Youthful Saints hungry to keep improving

BOASTING one of the youngest lists in the AFLW, the St Kilda Saints appear as eager as ever to keep moving forward ahead of the upcoming season.

Assistant coach Dale Robinson says the team will be judged on how much it lifts in comparison to last year.

“We don’t look at win/loss record or anything like that,” she said. “We look at whether or not we’re improving our football, and if we are doing that well enough, those things will come in time. The improvement is key, and we want to have that identity so other sides say ‘wow we’re playing the Saints this week, we’re gonna be in for a tough game.’”

Last year showed the Saints were still a bit away from entering the conversation with the likes of Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide as the powerhouse sides of the competition. However, Robinson says the team absolutely sees itself joining that level of team in the coming years.

“We look at those teams as where we want to be,” she said. “We have a very young side, looking at the average games on our list last year, it sat around 20-25 as a whole, so we’ve got a very young group that is gaining experience, and will gain a lot from taking on some of those sides.

“We’re all about improvement. We know we’ve got a couple of years of catch up in terms of how the competition is structured and how we’ve gone over the past six years. Its about continual improvement and get better from last year.”

The Saints lack of experience was on display in some tough losses last year, but there was still a foundation of a winning side shown for much of the fixture, with things not set to be shaken up too much.

“The gameplan won’t change too much,” she said. “I think fitness will be a big part of that, because we want to be able to run games out better, so we’re working on our physical attributes. We’ll make a few tweaks to the gameplan but it’ll look pretty similar in terms of how we want to play.”

The off-season is flying by for all teams, and Robinson said one players desire to improve has really caught the eye at St Kilda.

Ashleigh Richards has been one that has really impressed me,” she said. “We had a good chat at the end of last season and she said she wanted to come back and work on her fitness, understanding what it takes to play at this level. She’s come back in really good shape and is looking good on the track.”

Robinson also says the team’s new recruits have added a new dimension to the team, which has been evident during the pre-season.

“They’ve settled in really well,” she said. “I think the fact that they were able to come down earlier in the year helped, and the girls were doing some things off the track prior to the initial pre-season start date, so they had a head start on getting to know the girls. Doing that meant they could come into day one and get straight into it. They’ve fit in really seamlessly and are adding some great voice to the group.”

Speaking of slotting in well, star recruit Jesse Wardlaw has already turned heads as well, and should prove a massive presence.

“I’m super excited to work with Jesse,” Robinson said. “Obviously she’s got a great pedigree for the work that she’s done during her years up in Brisbane. I think she’s excited to work with a young team and get to know the girls and who she’ll be working closely with. She’s fitting in seamlessly already.”

Having spent the last few years doubling up with her AFLW and VFLW duties with the Southern Saints, Robinson is dedicating all of her time to the former, which seems a truly welcome change.

“Its been a breath of fresh air honestly,” she said. “I love my VFLW program and I love being able to be a spectator and support that this year. I needed a break between the two, and its allowed me to come in fresh and was a decision that needed to happen.”

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