BRETT Ratten was left to wonder 'what if' following St Kilda's season-ending 31-point loss to Richmond on Friday night.
What if the Saints had injured ruckman Paddy Ryder and what if they kicked straight?
TIGERS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats
While St Kilda butchered its chances around goal, kicking 6.13, Ratten's greatest lament was the absence of Ryder, who tore his hamstring in the dying minutes of a best-on-ground performance against the Western Bulldogs last Saturday.
With Rowan Marshall left to ruck solo against the Tigers, St Kilda was taught a lesson around the contest, a lesson it couldn't overcome.
Richmond is not known for its stoppage prowess, but with no Ryder to jump over his opponent and precious little relief for Marshall, the Tigers won the centre clearances 15-5, turning that directly into four goals.
"They sit 16th for scores from stoppages and they've kicked 8.4 to 1.3 for the game," Ratten said. "That's the game in itself.
"Their ability to score, and especially from centre bounce, put us under enormous pressure."
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Ratten said it had little to do with Marshall's tap-work, and just as much to do with his midfield.
"We probably fed the ball backwards a bit under duress and they surged and went out the front of us," he said.
"We tried to address that at half-time, but they got some field position and momentum from those plays and scored.
"He's a great player, Paddy, and has been for a long time and we did miss him.
"If we could have won the centre bounces a bit more we would have got the ball our way and not exposed our backs."
Ryder was not the only Saint sorely missed, with Jake Carlisle's absence (for the birth of his third child) also noticeable, particularly in the first half.
Too often multiple Saints flew for the ball, only to miss the spoil and leave Richmond crumbers unattended at ground level.
Dougal Howard had a tough time containing Tom Lynch and there seemed some disorganisation at times.
Despite the missed opportunity to progress to a prelim, Ratten was pleased with his club's season, playing in the finals for the first time in nine years.
He said the Saints would have to keep "pushing the boundaries" if they wanted to continue improving next season.
"We'll probably get a tougher draw and we might get some injuries, there'll be different challenges for our footy club next year," he said.
"You've got to put yourself out there. Do you want to be good or do you want to be great?
"We need to keep pushing the boundaries and sometimes we will fail, but we'll fail having a crack.
"We'll go for a few things in the trade period.
"It'd be good to get another midfielder in, that would really help us, and maybe pushing them more into the forward line so we could get some more goal-scoring power as well."