Saints coach says they must lift in AFL

Roger Vaughan
Saints coach Alan Richardson was fuming at his team's 'unacceptable' display against the Swans

Coach Alan Richardson is brutally realistic, saying he and many others at struggling St Kilda will be on notice unless there is improvement at the AFL club.

Saturday night's 71-point thrashing from Sydney, where the Swans killed off the game in the first quarter with nine goals to one, left the Saints wallowing at third-last on the ladder.

They have not won since beating second-last Brisbane in the opening round, with only a round-five draw against GWS breaking the losing streak.

It sets up a crucial away match next Saturday against Gold Coast, who are one spot above St Kilda on the ladder.

There were high expectations at St Kilda that they would play finals this season for the first time since 2011, but they look doomed to a bottom-four finish.

Late last year, the Saints reappointed Richardson until 2020.

The Saints coach was asked on Sunday if he expects that contract to be honoured, given the club's on-field plight.

"I reckon I've been in footy long enough to know that if we can turn this around and show promise and play much more consistent footy, then that will be fine," Richardson told 3AW.

"If that doesn't happen, I reckon we're all on notice."

But there was some good news on Sunday for the Saints, with Jack Billings firing in the VFL.

Billings was dropped for the Sydney game and he responded with 53 disposals and three goals.

Richardson noted their last three games have been against the top three teams - Richmond, West Coast and now the Swans.

After signs of life in the previous two matches, the Saints let themselves down badly against Sydney and Richardson called it a real setback.

"At the moment we're a pretty young side, but that doesn't excuse that lack of hunger and desperation at the start of the game," he said.

"So yeah, it was a bloody disappointing night."

Richardson noted that after Gold Coast and the bye, the Saints have eight games until the end of the season.

He warned that the players in particular would want to finish the season strongly.

"There are eight opportunities for coaches and players to show they're worth their spot in the team - I'm really referring to players now - but that they can be trusted to play their role, to be able to execute their role, irrespective of the pressure they're under," he said.

Once again, the Saints had enough scoring opportunities - despite the margin, they had more inside 50s than Sydney.

But their ability to score and defend have been major problems for much of this season.