ST KILDA'S finals hopes are gone but forward Beau Maister's steely resolve to return from a two-month injury layoff hasn't wavered.
Maister had hamstring surgery in June and has since done everything he could to play again this season.
This weekend, he is expecting to return to the field in the VFL after a long and sometimes frustrating rehabilitation.
With a one-year contract extension now under his belt, the 27-year-old wants to carry good form into pre-season training after reaping the benefits of a strong summer early this season.
But he'd like to put his injuries – a broken thumb and a torn hamstring tendon in the back of his knee – behind him.
"I've normally been pretty durable throughout my career, apart from a few little hiccups early on at West Coast," Maister told AFL.com.au.
"This year has been disappointing to miss so much footy. I like to think I can withstand a full season but the injuries haven't been the sort that could have been prevented.
"They're a bit unlucky but that's the game that we're in and I suppose you've got to wear that and move on and come back bigger and better."
Maister kicked five goals in the first three rounds before booting two against Essendon in round four.
The main thing he took out of the Bombers games was the broken thumb he sustained in the first quarter when palming off his opponent while leading for the ball.
Four screws and one plate later – to go with the metal already existing in his left ring finger from a previous injury – and Maister was out for the next three games.
He returned in round eight against Adelaide and lasted three games before another injury in dramatic circumstances.
Maister's knee jarred and hyperextended when chasing Eagle Eric Mackenzie in the dying stages of their round 11 clash, before McKenzie kicked the match-winning goal.
Maister had torn the lateral tendon that connects his left hamstring to his fibula behind his knee but the severity of the injury wasn't apparent until it started to hurt the next day.
"That was pretty freakish," Maister said.
"I hadn't really had any hamstring issues before, or a history of issues in the past.
"It was foreign to me and I didn't really feel any different. I ran off the ground feeling OK until the next day when it was a bit sore and we scanned it and found out it had come away from the bone."
Defender Sam Gilbert was already in the rehab group with a similar issue when Maister had his operation.
Gilbert went down in round six, and while there was more damage to his knee than Maister sustained, he also hurt the same tendon.
It gave the two something to bond over when Maister was given his two-month prognosis and they've since worked together to return to playing this year.
"As soon as they said it was eight weeks and there was a chance I could come back and play AFL footy, I jumped at that opportunity and it wasn't going to be any other way with me," Maister said.
"I'm doing everything I can to put my hand up to play by the end of the year.
"Three games, the clock is ticking down pretty quickly but I feel confident I can get out there and have a crack."
Maister's one-year contract has given him the opportunity to witness what he believes is a period of transition for the Saints.
He also thinks after a tricky season for the club on the injury front, things could turn around for the Saints quicker than many people think.
"I firmly believe that AFL is a game of trends and you see teams fluctuate," he said.
"I think we're at a stage now where we're trying to get the balance right of having senior players around to guide the younger guys, and trying to bring the younger guys up to speed as well with AFL footy.
"I'm excited for the future of the club. I think there's some great talent and we've got a really good group to work with.
"If we get everyone out on the park and keep everyone healthy and fit, I think we can give it a shake and improve pretty quickly."