'Something wrong': Former St Kilda coach unloads on AFL club

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·Sports Reporter
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Former St Kilda coach Grant Thomas, left, says the Saints haven't been competitive enough in the AFL over recent seasons.
Former St Kilda coach Grant Thomas says the Saints must 'get serious' about contending for premierships after key rivals have tasted grand final success in recent years. Pictures: Getty Images

St Kilda need to 'get serious' about breaking the club's now AFL record 55-year premiership drought, according to outspoken former coach Grant Thomas.

The Saints inherited the dubious honour of holding the longest premiership drought in the league after Melbourne defeated the Western Bulldogs in the 2021 grand final.

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A 57-year hoodoo was broken by the Demons in resounding fashion earlier this year, while back in 29016 the Western Bulldogs broke their own drought which had dated back to 1961.

Thomas, who coached the Saints from 2001 to 2006 and took the club to a preliminary final in 2004, said it was time for the club to make 'hard' decisions in order to credibly challenge for just the second flag in the club's long history.

Endorsing a bid from long-time Saints figure Larry Benge to join the club board, Thomas said the club's second premiership since their lone triumph on 1966 was well overdue.

Thomas said the Bulldogs' and Demons' recent success showed a change of attitude was required from the top down.

"There are two types of teams in the competition - one that's in the premiership business and the others that are just sort of playing AFL," Thomas told SEN.

"I get the distinct feeling that the Saints are just happy playing AFL.

"Their best is finals, but the gap tells me that there is something wrong somewhere."

Thomas said the success of their rivals showed it was crucial for the Saints to start doing things differently, after treading water since their 2010 grand final defeat.

"I see Melbourne and the Bulldogs have gone past us in recent years and I just think if they can do it, there's no reason why we can't.

"But we're not going to do it doing what we're doing.

"We really need to enter the premiership business race."

The Saints have come close to premiership glory a number of times in the AFL era, making grand finals in 1997, 2009, and drawing with Collingwood before eventually losing the rematch in 2010.

St Kilda must change strategy to compete: Grant Thomas

Thomas believes St Kilda haven't "deserved success" but that could change.

"We haven't made the right decisions, we haven't done it properly and you don't deserve anything in this world - you've got to earn it," he said.

"Melbourne earned it this year in magnificent fashion... I suppose they've lit me up a bit."

St Kilda shot up the ladder in 2020, making the top-eight for the first time in nine years, before falling to eventual premiers Richmond in the semi-finals.

After an inconsistent start this year, plagued by injuries, they finished 10th.

After the Saints' last game of 2021, coach Brett Ratten told his players "why can't it be us" winning the premiership next season.

Jack Steele has become one of the Saints' better players since joining the AFL side in 2017.
Jack Steele has emerged as a midfield leader at St Kilda as the Saints look to rebuild towards premiership contention. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

"I see our supporters, exactly the same (as Melbourne) - starved of opportunity," Ratten said.

"It takes a whole footy club to win it."

The Saints were relatively quiet players in the recent trade period.

Seb Ross joined fellow St Kilda mainstay Jack Billings in rejecting AFL free agency and signing a new deal with the AFL club.

The utility has re-committed for the next two years, in the wake of Billings securing a four-year deal.

Ross, a two-time club best and fairest, was an unrestricted free agent.

He enjoyed another consistent season, finishing seventh in the Trevor Barker Medal count, and the Saints had been confident he would stay.

Ross has finished in the top 10 of the club best and fairest every season since 2016.

With AAP

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