Long before the opening bounce last Friday night, one moment epitomised what the Saints stand for.

Emergency Shane Savage was casually jogging a lap of the Gabba, over an hour before his side played arguably their biggest game in nearly a decade – a do-or-die clash with the Giants.

Meanwhile, the Saints’ non-playing squad took their place on the second tier of the Gabba as they gathered to watch their mates go to battle.

After a two-hour bus ride from Noosa, and a taxing hit-out with the Giants in the afternoon sun, the non-selected Saints could be excused for taking the opportunity to relax.

But as Savage drew closer, they suddenly erupted.

Led by the energetic Jonathon Marsh – the Saints demanded something special from the No. 5, and he delivered in spades.

The veteran dodged a non-existent opponent then had a bounce before dobbing a goal from the boundary and celebrating like he had just kicked a stoppage-time winner.

It was a light-hearted moment while nerves were high, but for everyone at the ground, it was proof that the Saints have clicked.

One of St Kilda’s biggest pre-season focusses was on driving connection within the playing group.

With a host of new players, a new coach and a new game-plan, connecting the entire squad and coaching staff was always going to take time.

But the depths of the connection amongst the playing group are now at an all-time high after almost three months living together at the RACV Noosa Resort.

Sav’s stunner – and the cheer it received – wasn’t the only club-defining moment on a night where the red, white and black broke a nine-year spell without a finals appearance.

When Jack Lonie rammed home a goal during the third term, he pointed straight at the rest of his squad gathered in the stands.

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RD 18 | Surging Saint strolls into an open goal

Jack Lonie puts St Kilda further in front

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And when the Saints players made their way to the southern end of the Gabba after the emotional win, they did so to acknowledge not just the fans, but their mates.

The raucous support from the non-playing squad during the game hadn’t gone unnoticed, and the senior team knew they couldn’t head to the rooms without saying thanks.

The bonds run deep in the Saints’ 45-man playing list.

The first moment you didn’t see, the second you might have missed, and third was captured for the world to see - but all demonstrated how close the entire playing squad has become this year.

And it’s a connection that might just prove the difference as the Saints embark on their first finals series in nine years.