Sunday 4 October. 5:00am.
The morning sun is yet to pierce the Queensland horizon, and Noosa, the Saints' adopted home, is bathed in a glorious pinkish glow.
This Sunday morning is a little different though. After nearly a decade, St Kilda played in a final. And won.
But for the Saint who arguably got his side over the line, it's been a sleepless night.
A bag of ice is strapped to his right hamstring, a small pool of water sits underneath him as the once-fresh batch begins to melt in sync with the rising sun.
Motivation, desperation, dedication... or perhaps a combination of the three. Whatever it is, it's fuelled Paddy Ryder to forgo even a wink of sleep to ice his injury.
In his 14 seasons at the elite level, the 32-year-old has never had a hamstring injury. He doesn’t know if it’s good or bad, but he’s doing absolutely everything to give him the best chance of being available for the upcoming semi-final.
And if that means staying up all night to ice, then so be it.
A few hours later as he drives himself to the clinic for scans, there’s cautious hope creeping in. Maybe, just maybe, it might not be as bad as his heartbreaking reaction on the bench at the final siren made it out to be.
Unfortunately, a picture paints a thousand words. The scan of his hamstring tendon saps any hope he'd built up.
After 257 games and a maiden finals win, his season has ended in shattering circumstances. And although disappointed from a personal perspective, Ryder is proud of what he’s achieved.
He came to St Kilda – an idea pitched to Brett Ratten and list manager James Gallagher by Brendon Lade – with a point to prove: he still had plenty to give.
As evidenced by his top-10 finish at the Trevor Barker Award, herculean performance in the elimination final and the effective partnership between he and Rowan Marshall throughout the year, there was still a lot left in the tank.
“I think he’d feel his biggest achievement was that he can still play very well and at the level,” Lade, who worked with Ryder at Port Adelaide, told saints.com.au.
“There were a few other teams that still wanted him and still thought that, and I think deep down Port knew that but just realised they couldn’t have both him and Scott Lycett in the same side.”
St Kilda ultimately won the race for Ryder’s services last October, with the All-Australian ruckman joining the club alongside Dougal Howard in exchange for picks No. 12, 18 and a future third-round selection.
“He was pretty doubtful that he was going to play any footy at Port. I think they didn’t really want to lose him, but they wanted him to be able to go somewhere and play footy,” Lade said.
“We talked about how Paddy had a point to prove– because he knew he wasn’t wanted (at Port Adelaide) – but still thought he had footy left in him. Whether that’s two years, three, four, who knows, but we thought it was an opportunity to get him here.
“There were obviously a few questions because of his age and some of the injuries he’s had in the past which can lead to not playing at all, especially with an Achilles.
The elimination final against the Western Bulldogs was the perfect example.
Two goals, 16 disposals, four marks, 20 hit-outs (nine to advantage) and a monumental presence at centre bounce only tell half the story of the All-Australian’s influence, before injury cruelly struck in the final 90 seconds of play.
Earlier match-winning efforts against Port Adelaide, Gold Coast – his 250th game – and GWS were just as important at getting the Saints to October in the first place.
And while his season and the club's maybe over, Ryder's point has emphatically been proven.
“I don’t think he wanted to be one of those players that didn’t play in a winning final his whole career. And to be perfectly honest, who would have thought we would have played finals and won a final anyway,” Lade said.
“I think that was driving him a little bit and also to play with Jake (Carlisle). They’ve been through a fair bit together, and for them to get to the game and to both play pretty well in the final was big for them.
“So I think his biggest achievement this year would be showing he’s still got a lot to offer even at his age and hopefully he’s got a lot to offer for the next couple of years for us.”