Kiwi Saint: new signing Joe Baker-Thomas (right) with Nick Dal Santo in Wellington on Friday. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoHowever you dress it up, Nick Dal Santo believes St Kilda’s injection of new faces is the only way forward for a team that showed improvement in Thursday’s honourable loss to Sydney, and must bring the same commitment every week throughout a challenging season.
Coach Scott Watters had been proud of the effort, from his leaders through to first-gamers Brodie Murdoch and Josh Saunders, and Dal Santo echoed his vision as the Saints farewelled New Zealand with a well-attended kids clinic at Basin Reserve.
”Whether it’s called rebuild or whether it’s called fresh blood, it’s needed, there’s no doubt about that,” Dal Santo said, having joked that ”rebuild” was a dangerous word. ”In the past, we’ve had a pretty solid, set team for quite a while, and things have changed a little bit. That’s just the way footy goes. At some stage, you do need new guys to come through and take some responsibility, and that’s happening a little bit.
”We always strive for a premiership, so it doesn’t really change my day-to-day actions or my thoughts on where we’re at. On our day, we’re capable, and I think even last night, even though we didn’t get the win, we were a lot better.”
Saunders and Murdoch took to four the number of debutants played by the Saints this year, with Nathan Wright and Tom Lee also in the team that went down to the Swans by 16 points.
Dal Santo said the showing by the new faces was a big positive of the club’s first game across the Tasman. ”Brodie and Joshy last night, playing their first game, they found their feet and knew what was going on,” he said.
The Saints face a testing stretch of games, against Collingwood, Carlton and away to Adelaide, and Dal Santo said the focus would be simple – keep improving. ”We’ve just gotta get better. Even years ago, when things were going pretty well, we never looked outside what we could do that next day.”
Nick Riewoldt won plenty of new fans at Basin Reserve, as he had the night before in a gut-busting game that Dal Santo said was simply typical Riewoldt. Asked if the captain, who even took a kick-out during the last quarter on Thursday night, could be trying to do too much, Dal Santo said it would be pointless trying to rein him in. ”The issue with that is, good luck trying to tell him not to. That’s just how he plays footy. He does what he thinks he needs to do at a particular time – he’s been doing it for 12 or 13 years and does a really good job at it.”
Dal Santo confirmed he had a clause in his contract that would lead to him playing on in 2014 ”if I’m able to keep walking. I’m feeling OK.”
The Saints made their first inroads into the local talent pool on Friday by unveiling their first international scholarship holder, 16-year-old Wellingtonian Joe Baker-Thomas, who described the game as ”mean”.
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