At a glance:
- Chief Operating Officer Simon Lethlean opened up on COVID-19's toll on St Kilda in the latest episode of new documentary series, 'The March'.
- Lethlean revealed the emotional and financial hardship on the club and its people, along with the long road back to normality.
- 'The March' details the fallout from the AFL's shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the Saints have fought on.
Chief Operating Officer Simon Lethlean has opened up about the financial and emotional hardships on St Kilda’s staff and infrastructure in the latest episode of the new documentary series, The March.
Episode Two: Shutdown details the immediate fallout from the season suspension, players battling to find motivation and taking second jobs in the ensuing months and the club’s fight for survival.
As COVID-19 suffocated the league and locked crowds out of games for Round 1, reality started to sink in just minutes into the Saints’ clash with North Melbourne.
“We sort of had a heads-up as the game commenced that there was an announcement that afternoon,” Lethlean said in the latest episode of St Kilda’s new documentary series, The March.
That gut feeling was right.
Less than one hour after the Saints’ Round 1 loss to North Melbourne, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announced that the season would be suspended for at least 70 days in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hollow look of the normally composed McLachlan was enough to convey the grimness of the situation. Lethlean felt it that little bit more.
“Gil's obviously a close friend of mine, so to see the weight I could tell he was carrying on behalf of the industry...” Lethlean said.
“For when an industry shuts down, when revenue is turned off and costs continue, it’s not a good scenario, so I guess I understood the gravity of it.”
In-house at RSEA Park the following day, what had just transpired began to hit home.
“We had to go back and have a conversation with the staff. It was quite an emotional conversation behind closed doors,” Lethlean said.
“The reality is that not all those people are going to be coming back to the club to work, whether it’s this year, or next year or both.
“To see professional footballers sorting mail through a contact at the club was pretty stark. It certainly hit home.”
#EXCLUSIVE: With footy on hold, a handful of St Kilda players have launched themselves back into the workforce thanks to an offer from a loyal supporter. @bradeningram #9News pic.twitter.com/x8HTBZkFDz— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) May 3, 2020
The loss of football hurt many in different ways.
Many had their livelihoods upended, their traditions uprooted and struggled to find a sense of purpose through all the confusion.
Now, as we begin the gradual journey back to normality, Lethlean believes we can all take something from the shutdown.
“I think the appreciation of football will benefit from this,” Lethlean said.
“Our fans, who have pledged their loyalty and always have and continue to do so are the lifeblood of the Saints, so we look forward to being able to embrace them back at matches and back at RSEA Park, no doubt.
“I was involved in a conversation a few weeks back where rather than being asked ‘what’s gone wrong in all this’, being asked to sort of list a few things that you would like to keep going that have occurred in your life.
“There are a lot of good things that are occurring out there and it would be good to keep a fair few of them going.”