Saints plotted flag win '18 months ago' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Saints plotted flag win '18 months ago'

21/09/2009 05:38:33 PM Comments (0)

For the past 18 months St Kilda has coolly plotted the resurrection which has resulted in a grand final appearance on Saturday.

Under coach Ross Lyon the Saints took a detached look at themselves last year and decided to analyse what they needed to become one of the AFL's most potent teams.

It was a slowish process and one which resulted in some short-term pain for some players, but in meeting after meeting, the group set about piecing together a side which would be capable of repelling all their rivals.

On Saturday, the scheme reaches its pinnacle when St Kilda bid to break a 43-year premiership drought by beating superside Geelong for a long overdue flag.

Star midfielder Leigh Montagna explained that the self diagnosis and self-improvement plan grew out of Lyon's vision for the team's on-field approach.

"I think it was probably midway through last season," Montagna said.

"It took a little bit of time for what Ross wanted, to implement to the group, for us to be able to adapt to that game plan and obviously for Ross to be able to adapt to the players we had.

"It was a gradual process and we made some decisions as a group halfway through last year and I think from there we started to work on what we wanted and I think the pre-season's really helped that this year."

Out-of-form midfielder Nick Dal Santo and small forward Stephen Milne spent lengthy periods in the seconds but Montagna said the players' determination to improve was not sparked by the fear of demotions to the VFL but was rather calculated in meetings.

"We sat down as a group and spoke about what we needed to do to become a great side and it was more so as a group and the possibility of what we wanted to achieve.

"Obviously from that came some consequences for a couple of players but when we spoke about that it was the opportunity to become a great team and we've worked on that since then.

"That was 18 months ago now and the playing group are in a good position to achieve what we set out to."

He said there were no special secret to the evolution, but a concentration on getting basic skills to gel.

"Nothing specific, just the balance between attack and defence and working with the ball and without the ball and those sorts of things that we've now realised are crucial to becoming a really good team," Montagna said.

"Speaking on behalf of all the players, we really rate Ross Lyon as a coach, he's been terrific for the group, his knowledge, the way he presents things to the group and the way then that he can follow up during the week and implement what he's spoken about is really good.

"I think most of the players have benefitted from him as coach."

The Saints have not spoken about the 43 barren years since their last premiership in 1966, he said.

"The team that was here (in their last grand final appearance) in 1997 or the other years has got nothing to do with our group, so we're focused on us as a group creating our own history in what we can achieve," Montagna said.

"What's happened in the past has really got nothing to do with the current group of players."

Montagna said each final this year has proven more difficult than the one before and he expects the side will have to move up yet another gear on Saturday.

"We noticed it was a lot more scrappy, a lot more contested, a lot more at stake in the preliminary final compared to the first final and we expect this week to be no different," he said.

"It's going to be a step up in intensity again. Obviously there's more at stake and the pressure can be red-hot but we've practised all year for it and we think we're ready."

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