ENCOURAGEMENT: St Kilda’s Andrew McQualter, second from right, and, from left, Eljay Connors, Brad Howard and Tom Lynch at Alstonville yesterday.
ENCOURAGEMENT: St Kilda’s Andrew McQualter, second from right, and, from left, Eljay Connors, Brad Howard and Tom Lynch at Alstonville yesterday. CATHY ADAMS

Saint for new eyes

ST KILDA’S Andrew McQualter is one AFL star who doesn’t mind the anonymity of visiting rugby league heartland.

McQualter and fellow St Kilda players Tom Lynch, Elj Connors and Brad Howard drove down from the Gold Coast yesterday to conduct a ‘superclinic’ at Alstonville.

But there was barely a murmur of recognition amongst the dozens of school kids who took part in the various skills and drills that were on offer at Geoff Watt Oval.

No doubt that would have been completely different if the clinic was held in the trendy bayside suburb of St Kilda. Not that McQualter minded not being mobbed.

“For me it doesn’t make a difference, I don’t get recognised much, anyway,” McQualter said.

“Obviously, AFL is not big here, but I think in a few years’ time it will become bigger with the Gold
Coast coming into the competition.”

And so, the slow process of winning the hearts and minds of children from other rival football codes begins.

“Visits like this will encourage more people to start watching and playing more AFL and that’s a good thing,” McQualter said.

Of more immediate concern for the 35-game veteran is Saturday night’s pre-season game against the Brisbane Lions on the Gold Coast.

McQualter played seniors for the second half of last season, and then into the finals, and hopes to gain a permanent place in the side.

“Basically I’m trying to cement a spot, whichever position that is for me,” he said.

“That would be my aim for the year – to play 22 senior games.”

St Kilda finished fourth last year and had a tough run through the finals. They lost to eventual grand finalists Geelong in the qualifying final, before bouncing back to beat Collingwood in the semis and then got knocked out by the eventual premiers Hawthorn in the preliminary final.

Good, but not good enough. It’s the story for every long-suffering St Kilda fan.

“We are as frustrated, even more frustrated than our fans that we haven’t been able to win a flag over the past five or six years,” McQualter said.

While a win against Brisbane on Saturday would be a step in the right direction, McQualter said the pre-season competition was more about getting the ‘structures’ right before the season proper begins.
“In saying that, you still try and win every game you play,” McQualtrer said.

LOCAL AFL clubs will hold their sign-on days this Sunday and next Sunday at their home grounds between 10am and 2pm.

In addition, this year the under-8s competition will be held on Friday nights to cut down on travel for the young ones and their families.


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