AN HONEST chat between teammates sparked St Kilda to a much-improved performance – although not quite to victory – against Essendon on Sunday, according to midfielder David Armitage.
Coming off heavy losses to Collingwood and Carlton, the Saints looked a rejuvenated team in their two point defeat against Essendon at Etihad Stadium.
They played with more flair, more often and took risks after coach Alan Richardson said last week they needed to be braver when challenged after starting games well.
Become a member. Click HERE or call 1300 GO SAINTS.
Jack Billings, Jack Lonie and Josh Bruce were among their best on Sunday, and while they still made mistakes at times, they also stood up in crucial moments.
Armitage said the older players had offered counsel this week on how to deal with opposition comebacks, and felt it had helped.
"We had a bit of a meeting during the week, because we'd had really good starts and then all of a sudden, at quarter-time or half time, they'd evened the ledger," Armitage told AFL.com.au.
"It was more for the younger guys who had played a handful of games, and we sat down and asked, 'What's going through your head when teams are coming back at us?'
"For instance, in the Collingwood game, they kicked three or four really quick ones and we were still up by a goal or two and [the young Saints] were walking back to their positions thinking, 'Oh no, they're coming' but we were still in front.
"Instead of thinking that, we want them to think, 'Why don't we put the foot on the throat and we kick the next goal?'
"It's just about a change in mindset."
When a challenge came from opposition sides, senior Saints encouraged their younger teammates to simplify their approach by focusing on what they knew they could do well.
"We got their thoughts and it came back to focusing on what makes you a good player out there and don't worry about all the jargon the coaches throw at you, the KPIs and all that," Armitage said.
"Just get back to what makes you a good player.
"It's probably 90 per cent above the head when you're out there so everything you do during the week, the physical preparation, is really good.
"But when you're out there, it all comes down to what's above your shoulders.
"I think that was the real difference this week."
Richardson was impressed with Billings and Lonie, who each kicked two goals that gave the Saints the lead at different stages.
"I was really pleased Jack [Billings] was able to win the ball in contest. They're a strong mature defence so for Jack to be able to stand up and win the ball was a real positive step," Richardson said.
"Lonie is a beauty. He's a guy that looks in the mirror and sees Hulk Hogan … he doesn't see little Jack Lonie.
"He plays accordingly, he wins the ball, he's very creative, he makes the most of his opportunities and he makes his teammates better."
While there was plenty of praise for the two Jacks and Bruce, who booted five goals, Armitage was best afield.
The tough midfielder had 35 disposals – 18 contested – and won 11 clearances, giving the Saints explosive drive through the centre square.
"I'm one of the senior players in there, especially with 'Joey' [Montagna] out and we've got a young midfield so Jack [Steven] and myself, all we can do is lead the way and try and get the other guys to jump on our backs and follow us," he said.
"As long as we're all playing our role, that's all we can ask for."