Speaking at St Kilda’s annual general meeting attended by the players, a resilient Nick Riewoldt fired an extraordinary us-against-them barrage, claiming outside forces are conspiring against the Saints.
“To the players, we know what we stand for,” Riewoldt said on Thursday night.
“There’s a lot of people out there at the moment who are trying to break us down, but we know what we’re about and we’re not going to fracture
“We’re the ones who are going to come out on top, you can be sure of that. Now is the time, as much as any in our history when people are coming for us, who want to denigrate us, who want to run us down, that we’ve got to stick fat.
“We are St Kilda … be proud to be a St Kilda person.”
But the Saints appear concerned about a potential drop off in membership in the wake of the New Zealand saga, the latest in a string of scandals to engulf the club.
In front of a few hundred passionate supporters at Kingston City Town Hall, coach Ross Lyon pleaded with the 41,000-strong membership base to stay the course.
“Keep the faith and know that we are good people, we are human, we are fallable, we make mistakes, but we’re the first ones to put our hands up and say we’re learning,” Lyon said.
“We’re not perfect but we do a lot right and your show of faith has been outstanding.”
Lyon leapt to the defence of Sam Gilbert, who stands accused of urinating on a Queenstown restaurant window before assaulting its owner.
The club continued to vehemently deny the allegations.
“I’m not sure this is protocol, but I want to have public affirmation of one of our players under attack in Sam Gilbert,” he said.
“Make no mistake, he’s a really good person and he’s committed to St Kilda Football Club. The allegations flying around are unfounded.”
Saints president Greg Westaway, who was returned for another three years, revealed he had phoned Gilbert to seek assurances the club was not about to be hit with even more controversy.
“He told me, ‘I guarantee you I’ve learned my lesson, I can guarantee you I wasn’t there and what’s been said in relation to the cafe proprietor is untrue’ and I believe him,” Westaway said.
But Westaway remained irritated over the latest case of “risky and dangerous behaviour”, this time involving Zac Dawson, Rhys Stanley, Jack Steven and Paul Cahill.
“In the last two months the club has been in the news for all the wrong reasons,” he said.
“I don’t wish to comment on the rights and wrongs and the issue regarding the young woman or the photo matter, the legal side or how the media are trying to portray our club.
“In the end all we as a club can control is our own actions and that’s what I’m focused on, it’s what everyone in the club needs to understand.
“Players need to be aware that they are in high-profile, well-paid positions that come with responsibility. They are not leading the life of most people. They also need to recognise the privledge that comes with representing the St Kilda Football Club.
“We are an organisation that means a great deal to many people as you can see here tonight. We have an obligation to repay the faith and trust that our fans place in us.
“Our next steps as a club will define us, but we must remain united and we must remain strong.”
Westaway said the club’s search for a major sponsor was about to end, with an announcement on a jumper partner “imminent”.
“Jeldwen is still our major sponsor and our middle-tier sponsorship has never been stronger. There’s no panic about sponsorship,” he said.
There were no challenges to the board at last night’s meeting, which was also used to pay tribute to club legend Darrel Baldock, who died this week.
Jason Blake, Stephen Milne and Riewoldt, who was given a standing ovation, were all awarded life membership of the club.
Buford Balony says: Why would anyone try to break St.Kilda. They are a hopeless club that have won 1 premiership in over 100yrs. Riewoldt you are kidding yourself, if I were you I’d stop getting naked with my “mates” & get rid of your Hitler haircut. You look like a fool physically & mentally.