Heading into their 150th celebration game on Saturday night, St Kilda remain undefeated in 2023 after wins against Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs, enjoying life under Ross Lyon, back in charge after departing the club in 2011.
With over a dozen players on the injury list down at Moorabbin, many were expecting the Saints to have a lacklustre start to the season.
Now sitting in second position on the ladder without a loss on the board, St Kilda's stand-in skipper has credited coach Lyon's high standards for the blistering start to the season.
"Yeah probably comes right from the start when Ross got in," Wilkie said to media on Monday.
"Set the standards high, real clear game plan. The boys bought in and it wasn't about who was on the field because we had injuries right from the start.
"It was, you know, next man up system and the ability for the players to buy into that and especially the young boys and ability to stay composed during games when things were going against us.
"The intensity was there. It's a real credit to all of them for you know, staying in the moment and competing."
The Saints are hoping to get over 70,000 fans to the MCG for Saturday night's unlikely blockbuster, with two two sides originally expected to be dwelling down the other side of the ladder now sitting in second and third position heading into Round 3.
While on the field injuries have taken their toll, off the field the club also looks a little different from 2022. With Lyon taking over from Brett Ratten after the conclusion of last season, former Saint Lenny Hayes also returned to the fold, as did Brendon Goddard and Robert Harvey.
Ross Lyon's "next man up system" regardless of who's missing the main factor in Saints performance over first two rounds says vice captain Cal Wilkie. pic.twitter.com/IybChhO8bL
— Nick Splitter (@nicksplitter) March 27, 2023
Wilkie credits the presence of past players around the club for the current playing groups passion, hoping this weekend's side can do the jumper justice.
"We've got some greats who are now joined as assistant coaches and, you know, everyone respects them so much for what they've done to the game. We've got 'Harves' and BJ and Lenny, and everyone always taps into their knowledge and their passion for the club,"
"It's probably what you've seen out in the first couple of games because they've taught us what it means to wear a St Kilda jumper. Us as a group have got to be proud to wear it this weekend and hopefully we can put in a good performance for the fans."