Thank you to all members who sent in questions for St Kilda President Andrew Bassat.
Andrew has tried to respond to as many as possible but please note, if your question isn’t addressed below, the club will endeavour to provide an answer over email in the coming days.
In a wide-ranging QnA, Andrew discusses the team performance in 2019, the club’s decision to play in China, St Kilda’s financial position and many other topics.
Is the team meeting your expectations in 2019 given the current injury toll? (Chris Robertson)
Overall, we are satisfied to a degree with both our on-field performance so far in 2019 and our progress in terms of the development of the playing group and game-style.
At the start of the year, we remained ambitious despite a disappointing 2018.
We spoke of the need to be competitive week-in-week-out, and with the exception of the China game, this has been achieved.
We have won every game we have played against sides currently sitting 10th-18th on the ladder and lost every game against sides 1-9, suggesting our 11th position on the ladder is a pretty fair representation of our season to date.
We want to be challenging for flags and need to start regularly beating Top 8 sides for that to happen, but there are reasons to be optimistic for the future and proud of our performances to date.
We have been playing a young and inexperienced team, with the average games played per player sitting at 69.
Typically, teams in contention will average at least 100 games per player, which means we should improve as a result of getting more age and experience into our list.
We also can’t ignore the fact that we have been treated harshly by the injury gods this year.
On Saturday, we were missing 5 of our top 7 from last year’s best-and-fairest, as well as Dan Hannebery, Dylan Roberton, Paddy McCartin and Jack Lonie, who would also be automatic inclusions in our best 22.
I am particularly proud that not once has any member of the coaching or playing group used the regular setbacks we have faced as an excuse.
We want to be a club that is resilient and unrelenting in the pursuit of success no matter what setbacks we face. We are starting to demonstrate these traits.
There is a lot of media speculation about Alan Richardson, where does the Board sit on his position going forward? (Ben Halsall)
Having conducted a thorough review of our on-field performance during 2018, the club made a host of changes in personnel, processes and approach to support Alan and drive high performance.
We have been really encouraged by the impact of these changes, especially considering the challenges we have faced so far this season.
Alan and his coaching group are to be commended for the way they have embraced change and adversity, and led our playing group through this.
Overall, our performances have been far more consistent, with a very visible and deliberate game-plan that allows us to match it with the best team conversations.
Our expectations are high, and we must continue to be competitive, demonstrate improvement in team performance and development of our playing group.
This is what will underpin our future success and will remain the measuring stick for everyone at our football club.
I agree that we are going okay given the injuries we have encountered. I am not sure where the club ties can be purchased but I will see if we can send one up to Brisbane for you.
Why is the club choosing high draft picks on known players who have serious injuries? (Gwen Arundell)
I am not directly involved in specific drafting or recruiting decisions as it is important to leave those decision in the hands of the experienced and talented individuals we have overseeing this area of the club.
James Gallagher assumed the role of list manager in September 2018, with Graeme Allan joining the club as a consultant at the end of the year.
My input comes in sharing, with the key decision-makers of the club, a belief that winning flags is extremely difficult and there is unlikely to be a risk-free path to success.
As a club, we are now willing to take sensible calculated risks where we see the upside justifies it, knowing that we will be criticised if the risks do not pay off.
In the case of Max King (who I assume the question at least partly relates to), we believe that the risks in relation to his past injury are well and truly justified by his tremendous upside.
Max is a special talent and was considered a serious contender for the No. 1 selection prior to injuring his knee. He conducted his rehab program at RSEA Park with assistance from our medical team and couldn’t have been more impressive.
He has since overcome his knee injury and demonstrated his enormous potential in the VFL.
Unfortunately, Max sustained an ankle injury on Saturday, but we are really excited by what he is capable of over the next 10 plus years.
Why don’t we give Josh Battle a go on the forward line considering he came in as a forward and can kick goals? (Loe Barca)
I think we are in trouble if I start getting a say on where players get positioned, but I agree that Josh has a lot of talent and can be used at both ends of the ground.
With Jake Carlisle missing this season, he has been one of the young players to really step up and has been a big positive for us. He also spent time in the forward line on Saturday which indicates that our coaching team also agree with you on his versatility.
Has the club found any reasoning for the long list of injuries this season, and will this be reviewed? (Joe Lawrence)
We can’t escape the significant injuries we have confronted this year, and so must always ask ourselves what we can do differently, but the nature of these injuries suggest that primarily bad luck is to blame.
Paddy McCartin’s concussion, Dylan Roberton’s re-occurrence of a heart issue and Jarryn Geary’s thigh surgery are all examples of injuries that are completely out of our control.
Collision-type injuries such as those sustained by Jack Lonie and Jimmy Webster are part of football, but that is not so say they haven’t been extremely frustrating.
Thankfully, Max King and Jack Steele have received relatively positive news on the injury front, and Jake Carlisle and Dan Hannebery are ready to return.
We would have loved Dan to be playing earlier in the season, but the best option was to take a long-term approach to his training and make sure he completed a really thorough program to fully overcome persistent niggles.
Our medical and high-performance team are hugely respected across the industry, and we are proud of the care and support they continue to offer our players.
The silver lining of the injury setbacks has been the opportunity it has provided to showcase several emerging players.
