Dan Butler celebrates kicking a goal during the match between Sydney and St Kilda at the SCG in round 13, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

ST KILDA is 8-4 and just out of the top four on percentage ahead of round 14, but Ross Lyon isn't prepared to start thinking about a return to September just yet. 

The Saints reached the mid-season bye 8-3 last year and looked destined to play finals, before winning only three more games to limp to a 10th place finish that resulted in the departure of Brett Ratten and widespread change inside the football department. 

St Kilda has played in only one finals series since Lyon departed the club after the 2011 elimination final loss to Sydney – they won the 2020 elimination final before losing the semi-final – and rarely been in contention in back end of the season.

After a couple of poor performances against Hawthorn and Adelaide in the weeks leading into the bye, St Kilda produced a spirited performance at the SCG last Thursday to defeat Sydney by 14 points. 


"For us, we just want to keep improving our footy. We are on a long-term journey here. We're taking care of the present and really taking care of that longer-term narrative as well," Lyon told reporters at RSEA Park on Tuesday.

"There is a lot of excitement there. We are trying to build it out. I've only been with the group for 10 weeks pre-season, 12 weeks (in-season), but we've made some ground in system and that's a credit to my coaching group. 

"I haven't got the luxury of looking ahead. We know if it was about ladder position and about form, there would be no upsets; there is upsets every week, or perceived upsets, but if you're on the inside you don't see them as upsets because you go into games feeling physically sick going into games each week knowing that's coming."


A week after navigating the build-up and hype associated with Lance Franklin's 350th game, St Kilda will need to handle the emotion of Richmond paying tribute to club icon Trent Cotchin when the veteran becomes only the fifth Tiger to play 300 games, behind only Kevin Bartlett, Jack Riewoldt, Shane Edwards and Francis Bourke. 

Lyon will also face Andrew McQualter for the first time since the former Saint – who was a permanent fixture in both Grand Final seasons in 2009 and 2010 under Lyon – stepped up as Richmond's interim coach following Damien Hardwick's shock decision to quit last month. 

Andrew McQualter and Nick Riewoldt after St Kilda's match against Adelaide in R16, 2009. Picture: AFL Photos

"It is great to see him with an opportunity and taking his opportunity," Lyon said.

"He has handled himself really well, I think he has handled himself with aplomb. What a win over there; they were pretty special; we've got our work cut out, but we've got a lot of belief. Last time on the 'G we played Essendon in our 150-year celebration and I thought we were really dynamic that night. We're looking forward to it. 

"It is a big game for Richmond with their triple premiership captain. Bachar Houli has had some misfortune and there is a bit else going on with Marlion [Pickett] as well. We think a Saturday night on Broadway – we don't want to be off-Broadway – we want to be on Broadway – so we're really looking forward to it."

Lyon is hopeful Dan Butler will be available to face his old side at the MCG on Saturday night after the Saints opted to challenge the one-game suspension he received from the Match Review Officer for a controversial dangerous tackle on Nick Blakey. 


"I’ve learned to expect nothing and make no assumptions," he said.

"Clearly, he goes before the tribunal. I can only talk about the facts – you're not going to get a headline out of me – Blakey wasn't concussed, so that's clearly in his favour. The memo sent out by Laura Kane the chase-down tackle didn't sit within those parameters. We are all sitting here interested in the outcome."

When Lyon arrived at Moorabbin for pre-season training in November, not many could have predicted that Mitch Owens would help solve some of the issues St Kilda experienced inside 50 early in the season without Max King and Tim Membrey available.

But Robert Harvey knew. It was the assistant coach's idea to move the second-year Saint from the midfield to attack and now Owens is a clear contender for the Rising Star Award after exiting round 13 only behind Charlie Curnow, Jeremy Cameron, Taylor Walker, Joe Daniher and Tom Hawkins for player ratings points for key forwards, according to Champion Data.


"There was a lot of positivity around him (at the start of the pre-season), but everyone said he was a mid and Robert Harvey said 'No, he is a third forward'. All credit to Harvs and Mitch for working together," he said.

Membrey didn't train on Tuesday after reporting soreness following Sandringham's three-point loss to Sydney last Friday and might not be available for selection this weekend, after kicking two goals from 14 disposals and eight marks to put his hand up for a senior recall.

Zak Jones and Dan McKenzie are on the cusp of playing their first games of the year after enduring frustrating starts to the year.

Zak Jones in action during a St Kilda training session at RSEA Park on June 6, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Jones was troubled by an Achilles issue in the first few months before straining his quad ahead of his VFL return, while McKenzie has been dealing with a lingering calf issue. 

Jack Hayes trained for the first time with the main group on Tuesday but will need a few weeks of consistent training before he is considered for some minutes with the Zebras. 

The 27-year-old hasn't played since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament against Greater Western Sydney in round six last season, dealing with a stress fracture in his foot and a significant hamstring injury since then.