It’s one of those weeks where Saints fans are again finding themselves digging deep.
The mettle has again been tested and for many, the frustration has simmered over.
While St Kilda has been on the end of several heavy defeats this season, this most recent one against Adelaide – the smallest deficit of the year at just six points – at the death arguably stings the most.
With a little bit of digging, we’ll eventually find that piece inside of us that keeps us coming back. But when looking for positives to take from Saturday’s game in Cairns, the search comes up short.
Jack Steele delivered – a given, as we’ve come to expect – and Brad Crouch is beginning to find his feet and the Sherrin in his new colours. The defensive trio of Dougal Howard, Callum Wilkie and new backline addition Jack Sinclair again gave their all. Hunter Clark’s courage was undeniable.
But those weekly deliverances aren’t enough to hang the hat on as the Saints slip further away from the heights reached last season.
Instead, it was seven-game Saint Tom Highmore who gave reason for optimism off the back of his most impactful game at senior level.
A steadfast 22 touches, 15 intercepts and 13 marks – eight of which were intercept marks – had “the shining light”, as Brett Ratten referred to him post-game, as one of St Kilda’s best against the Crows.
Highmore was in the action right from the first bounce, charting almost half of his disposals and five grabs from the opening half-hour of play to help galvanise his side’s promising early form.
His impressive 15 intercepts by the final siren fell just three short of All-Australian Darcy’s Moore’s season-best tally (18), while Saturday night marked the first time a Saint had cracked double digits in the stat since Ben Long’s 11 in Round 1, 2020.
The SANFL recruit’s eight intercept marks was also the highest individual effort recorded by a Saint not only this season, but from the year before.
Saturday night gave even more credence to the well-circulated ‘Callum Wilkie clone’ comparisons, not just from on-field view, but as a player to rely on.
Like Wilkie, he’s come into the system as a mature-age recruit via the SANFL, knows all about hard work and bears all the right hallmarks of becoming a defensive mainstay moving forward.
While Wilkie’s extraordinary rise from accountant to Saints leader yet to miss a game will likely continue to stand in a league of its own, Highmore’s showing on Saturday was just as assured as we've come to expect from the No. 44.
It wasn't flawless by any means, but the ceiling for the young Saint is high.
Prior to his Round 1 debut at GIANTS Stadium, Ratten had a one-on-one meeting with Highmore about seizing the opportunity when it came his way.
“It’s about getting your opportunity and taking it and he’s up for the challenge,” he said.
The young defender is doing just that.
A debut earned, the Silk-Miller Memorial Medal awarded to him following a 30-disposal, 14-mark display in the VFL two months ago, and now five consecutive games to his name, the last of which was more than commendable.
Yet, the air from Saturday's defeat takes the headlines and leads the narrative. And rightly so.
Of course, had Saturday’s result swung the other way, it would be a completely different tale to the one we’re hearing now about digging deep and having our resilience tested.
But we’d still have Tom Highmore on our minds.