the people that have been brought in.  Ratts, Lade and even H (Henry Playfair) have been massive for him this year,” Savage said.

Perhaps he’s opened up the door a little bit, he’s let his guard down and he’s been a lot more chilled with the boys, but Richo’s been awesome, and no doubt everyone’s bought into what we’re about this year.”

Merciless team pressure is just one of those commodities, which has returned as a hallmark of St Kilda’s game.

Melbourne were the latest victims to the Saints’ ferocity, in a performance made even more impressive given St Kilda's tumultuous 2018 and injury-ravaged pre-season.

The losses of Dylan Roberton and Jake Carlisle, alongside other key position players, had many predict the Saints would anchor themselves to the bottom of the ladder.

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But so far, this season’s efforts have flown in the face of those assumptions, with the unforeseen back six standing tall and matching the impact of those absent.

“That’s what I’m so proud of, we’ve had some absolute stars in Josh Battle and Callum Wilkie,” Savage said.

“Robbo’s been sorely missed, Carlisle as well, but we’ve had those boys step up, and the experienced guys like Gears, Webby and Browny have helped fill that void really well.”

“I’m really proud with how composed we’ve been down there, our good offence is coming off our really good defence, and it’s been showing in the first five rounds.”

But it’s all about the system. It doesn’t matter who comes in at the end of the day, we play to our system and we get the job done, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

And with Jarryn Geary sidelined for the next few weeks with a corked thigh, Savage’s leadership in the back half is now more important than ever.

His thumping right boot to gain territory – placing him in the top five for metres gained in three of St Kilda’s outings – alongside his strong vision and leadership qualities, will be vital in the coming weeks.

There’s been a good omen present through Savage’s son, Jett, who has been at the ground – and subsequently in the team huddle when singing the song – at all of St Kilda’s victories this season.

“I’m so proud that he’s been a part of the journey so far, he’s been great,” Savage said.

And while the tiny Sainter will be at Marvel Stadium this week watching his dad play, the Saints won't rely on good luck charms to snatch a 5-1 start.

“We’re continuing to build that belief and build that momentum, and that’s how we’re going to go forward,” Savage said.

“There’s no doubt Adelaide have been an outstanding team for a very long time, and they’re going to be very tough to beat.”

St Kilda will return to Marvel Stadium to take on the Crows this Saturday at 4:35pm.