That seemed like you said ‘we’re not rolling over, we’re here to win’. Everyone else said you’ve got too many injuries and it can’t be done. How proud are you of the blokes that have followed through on that?
It was one of our best wins for the club in my time. It was a really brave effort. It would have been, hopefully, a good game to watch. I think it was our youngest side for I don’t know how many years. We were missing some players and the Saints threw everything at us as well. We lost Gov early. The guys just played their role and played with real spirit. We said that coming up here the second time that as long as we play with energy and spirit we’ll be proud of them. To get that win tonight, it was a good feeling in the rooms.
You said you needed one for win (to qualify) for finals and now you’ve qualified.
We’ve qualified for finals. We get a seven-day break, so we can have tomorrow off. We haven’t trained yet since we’ve been up here, so we might get a training session in this week and re-load for the Kangas. But tonight we will just enjoy each other’s company. Obviously we’ve lost McGovern, so we’ve got to work through that, but some of our individuals tonight – I think Nic Nat and TK (Tim Kelly) – just stood up. And then Tom Barrass started really well. Ainsworth did a job on (Zak) Jones and Jones had seven (disposals) in the first but he stuck to it and he ended up with 15, so he did a good job. And the Saints threw everything at us, so it was a pretty combative game and in the end we ended up on top.
In a game with so many of your key midfielders out, the performance of Kelly in terms of just standing up…
He was worth every cent tonight. Hopefully we’ve got him for the next seven or eight years. He knew and Nic knew and Gaffy knew that they had to step up and lead and they did exactly that. Look, it wasn’t smooth sailing by any stretch, but sometime I don’t overplay our performance but tonight I thought they were really brave. Our leaders led from the front and our younger guys followed.
How bad is McGovern?
I don’t know. It didn’t look like a twinge, so we’ll find out in the next couple of days.
From a performance like that when you lose key players you still must have faith that these guys can go deep into the finals?
I’ve always got faith in our players. It’s a squad mentality and everyone at our club knows that. They’ve all got specific roles that they play. What was pleasing tonight is that we had guys playing in different roles and we work on that a little bit, but not to the point that we had to do that tonight. There were a lot of efforts that I was really proud of that maybe even externally your don’t see some of the things the guys did. Even Tom Barrass stepping up without McGovern was huge. We’re not getting a lot of supply up front but when we do we look bloody dangerous. Liam Ryan is in all-Australian form and we’ve got some kids coming through as well that get great exposure. It was Hamish Brayshaw’s first game tonight; he’ll never forget that one.
With preservation mode that you’re in with your list, are there some guys who won’t be ready for finals by the time finals roll around?
We won’t play players who aren’t ready. We’re just not built to play five games in 19 days, regardless of the reduced game time. There are guys dropping left, right and centre. Our draw in the last four games or five games has been as tough as anyone’s and at the back end of the year, we’re just holding on. We’ll get Dom back next week and Ah Chee is available. We’ll lose a couple and get a couple back. That’s why the win was so important and the guys really dug deep.
You’ve secured the top eight spot, but there’s still a top four berth on the line. How hard to you go at that?
We’ll go hard. I think the Tigers play the Cats on Friday … and that will determine whether we can get top four or not. If Geelong win we’re a chance and if Geelong don’t win we’re not. That’s secondary, we just want to play a good brand of footy and next week we’ve got North.
You used (Liam) Duggan as a midfielder. I think he was at every centre bounce tonight.
Duggo played in the midfield, Tom Cole played in the midfield and we had a couple of first, second and third gamers playing. We drafted (Duggan) as a midfielder, so he’s high end talent. It was his 100th (game) tonight. He played his role. He knows how to play as a midfielder, but he just hasn’t been there for probably 60 games. Halfway through 2018, well the start of 2018, we thought we’d try him down back and he really gravitated towards that position so he’s been there since, but he can pinch hit in the midfield if we need him. We’ll need him there next week as well.
You had 86 minutes for Nic, which is big numbers. That’s a lot of time for him. Does that make you confident that he could do that (regularly)?
If he gets a nine-day break between games then we can pump up his minutes. Oscar got a knock and we had to check him out, so that probably meant that Nic had to play a bit more. I thought Nic and TK in those last five minutes, when we were behind, those two, and Gaffy, really just took the game away from the Saints from the middle. (St Kilda) were really brave as well. It was one of those nights where it was a pretty good game.