Jade Gresham, Jack Billings, Rowan Marshall and Josh Battle have moved into new roles this year and started to fulfil their enormous potential.
Gresham and Marshall are two of many key young players who signed long-term contracts with the Saints this season, and we are confident of adding Billings to that list in the near future.
I have also enjoyed seeing new faces such as Callum Wilkie, Matty Parker, Ben Paton and Nick Hind add another layer to the team, and demonstrate they can become important players in years to come.
What is St Kilda’s stance on security in relation to walking up and down the aisles? (Brendan Sheehan)
From a club point of view, we think it’s a pretty simple issue. Having a security presence at the ground is important to deter the very small percentage of people who do the wrong thing, but it is important to have the balance right and not be overbearing.
The vast majority of supporters do nothing but add to the great atmosphere created at games through their passionate support of the team. Our supporters are the best, of course.
Hi Andrew, how valuable do you see success on the field being for financial stability of the club? (Rahmani Shariferah)
Overall, the club is performing well given our on-field results last year and the tough fixture we received (from a commercial perspective) as a consequence.
Our membership tally remains a few hundred members shy of the record levels we reached at same time last year, a gap we hope to close before the end of the season.
It cannot be overstated how important the support of our members is to the long-term prospects of the club, and I thank you for your loyalty this season.
The club continues to focus on strengthening our commercial business, which is fundamental to our ability to invest more heavily in our football program and ultimately win a second premiership.
We acknowledge the need to improve our debt position as quickly as possible.
The good news is that regularly winning games of football will be the primary driver of a better financial position, ensuring our overall objectives as a club are perfectly aligned.
Once we have better on-field results, we will drive increased revenue through increased attendances (thanks largely to a new stadium deal in place at Marvel Stadium) and it should also assist in an improved fixture from a commercial perspective, higher membership numbers and more sponsorship revenue.
So, whilst there is a lot of good work going on in the commercial team, on-field success is the key for us to get to where we want to be.
Why did the club put commercial returns ahead of four points by playing in China? (Sam Lobardo)
I have spoken to a number of supporters in recent weeks about our decision to play in China, but before I address that point, I want to acknowledge that our performance in Round 11 was very disappointing. It was well below the standards we have established this season, regardless of the location of the game.
In terms of deciding to go to China, if I am to be entirely honest and answering from a pure football perspective, in a perfect world our preference would have been to play Port Adelaide at Marvel Stadium.
But it is not a perfect world, and the majority of Victorian clubs play one or more of their games away from home for commercial reasons. To compete for flags, it is critical to compete financially, and some decisions need to be made for commercial reasons.
A few comments that help explain the decision and also explain why we remain excited by our China opportunity.
First, the actual returns from the game were substantial despite this being our first year.
The total benefit to the club in the form of revenue and resources has surpassed $1 million.
Some of this was a significant fee obtained from Port Adelaide for transferring the rights to a home game, but the most important benefit comes from the opportunity to significantly enhance the club’s commercial partnership base.
We have been able to establish important partnerships with organisations such as Woodside Energy and Monash University among other first-time sponsors of the club, while one of the key drivers of our partnership with Australia Nutrition and Sports (current sleeve sponsor) was our involvement in Shanghai.
We believe there is substantial upside in future years as we hopefully deepen existing commercial relationships and build new ones.
Playing in China has already opened the door to conversations with many prospective partners, who we are confident can deliver great value to the club over the coming years.
And we also hope the game will help us to develop relationships with the substantial Chinese community in the south-east of the state.
This investment in the club allows us to lift our spending on football to match our competitors, injecting more smarts, experience and talent into our club.
Our club’s strategy is very clear in that a second premiership is the club’s absolute focus. We believe playing in China can contribute to our ability to deliver that for the many thousands of supporters who are starved of success.
What could have been done differently to avoid illness in China? (Brendon Peace)
There was a significant amount of planning that went into playing in China.
This included a selection of players and high-performance staff visiting Shanghai six months earlier to settle on everything from the Hotel we were staying at to overcoming the logistical challenges.
Every precaution was taken from strict control over food intake, with a lot of food brought with us from Australia, and the implementation of Olympic-standard sanitisation protocols.
As Alan Richardson said post-match, we most likely have been simply unlucky with illness experienced by players and coaches.
That said, we will review all aspects of the trip and ensure any necessary improvements are made ahead of next year’s match.
Will Moorabbin be used for AFL matches in the future? (Clare Caple)
The club is enormously proud of our state-of-the-art headquarters at our spiritual home in Moorabbin, but at present there are no plans to play AFL matches for premiership points at the venue. It would require a significant investment in infrastructure to increase capacity, which is not currently on the cards.
Whilst we are on the topic of RSEA Park, by way of an update, Stage 2 of the redevelopment is in full swing, and a new women’s wing will be completed within weeks.
Construction of a 1000-seat grandstand, swimming pool and other community assets will also begin before the season is complete, ultimately transforming it into a $45 million facility that will underpin the success of the club for years to come.
There is a great sense of anticipation at the club with our AFLW Squad starting to be assembled under coach Peta Searle and the return of football to Moorabbin just over six months away.
We encourage supporters to attend one of the many open training sessions at RSEA Park, and visit the interactive museum to relive some of the iconic moments of the past.