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Past AFL finals failures a help: Saints

16/09/2008 07:34:42 PM Comments (0)

St Kilda skipper Nick Riewoldt says the Saints are not motivated by a desire to atone for past AFL finals failures, but acknowledges those experiences could help against Hawthorn on Saturday night.

The match will be St Kilda's third preliminary final in five seasons, with the club having suffered narrow losses to eventual premiers Port Adelaide (2004) and Sydney (2005) in the previous two.

In between there was the 2006 elimination final defeat to Melbourne which resulted in the sacking of former coach Grant Thomas, before replacement Ross Lyon failed to lead them to finals last season.

Those results have so far failed to match the huge expectations that built around the Saints after they used a slew of early draft picks to recruit the likes of Riewoldt, Justin Koschitzke, Luke Ball, Nick Dal Santo, Leigh Montagna, Matt Maguire and Xavier Clarke in the space of three years at the start of this decade.

But Riewoldt said there was no sense of urgency that the current group of Saints were running out of chances to make their mark.

"We've had opportunities before and haven't taken them, so it's not about making up for lost time or seeking revenge or anything like that," he said.

"What the case is is we've got an opportunity this week to keep improving and that's what our focus has been on, I think, all year.

"We've had much better results in the second half of the year when I think our focus has been less on results and less on outcomes and more about the process.

"So it's an opportunity this week, nothing more."

But he said the healthy level of finals experience among the squad could prove valuable against a Hawthorn side that spent six years out of finals action before last season.

"That's why it's called experience," Riewoldt said.

"If you don't learn from every situation it's a wasted experience.

"There's six guys (in last week's side) who have played less than 30 games.

"It will be their first preliminary final, so I'm not sure whether us having that bit of knowledge and being able to impart a bit of advice on those younger guys will help in any way.

"But you do learn from every experience, every game you play in you learn something new and preliminary finals are no exception."

Meanwhile, Riewoldt said the round-13 axing of senior players Dal Santo and Stephen Milne, which sent a message that "reputations count for nothing", proved a pivotal moment in the club's season.

The Saints had been struggling on a 5-7 record at the time, but have won nine of 12 games since.

"We were able to develop some real credibility in what we were trying to stand for as a club and I think everyone brought in really well after that," he said.

He said the influx of youth into the side since - with youngsters Jarryd Allen, Robert Eddy, Clinton Jones and David Armitage all playing last weekend - was significant.

"There was maybe a bit of a dry patch for a few years where we didn't have any kids coming through, but it's been terrific for the club this year," he said.

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