St Kilda’s home clash against the Western Bulldogs was always going to be a celebration of Nick Riewoldt’s decorated 300-game AFL career, regardless of the result.
Most of the 37,000-plus crowd, as well as the Western Bulldogs’ players, stayed after the final siren at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night to watch the 33-year-old chaired from the field after the Saints’ 57-point loss.
It wasn’t the ideal end to a hectic week where Riewoldt undertook a heavy media schedule ahead of the game, which also served as the annual fundraiser for bone marrow failure research, in memory of his sister Maddie.
On a big night for club and individual, Riewoldt became just the fifth St Kilda player to reach 300 games but the Saints’ 0-2 start to the season was his chief concern after the match.
“It’s obviously disappointment at the defeat – we came here with a focus,” Riewoldt replied when asked about his initial thoughts after an emotional night.
“There is a lot that goes on in a week like this clearly, with the milestone and the added focus on Maddie’s Vision, which we’re doing for all the right reasons, but once the ball is bounced it’s business.
“When I was at training all week it was business, so we came here with a job to do and didn’t get the result we wanted.”
Riewoldt made a solid contribution in his big game with 23 possessions and two goals – the only majors of the Saints’ second half – with Jack Steven, Leigh Montagna and David Armitage among the best players.
Coach Alan Richardson lamented costly turnovers that occurred regularly, despite best intentions.
“The guys, their energy, their want, their understanding of that we’re trying to do, was reasonable,” he said.
“But our ability to be really aggressive and stick it and make it work was disappointing.”