Brett Ratten had one key message for Daniel McKenzie heading into Round 4: get your hands on the footy, and the rest will take care of itself.
Twenty-one disposals, three tackles and a tide-turning goal later, the wingman's relentless pressure and tenacity – combined with a series of individual acts unrewarded on the stats sheet – proved crucial in the Saints’ incredible second-half surge over the Eagles.
“That’s one of the things Ratts wanted me to do, just to get a bit more of the footy and it came to me today,” McKenzie told saints.com.au.
“We just spoke a bit about contest and effort (as a team). For me individually, it was just to get to as many contests as possible.
“Playing on the wing you just have to run up and back all day, so (I had to) just dig in every time and get to as many contests.”
That McKenzie did, adding to the Saints’ harrowing presence in the second half with nine defensive half pressure acts.
The No. 36 chimed in at a crucial time as the ball got rolling for St Kilda midway through the third term, with his crunching tackle on Jeremy McGovern catching the All-Australian defender like a deer in the headlights.
McKenzie’s ensuing major – just the fourth of his career – was the second in a chain of eight unanswered goals for the Saints, completing a stunning 33-point turnaround to even up the club’s ledger heading into its clash with Richmond.
“I think it was the persistence of our pressure,” Ratten said post-match.
“We got into a groove and the players just kept going. There was no sort of break in it and that’s a credit to them.
“Sometimes that is a mindset – fatigue sets in and you drop away in certain areas – but I thought for the players to stick at it and finally get reward on the scoreboard (and) keep the game in our half was great.”
McKenzie didn’t play a senior match last season, spending time in the NPS scratch matches as both an inside midfielder and wingman to add another string to his bow.
The gritty Saint has played in three matches this season, bringing up his 50th senior game in sodden conditions at GIANTS Stadium.