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Saints land for Shanghai mission

SHANGHAI, CHINA - MAY 30: Jarryn Geary of the Saints and Travis Boak of the Power pose for a photograph during the 2019 Port Adelaide and St Kilda Shanghai Match Official Press Conference at Bunyan Tree on the Bund on May 30, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos)
St Kilda skipper Jarryn Geary with Port Adelaide's Travis Boak.

St Kilda skipper Jarryn Geary says the playing group has landed in Shanghai with only one thing on their minds.

Players and coaches touched down at 7.00pm local time on Thursday night, joining Geary who arrived a day earlier on Wednesday.

“We know that playing in Shanghai will be a pretty special experience and something we look back on as as group, but the four points on offer is our only focus at the minute” he said.

“It’s such an important game in the context of our season, and we know Port are in a very similar position.

“Our guys have been looking forward to getting away together for a while and there is a lot of positive energy in the group.

“For us now, it’s about ignoring any distractions in the lead up to the game and just concentrate on coming away with the four points.”

Geary was joined by CEO Matt Finnis at the at an iconic spot on the Bund in Shanghai yesterday to launch the match, and explained why the Saints were so eager to to be part of it.

"This is a new market with significant commercial upside. It's going to take a long time for people living in Shanghai and China to start following AFL but there's a lot of Chinese businesses coming and investing in Australia, and there's a lot of Victorian businesses heading into China and we've already found that we can be part of that conversation," Finnis said.

The Saints yesterday announced several new sponsors directly linked to the match in Shanghai, including Woodside Energy, Swisse, Zhaopin, JinHang  and Monash University.

Finnis described speculation that coach Alan Richardson could be pushed out in favour of Brad Scott ‘distasteful’.

"We are really pleased with our coaching program at present, which is led strongly by Alan," Finnis said.

"With the challenges we've had with our personnel and our availability of senior players, we have often fielded one of the least experienced teams in the competition.

"We understand that there will always be speculation around coaches, but in reality we are five and five, and have played a consistent brand of footy and demonstrated a game-style that stacks up against the best teams in the league.

“Absolutely there is work to do and improvement to come, but our coaching group is doing a great job with taking a big step forward from last year.”

One of those players missing has been four-time best and fairest Jack Steven, who is out indefinitely with a mental health issue, but Finnis predicted the onballer could be back at Moorabbin soon enough.

"Jack's communication with the club this week was really positive. I think we'll see him back around the club in coming weeks and at the end of the day, we're still focusing on his health first and foremost, and football will become a secondary factor," Finnis said.

It's the first time the Saints will play in China, 'hosting' Port at Shanghai's Jiangwan Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Finnis explained why St Kilda signed a deal three-year deal to take the game in a different region.

"This is a new market with significant commercial upside. It's going to take a long time for people living in Shanghai and China to start following AFL but there's a lot of Chinese businesses coming and investing in Australia, there's a lot of Victorian businesses heading up into China and we've already found that we can be part of that conversation," Finnis said.