AN "EMBARRASSED" St Kilda senior playing group is on notice this pre-season following a horror 2018 campaign, coach Alan Richardson says.
Speaking at the club's annual general meeting on Tuesday night, Richardson said he had challenged the Saints' leaders to improve after a four-win season to forget.
Now with a "spring in his step," according to his chief executive Matt Finnis, Richardson believes it's time for actions.
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"It reflects a group that's embarrassed and as committed as I've seen to do something really significant about the situation we find ourselves in," Richardson said.
"I can guarantee every person sitting in the room that we're doing whatever we can to be as good as we can as soon as we can.
"If you're Nathan Brown at 30 or (Jarryn) Geary at 29, then you need to improve, because where we were at last year was unacceptable."
"If a team matched our speed and matched our pressure then we didn't quite have the weapons to adjust. That's a real focus (in pre-season) for us in terms of our method."
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With Richardson contracted until the end of 2020 – but believed to have trigger clauses at the end of 2019 – Finnis said the Saints were well and truly behind their coach.
"We couldn't have been any more clear or consistent about the fact we're backing Richo to lead our response," Finnis told AFL.com.au.
"2018 was a tough year for everyone at the club and Richo certainly felt that as much as anybody.
"It's been great for him to be able to have the time away, spend time with his family, spend time invested in his own personal development and ensure there's new people into the program to make it better.
"There's a real spring in his step in relation to that but he's also been really open with the players about some of the things we could've been better at last year."
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Having recently returned from his own study trip to Columbia University, Richardson said he had recognised a playing group buying into the program run by leadership mentor Billy Slater. Regarded as one of his generation's greatest rugby league players, the former Melbourne Storm champion has been educating the group on the importance of being a Saint.
"The focus for the players is to work on their crest," Richardson said.
"In Joey's (Montagna) years it was called their trademark but they're really proud of the fact we're the only club that has a crest.
"They've done a lot of work with Billy Slater in that space in terms of what it means to play for the Saints, to have something that's higher in purpose than you.
"It's not done yet but that'll lead into what we do in terms of a leadership perspective."
As outgoing president Peter Summers officially welcomed successor Andrew Bassat, the Saints were forced to address their growing debt that increased to more than $12 million this year.
The Saints highlighted the money spent on the return to Moorabbin and the poor attendances in a new agreement with Marvel Stadium as key contributing factors.
While membership currently sits at around 1200 less than this time in 2017, the club hopes the new three-year agreement to play one home match in China will reap commercial benefits.
The club also revealed it was reviewing its gaming strategy. St Kilda is the only club in Victoria that houses poker machines – 83 – in the same complex as its football department.