St Kilda coach Alan Richardson has backed forward Nick Riewoldt to hit the ground running next year as the Saints attempt to digest their horrendous end to the AFL season.
Overall, the Saints took a small step forward in 2015, snaring six wins and a draw to improve on the four wins they tallied last year.
But their final two games were the stuff of nightmares.
St Kilda copped a 97-point hammering from Sydney in round 22.
Then on Saturday night in Perth, the Saints were on the receiving end of a 95-point flogging from West Coast.
The Eagles had 21 scoring shots to two in the second half, with St Kilda managing just four goals for the match for a second straight week.
Richardson was the first to admit his team’s end to the year wasn’t good enough.
But he’s confident it was just a case of tired legs rather than anything more worrying.
“Up until two weeks ago we were number one in the competition for pressure differential,” Richardson said.
“The gap between us and the top four, five, six teams has been reasonably significant. And the last two weeks have probably exaggerated that.”
Riewoldt finished the season with just 29 goals from 17 matches – his lowest return since booting 21 in his second season back in 2002.
It has been an emotional year for Riewoldt, whose sister Madeleine passed away in February at the age of 26 from a rare bone marrow condition.
Riewoldt battled calf issues for much of the season, while he also copped a sickening knock to the head in May.
The 32-year-old appeared physically hampered at times against the Eagles on Saturday night, finishing the match with just 0.2 from 12 disposals.
But Richardson is confident the 298-game veteran will return to his dominant self after a well-earned rest over summer.
“He’ll have a slightly longer break than the others. That’s the way he’s managed himself for the last four or five years,” Richardson said.
“He doesn’t need surgery or anything like that. Our expectation is he’ll be right to go.
“It was very emotional time for him early (this year). He’s a pro.
“He’s played some really strong footy for us.
“The last couple of weeks he’s struggled. But it’s very hard as a forward when we can’t get any sort of quality going forward.”