The way Nick Riewoldt is playing, AFL retirement will have to wait at least another year.
Four games after his 300 milestone, the 33-year-old legend led St Kilda to a 39-point win over Melbourne on Saturday at Etihad Stadium.
Riewoldt kicked three goals – it could easily have been five or six – and took 14 marks as the Saints won 20.15 (135) to 15.6 (96).
The Saints captain’s contract runs out at the end of this season but coach Alan Richardson is rapt with the key forward.
“If the season stopped right now, we as a footy club would want Nick to play,” Richardson said.
“As long as he still has the passion to play the game, lead strongly and set a great example – he’s in really good form and he looks like he’s always there.
“So I’d be surprised if we’re not wanting him to play.”
Likewise, even though Riewoldt came out of last week’s loss to GWS with an ankle injury, Richardson always assumed he would be up for Saturday’s match.
“He is such a resilient person that … I just think he’s going to play,” Richardson said.
The win represented an impressive turnaround from last Sunday, when Richardson was scathing after the Giants loss and said they had too many passengers.
While Riewoldt was best afield, plenty of younger Saints also stood up.
Tim Membrey kicked five goals, Tom Hickey rucked well and Blake Acres had a team-high 28 disposals.
St Kilda lost the clearance count by 15 but overall their contested ball work was clearly better.
“It was pleasing, wasn’t it? It was good to see the guys really hunting the opposition and getting in their face, being bold to leave their man and going to support in contests,” he said.
Melbourne led by 17 points in the first quarter but coach Paul Roos saw worrying signs.
“We just couldn’t get our game going today – I felt even when we were in front in the first quarter, we weren’t playing the way we wanted to play,” he said.
The standout on a bad day was key forward Jesse Hogan’s career-best seven goals.
Melbourne were trying to win three in a row for the first time since 2010.
Roos said Melbourne’s effort could not be faulted and also did not think their positive publicity during the week had gone to the players’ heads.
Remarkably, the Saints have a 13-game winning streak over Melbourne.
The Demons also have won just one of their last 24 games at Etihad Stadium.