A fearless backpedal into oncoming traffic and a passionate outpouring of emotion after an opposition major score late in the contest.

Two moments against the Cats that revealed more than what initially met the eye.

With minutes to spare in the third term, Jack Lonie’s courage was unmissable, bravely reversing into the centre of the ground – and right into the path of the near-200kg force of Cats defenders Lachie Henderson and Jack Henry coming from behind.

Fully aware of the imminent, rib-rattling collision and with every instinct screaming ‘get out of the way!’, the smallest man on the ground nevertheless copped the brutal hit for the team as he went up for the mark.

It ultimately went by unrewarded on the scoreboard, but was extensively praised at yesterday morning’s team review by Brett Ratten and teammates.

The second moment was one that received little to no airplay, nor made the highlights reel.

After being penalised for a deliberate out of bounds and Geelong threading consecutive goals to open the final quarter as a result, a fired-up Dougal Howard didn’t sweep his frustration under the rug.

An exasperated expletive flew – so too his mouthguard into the turf below – as Brad Close’s kick split the middle and the Cats skipped away to a 17-point advantage.

Although commentators construed Howard’s actions as “grumpy”, those inside the club know it’s just the co-vice-captain wearing his heart on his sleeve; something he's done since he first walk through the door at St Kilda.

His fire and intensity has become just as much a part of his game as he’s defensive efforts.

While contrasting in nature and outcome, the separate acts encapsulated two vital traits that some had questioned were missing from the Saints in 2021: courage and heart.

Dougal Howard and Jeremy Cameron square off. Photo: AFL Photos.

The four points didn't fall St Kilda's way on Friday night, but it's been an impressive turnaround for a side who just six, short weeks ago recorded 11 tackles in a half against Essendon, were completely disjointed in multiple areas of the ground and had been slapped with a “selfish” moniker by numerous external outlets. 

There's no denying the Saints' kicking in front of goal was wayward (5.17) at Marvel Stadium, but its presence around the ball and commitment to the contest were unquestionable. 

The weight and consistency of pressure from Brett Ratten's charges, up at 1.89 pressure points for the entire match, had the usually clinical Cats fumbling.

06:27 Mins
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RD9 | Highlights v Geelong

The Saints and Cats clash in round nine

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It was emphasised by the Saints' season-high 87 tackles for the night (25 more than Geelong), with Jack Steele (11 tackles) unsurprisingly leading the way alongside Josh Battle (nine) and Brad Crouch (nine).

Crouch (fractured cheekbone) and a bloodied Jack Sinclair wore the wounds for their unrelenting efforts.

Off the back of their manic pressure, the Saints astonishingly recorded a tackle every 4.6 opposition touches. Against Essendon, that figure sat at a paltry 13.84 as the red-and-black cruised to a 106+ advantage in uncontested possession.

It must be said that Geelong were just as proficient in their attack to limit their opposition to an average of 5.2 disposals per tackle, but most pleasingly, the Saints' brand held up against one of the competition's best from siren to siren. 

It was the perfect, team response after the Saints were criticised for playing in "18 silos" and leaving too much to too few in the early stages of the season.

Over the past few weeks, the sense of cohesion has started to seep back in, as has the attacking style of play which jettisoned them into finals football last season.

Working out of congestion has shown a noticeable improvement in recent weeks, with the flow-on of players running to receive and link up yielding efficiency rates inside-50 at a tick under 50 per cent over the past three weeks.

Jack Steele wraps up Jed Bews on Friday night. Photo: AFL Photos.

So what's the common thread?

Between Lonie's heroism, Howard's emotion and an impressive wave of tackling pressure against the red-hot Cats, each and every action was done with the team front of mind.

That shift over the past month has been evident, and if that continues on its current trajectory, it won't be long until it starts to reflect on the club's win-loss ledger.

Of course, there's a mountain more than goes into our game than individual moments of brilliance and cohesive play.

But it's more instances of courage and heart that will help push the Saints forward.