Minutes after the Saints’ finals-affirming victory over GWS, Brett Ratten gathered his players together for one last meeting before the bus ride back to Noosa.
His barely contained enthusiasm quickly tumbled out before, one-by-one, he highlighted the efforts of every Saint in the room throughout the course of the season.
Eventually, Ratten arrived at Jack Sinclair.
“Sincs, you probably thought I hated you,” he laughed.
Just the thought of the famously likeable senior coach having it in for the easy-going Sinclair borders on the ridiculous.
But rewind to earlier this year, and there was reason for the No. 35 to grumble.
As St Kilda steeled itself to make a statement in Season 2020, Sinclair wasn’t selected for the first seven games of the year. Perhaps more frustratingly, he was named as an emergency on the team sheet for all seven.
“I was pretty frustrated,” Sinclair told saints.com.au.
“For me it was pretty simple in the fact that I played pretty poorly in the second pre-season game and there were guys playing better than me.
“I felt like I was potentially the next player in line to get a game if others weren’t playing well, but I knew it was going to be tough for me to get in and that it would be a pretty nervous couple of weeks.”
Fighting tooth and nail to jam his foot in the door isn’t something new for Sinclair.
After being overlooked in his draft year, then toiling away in the VFL the following season, the former Oakleigh Charger was ultimately taken at pick No. 1 in the 2015 Rookie Draft.
Then in 2017, he was left out of the side for the first five matches of the year before finding his niche as a wingman/half-forward in the senior line-up.
So when COVID-19 ground the competition to a halt moments after the Saints' Round 1 loss to North Melbourne, Sinclair's road back became even tougher.
With the season ultimately resuming in June – over nine months since his last senior game – the 25-year-old still wasn’t picked.
Two games became three, then four. By the end of the fifth, the Saints had packed their bags and relocated to Noosa for the foreseeable future.
He was a cut above in modified scratch matches, trained and prepared impeccably, and had rediscovered his form after an untimely lapse before the season opener.
But still, his magnet was parked on the wrong side of the whiteboard, where it had been since Round 1.
“I’ve experienced it before, and I know the only thing that works is just to have a good attitude and keep trying to train well and play well. It’s as simple as that, really.
“I knew that I was going to get my chance eventually; it was just a matter of time I and just had to take it when I did.”
At last, Sinclair was brought in for Round 8 against Port Adelaide.
Lightning-quick and offering a crucial link in offensive chains, the goateed Sinclair's impact was immediate as his side toppled the ladder-leaders in front of a stunned Adelaide Oval.
He’s held his place in the senior side ever since.
The versatile Sinclair has played a multitude of roles since entrenching himself into the senior line-up: wingman, half-forward, even inside midfielder following injuries to Dan Hannebery and then Jade Gresham.
Since coming into the side in Round 8, Sinclair has charted second for St Kilda’s inside-50s – second only to Jack Steele – and loose-ball gets; a fitting indicator of his vision, positioning and attacking placement.
The No. 35 also sits third overall for effective metres gained and has continued to make an impact – particularly late in games – in countless forward forays.
Omitted in Round 1, a global pandemic and the season postponed indefinitely, it would have been easy to take a back seat. But that's not in Jack Sinclair's nature.
The boyhood Saints fan put his head down, got to work and made his run.
“I’m a pretty positive person and try and look at the positives, so even though I wasn’t playing I still had a role to play,” Sinclair said.
“(That was) to have a good attitude and be a good influence for other people and help bridge that connection between players and coaches.
"I know from previous experiences that whinging never works out. Especially this year given there have been so many distractions, it’s pretty easy to think about other things.”
Now, a long-awaited finals series is within touching distance.
“‘Excitement’ is probably a word that sticks out for me, so I can’t wait for it,” Sinclair said.
“Thinking about finals felt really good, but imagine winning a couple.”