The word ‘resilience’ has long been associated with St Kilda.
Through near financial collapses, prolonged droughts and off-field controversies, the Saints have endured for almost 150 years.
On this day in 1873, a staggering 146 years ago, the St Kilda Football Club was formally established.
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Formed from the remnants of the disbanded South Yarra Football Club, St Kilda was considered at the time to be a “junior club” prior to the formation of the VFA.
But just one year into its tenure, the club was regarded to be of senior status alongside the established Carlton, Albert Park, Melbourne, Hotham (North Melbourne) and Geelong Football Clubs.
A temporary merger with Melbourne University Football Club in 1875 helped keep the Saints afloat, before they joined the inaugural VFA competition the following year.
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Success continued to elude the club, despite their ability to press even the most dominant teams in what were often stirring displays.
Another dip in success, cancellations of games due to insufficient players and a return to the VFA junior ranks (1880, 1883-1885) saw another merger, this time with the Prahran Football Club in 1888.
The Saints retained their name, colours and home ground – at the time, Junction Oval – with the inclusion of blue shorts to the official uniform the only reminder of the amalgamation.
And while the club remained stable for the next decade, on-field victories were sandwiched in-between regular defeats.
A 6-11-1 tally at the end of 1896 was enough to warrant invitation into the VFL in its inaugural year (1897), as St Kilda became one of eight foundations clubs to join the breakaway competition.
Junction Oval’s central location was admittedly a primary factor for the Saints’ inclusion, with the bayside ground expected to draw large crowds, despite the form of its home side.
St Kilda finally made the finals for the first time in its 34-year history in 1907, before a maiden Grand Final berth in 1913.
St Kilda team photo before their maiden Grand Final in 1913. Image: Boyle's Football Photos
Now absent of blue, the Saints fell short of the ultimate glory at the hands of Fitzroy.
Following its two-year recession during World War I, St Kilda re-emerged, and it was from there that the club’s rich history began to truly manifest.
The brilliance of Colin Watson in 1925 which saw the Saints’ first Brownlow Medal.
The indomitable displays from Bill Mohr up forward, who led the club’s goalkicking from 1929-1940.
The incredible victory against North Melbourne in 1933, in which the undermanned Saints’ crest and very identity was immortalised.
The unwavering commitment of players like Neil Roberts and Harold Bray through the largely unsuccessful 1940s and 1950s.
All – alongside countless other unsung heroes – shaped the club’s indelible resilience, and most importantly, what it means to play for the red, white and black.
The Saints’ move to Moorabbin in 1965 paved the next chapter, with the likes of Allan Jeans, Verdun Howell, Carl Ditterich and Darrel Baldock leading the charge.
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That star-studded line-up proved crucial in breaking the presumption that St Kilda would only continue to build upon its collection of wooden spoons.
And after 93 gruelling years, the ultimate success finally came.
Barry Breen’s famous point in the dying minutes of the 1966 Grand Final saw St Kilda secure its one and only premiership.
The late Darrel Baldock holds the Saints' sole premiership cup aloft in 1966.
Five subsequent Grand Final heartbreaks – 1971, 1997, 2009 and two in 2010 – have seen the Saints deprived of premiership glory for 53 years.
But champions have emerged through the highs and lows in the ensuing years, sculpting the history, identity and fundamental values of the St Kilda Football Club.
Trevor Barker idealised it best, sticking with the Saints after a horror period from 1979-1986 where they finished in the bottom-three each year.
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His loyalty was second to none, and ‘Barks’ left a lasting impression on the St Kilda Football Club.
Gary Colling, Tony Lockett, Nathan Burke, Nicky Winmar, Robert Harvey, Lenny Hayes and Nick Riewoldt among many others followed in Barker’s footsteps, each leaving legacies which would solidify the club’s ethos of never giving in.
And now in 2019, these young Saints have the opportunity to forge their own legacies.
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A 2-0 start seemed unprecedented late last year, but in the face of scathing criticism, the boys have shown the steely resilience with which St Kilda is so deeply connected.
For 146 years, the St Kilda Football Club has endured through thick and thin.
Here’s to 146 more.