St Albans is on a winning roll

St Albans
St Albans' Marc Dawson. (Mark Wilson)

By Lance Jenkinson

St Albans is all the rage in the Western Region Football League division 1.

The Saints have emerged from the shadows and into the spotlight as genuine finals contenders.

Saints first-year coach Perry Meka had trust in his team from early in the pre-season, but doubts remained within the playing group only a matter of a month ago.

That was understandable considering the Saints are coming off a four-win season in 2018 and have not featured in finals since 2014.

Meka could sense his side shedding those doubts.

After rolling through bottom-of-the-ladder Albion, St Albans did the unexpected – beating six-time defending champion Deer Park and Altona, top of the ladder at the time, in consecutive weeks.

The Saints rounded out an incredible month on a wet and wild Saturday with a 97-point win over Point Cook at Kings Park Reserve.

“I’ve always had belief in them, but I’m not sure the players had the belief in what they can do,” Meka said.

“The beauty of that [wins over Deer Park and Altona] is, they’re starting to believe they’re capable.

“I’m saying to the boys, all that you’re telling me now is that you are capable, now you have to execute it … and they are.”

St Albans made a huge splash last week with the addition of West Coast Eagles 2006 premiership star Sam Butler.

Butler recently moved to Melbourne from Perth to be with partner Natalie Medhurst, who plays for Collingwood in the Super Netball competition.

Butler carefully considered his playing options and felt the Saints would be an excellent

“It’s super for our footy club,” Meka said. “Not only does his record speak for itself at the highest level, but he’s a really good bloke.

“When that opportunity came up and he shifted here, we said, ‘Why don’t you come down to the club and have a look?’

“To his credit, he did come down, trained a bit, had a look and came and watched us against Deer Park. “He liked what he saw and jumped on board.”

Butler will be one of the most versatile players in the WRFL.

In the AFL, the 33-year-old made his name in defence, both as a stopper who could play on talls and smalls and also as a neat user of the ball.

But Meka will not pigeon-hole his new recruit. He can play anywhere – that’s the beauty of him,” Meka said. “He can play at either end, but we’ll also use him in the midfield.”

While the past month has been a thrilling ride for St Albans, there was also a tinge of sadness with club stalwart Marc Dawson deciding to hang up the boots.

The Saints’ 300-gamer announced to the playing group that he had played his last game in the memorable win over Altona.

Meka offered Dawson that chance of a farewell game, but he declined. “He came to me on Tuesday and said, ‘I’m shot, I can’t get out of bed on a Sunday morning [because of the physical toll of playing games]’,” Meka said.

“I offered to play him this week against Point Cook for his last game and to make a song and dance about it, which he deserved.

“But he said, ‘No, I had the biggest smile on my face when we beat Altona, a top team – I’m happy with that’.”

Dawson will not be lost to St Albans, joining Meka’s coaching panel.