“Who do we want to be?”
Brett Ratten’s words pierce the room as the Saints prepare to dissect Saturday’s match against the Dockers.
It’s not a thunderous spray that cuts deep and rattles the walls, nor is it a simple slap on the wrist and move on.
But it’s stark.
It’s a wake-up call the Saints should never have needed; a result that simply shouldn’t have been after a blitzing first term opened up a six-goal lead.
Fremantle – buoyed by a willingness and hunger to win – caused the red, white and black’s team-first mantra to dissipate.
But the result is in the books. The 2020 tally stands at 3-3.
Now, as the late afternoon sun bathes Noosa in a reddish glow, it’s time to work out why.
The projector whirs to the first slide. Instead of the customary passages of play to break down and review, article clippings from last fortnight’s match against Carlton illuminate the room.
‘Slick Saints’, ‘…exciting footy becoming their trademark…’, ‘Saints on fire’, ‘…fast, flowing and damaging…’, they read.
‘Same-old Saints’, ‘horror finish’, ‘…slip through their fingers…’, ‘unacceptable’.
The immense workload in the off-season hasn’t been for nothing. Ratten’s philosophy centres on building connection, trust and relationships to ultimately create a culture that will bring success. It’s been hammered home time, after time, after time.
It was there and at its best against the Bulldogs, Tigers and Blues, and before that, during the Marsh Community Series against the Hawks in the Saints’ spiritual heartland.
Under the pump against the resurgent Dockers, however, it went to water.
“It was the opposite of what we’ve been doing off the field,” Ratten says.
“Under pressure we miscommunicated, we got frustrated and to be honest, we played a little bit selfishly.
“We had too many guys trying to play ‘match-winner’, too many passengers thinking ‘oh yeah, Steeley or JB will get us through’, and not enough of us thinking about playing as a team.
Senior players Dylan Roberton and Dan Hannebery break the silence.
“It’s not enough to wait until the game review to pull someone up for not playing their role,” Roberton says to the group.
“Whether you’re having a good or bad game or even a shit quarter, if someone isn’t playing their role, address it there in the moment.”
“We need to own our mistakes,” Dan Hannebery interjects.
“We need to all put our hands up if we make a mistake, we need to accept it, and we need to grow from it, otherwise, to be completely honest, we’re just going to get stuck and go nowhere.”
Ratten nods in agreement. The end goal of pushing towards the club’s drought-breaking second Premiership is raised once again.
Skipper Jarryn Geary is the only player on the list to have represented the Saints in September action. That was in 2011.
Hill, Hannebery, Butler and Brown are Premiership players with other clubs.
“If you can’t grind mid-season, what do you think finals is?” Ratten says.
“We have to make sure we are playing to win, or why else are we here?
“It is something that will be with you for the rest of your life.
“They’ll never take the ’95 Premiership away from me. And I want you blokes to feel the same when you retire – to have that same feeling and be damn proud of it. It is something that will last forever, no matter what.”
The gravity of the Fremantle loss is still felt by many in the room, but Head of Football Program, David Rath, prefers to see the opportunity.
“When we have a setback, that’s when we have the greatest growth,” he says.
“We just have to make sure we grab the moment.”