Aside from the usual injury toll of an AFL player, Roughead also managed to overcome a life-threatening melanoma which saw him miss the entire 2016 season before returning to become the Hawks’ captain. He led them to another finals series in 2018 and finished with a 15-year career record of 283 games and 578 goals.
Conversely, St Kilda hasn’t played finals since 2011. They famously drew with Collingwood in the 2010 Grand Final before collapsing in its replay. One can only wonder what might have happened had an additional Roughead-type figure been there to provide input, either in list management leading up to; or mentoring throughout a premiership campaign.
Currently, most of St Kilda’s best 22 players have never seen finals action. With Roughead a four-time premiership player, if the Saints do play in September 2020 and/or beyond, the former Hawk’s qualities should prove invaluable.
Game day pressure, high profile scrutiny and injury management are just three key areas St Kilda’s young players can benefit from improved knowledge and direction. Consistency is currently not their forte.
The Saints started the 2019 season on fire, reaching second on the ladder in Round 5. They remained in the top eight until Round 8 when they tumbled to 12th, before finishing in 14th position. They’ve shown at stages they can beat – and potentially even become the best – in an AFL competition accustomed to dishing up surprises. Take for example the Brisbane Lions in 2019, or Western Bulldogs of 2016.
In addition to Roughead’s future recruitment input, the Saints already boast some impressive youth. Should their 2014 number one draft pick Paddy McCartin overcome his concussion and Linsfranc injury issues, Roughead could become the perfect long-term advisor/mentor/confidant.
Jade Gresham is a rising star whose ability to turn games will be part of the Saints’ future plan, while Blake Acres, Jack Steele, Jack Sinclair and Rowan Marshall will continue playing crucial roles and likely steer the future leadership group.
Jack Lonie, Ben Long and Matt Parker showed they can find the goals in 2019 and it may be Roughead who can help them maximise strength and form, to support spearheads Tim Membrey (44 goals in 2019) and Josh Bruce (36).
Then there’s the challenge of managing new draftees, especially high draft picks and even more so those from interstate. In 2004, Roughead was selected at number two from Gippsland. The Hawks’ next pick was Lance Franklin at number five, who moved interstate as a 17-year-old from Perth.
In 2005, Grant Birchall joined from Tasmania and in 2007, Cyril Rioli from NT. Those interstate transitions could become valid reference points for Roughead in the process of his supporting role in selection, welcoming and maintenance of new recruits.
With Seb Ross and Jack Billings perhaps next in line to become Saints captain, Roughead’s leadership experience is another calling card for the imparting of wisdom.
Whilst he only captained Hawthorn for two seasons in 2017-18 including one finals campaign, he previously played under successful team leaders Hodge (a 343-game, 3 x premiership captain and 2 x Norm Smith Medallist) and Sam Mitchell (329-game premiership captain and Brownlow Medallist).
The progress of St Kilda’s youth will be fascinating to follow. Although it’s only his first gig since his playing retirement, the addition of Roughead – an always popular figure at Hawthorn – is universally seen as a more than positive one.