After a promising start to the 2022 AFL season culminated in a missed run to the finals, incoming football manager Geoff Walsh has given St Kilda a dose of reality as to their standing in the league.
Hard truths were on the menu when Walsh, the former Collingwood and North Melbourne manager, declared the Saints were in dire need of 'top-end talent' after the club signed Western Bulldogs defender Zaine Cordy to a three-year deal.
The Saints missed the finals in 2022 after a series of poor mid-season losses took the shine of some encouraging moments, in particular their round nine victory over eventual premiers Geelong.
Walsh pulled no punches in his assessment of St Kilda's standing in the league, with the club having last been in contention to make the grand final back in 2011.
The Saints have fallen into mediocrity after back to back grand final losses in 2009 and 2010, which included the gut-wrenching drawn grand final against Collingwood.
In an interview with SEN, Wash said he had no problem with potentially getting Saints fans offside by saying the club had fallen into AFL 'irrelevance' over the past 10 years.
“One of the things I’d like to think I can bring to the table is the willingness to make a hard call, to not walk past something if you see it and know it’s wrong,” Walsh said.
“This might sound abrasive and Saints fans might get upset, but one of the things I think, when asked about how do I see St Kilda, I think the competition would say there has been a degree of irrelevance.
“That should be abrasive, that should choke down people’s throats.
"I hope that going forward I can contribute to a profile that gives the Saints the due respect they crave.”
The Saints are hoping Cordy can form a defensive tandem with full back Dougal Howard, as well as pinch-hitting in the ruck after Paddy Ryder elected to retire after 17 AFL seasons.
Walsh said the Saints would embark on a concerted effort to attract elite talent to the club over the next few seasons, both through trades and via the draft.
“One of the things the Saints need to do over this trade and draft period and the next, and even the next, is an injection of top-end talent,” Walsh said.
“They’ve got a lot of good players. I think that they would really do well and benefit from the injection of some top-end talent.
“That’s one of the things that I think will help them up the road.”
The Saints had been interested in signing Collingwood's Jordan De Goey as a free agent, before the 26-year-old eventually settled on staying with the Magpies.
Hard truths in order for Saints as Geoff Walsh takes over
St Kilda started the 2022 season 8-3 but fell away in the second half of the year to finish 11-11 and miss the top eight.
It was a disappointing result after club president Andrew Bassat had claimed it was the year when the Saints' premiership window would open under coach Brett Ratten.
"It's not as if they're devoid of talent or devoid of hope," Walsh said.
"I think that there's some opportunities there for them to springboard into that bottom half of the eight, as a first step. That's exciting to me."
Walsh left his most recent full-time football post at Collingwood in 2020.
He has since played a key role in reviews at Carlton and North Melbourne, and assisted the AFL in planning for a new Tasmanian team.
During his time in the industry, Walsh has been involved in four premierships and 25 finals series.
He was awarded AFL life membership in 2016.
Meanwhile, the wins keep coming for Geelong with the reigning AFL premiers set to secure midfielder Jack Bowes and pick seven from Gold Coast.
Bowes has declared he wants to be traded to the Cats after the Suns were happy to let the 2016 top-10 draft pick explore opportunities elsewhere.
Gold Coast are determined to get rid of Bowes' hefty contract and told rival clubs they would also be willing to part with their first-round draft pick.
Hawthorn and Essendon were also vying for Bowes' services but the 24-year-old has elected to move from his home state of Queensland to the perennial powerhouse in Geelong.
The Cats and Gold Coast, who are yet to play finals in their 12 seasons in the AFL, will now look to finalise a deal for Bowes before the end of the trade period.
The last player Geelong drafted inside the top-10 was recently retired legend Joel Selwood back in 2006.
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