St Kilda defender Callum Wilkie believes the ache, however essential studying, that got here with the Saints’ bitterly disappointing 2021 marketing campaign is vital to their rebellion this yr.
And coach Brett Ratten is central to that.
Much has been product of St Kilda’s club-wide, mid-season assembly in Sydney final yr, the place some house truths had been delivered from all instructions.
Ratten has admitted since that he, too, wore suggestions and set about adapting, with one side being a higher emphasis on defence, which fits self-made success story Wilkie.
The 50-year-old stays out of contract however the shaky floor the coach seemed to be on after the Saints’ spherical 1 defeat to Collingwood is a distant reminiscence as his staff sits sixth with a 6-3 report.
“He’s been awesome,” Wilkie mentioned of Ratten.
“He’s got a lot of good people around him and he just understands the game well – but he also understands the players and has good relationships, which is such a big part of head coaching.
“I feel like you’ve got so many different roles within a footy club that managing people and trying to get the best out of them, which I feel like he does, is probably the biggest thing.
“He took a big lesson out of last year as well, in terms of what our pre-season looked like and the messages he gave to us in 2021, and he probably had to reflect on that and it’s given him real clarity on his coaching.”
Wilkie, who was elevated to the management group forward of final season, is doing his bit to encourage his teammates to embrace a defensive ethos along with his voice and actions.
It’s working, as a result of solely 4 golf equipment have conceded fewer factors than St Kilda in 2022, after Ratten’s males had been center of the highway in that class a yr in the past.
“I feel like we are a bloody good offensive team and we’ve got a lot of offensive threats and talent,” Wilkie mentioned.
“That comes naturally to a lot of people, like ‘Gresh’ (Jade Gresham), Jack Higgins, Zak Jones – all these players – and I’m not saying they’re bad defensively but I feel like our mindset has changed to, ‘Defend first, win contest’.
“The media likes to talk about how Saints footy is good to watch when we’re up and about, but it’s built a lot on contest and defence.
“You look at the top teams that have won premierships in the last 10 years, and they’ve all been top five, top six defensive teams, so that’s what we’re aspiring to be.”
Wilkie has performed all 72 video games since St Kilda plucked him from the SANFL and an accounting agency within the 2018 rookie draft, and he’s completed seventh or higher within the membership champion award in every of his three seasons.
He is on observe to maintain the pattern going after one other wonderful defensive show within the Saints’ defeat of Geelong on Saturday evening, together with blanketing Jeremy Cameron and profitable 10 disposals within the third time period.
Wilkie continues to sneak underneath the radar outdoors the membership however he’s nice with that.
“I’m happy staying away from the limelight and being the underdog,” he mentioned.
“I don’t have too many flashy qualities about me that the media likes to pump up. I just try to get my role done and help the team get the win.
“As long as the Saints are going well, that’s enough for me.”