Saints come marching back

St Kilda president Peter Summers has invited former president Rod Butterss back to the club as a guest at the president’s dinner on Friday night.

It will be the first time in 11 years Butterss has been at an official Saints match-day event. He has been going along to games throughout, sitting anonymously in the stands.

Reconnecting the club to its heritage and alumni has been a strong push of Summers and the new administration.

Rod Butterss during his time as St Kilda president.

Rod Butterss during his time as St Kilda president.

Several months ago, weeks before its official opening, Summers invited former presidents of the club to tour the newly-redeveloped Moorabbin base.

Lindsay Fox, Greg Westaway and Butterss attended while Andrew Plympton was unavailable as he was overseas. Summers made the offer mindful that all of the other presidents had served as head of the club at Moorabbin.

“It will be 11 years since I have graced the halls of the president’s dinner, so yes it has been a while,” Butterss said.

“I didn’t deliberately stay away and I don’t think I was deliberately not invited, I just got busy and they got busy so I don’t know how it has come about now but I am happy to go along.

“Peter Summers got the ex-presidents along to Moorabbin and that was a great day with Lindsay Fox, Greg Westaway Andrew Plympton was overseas.

“I have been going to the footy of course, in the outer, but this will be a bit different to be back at an official function.”

Butterss remains the most flamboyant of the former club leaders, heading the club through a dramatic period in which they rose to compete in successive preliminary finals and made annual profits.

He hired and fired Malcolm Blight then installed his friend Grant Thomas, whom he later also sacked despite the team playing finals, and the pair had a falling out.

Butterss’ term as president ended at the end of Ross Lyon’s first season as coach as the club was poised to compete in successive grand finals. Butterss later admitted to having a substance problem during his presidency.

Ross Lyon during his St Kilda coaching days.

Ross Lyon during his St Kilda coaching days.

“I don’t think I coped very well with the change back then, I think I took it a bit personally but having said that it was the best thing that happened to me, it meant a period of adjustment and getting on with my life. I got sober, I started a new business which is going really well and I am happy.”

Summers said he thought it was crucial to any organisation, but particularly a sporting club, to be connected to its roots.

“I am big on alumnis and histories of organisations,” he said.

“I saw Robbie Muir at the function before the game in Adelaide and you remember this is a national competition but you remember the VFL days and you remember that we have people and players from the club right across Australia.

“Getting all of those four guys to Moorabbin to show them around was day. I was appreciative of the four guys saying yes. All of those guys had been presidents at Moorabbin – I hadn’t – so I thought it was important to show them what we have done.”

The former presidents have also all been where Summers is now, confronting a disappointing season on the field that invariably translates to a more difficult season off the field.

The changes to the Etihad Stadium deal have helped the club absorb the financial impact of a drop in attendances, membership and other revenues that would have otherwise made this season the club suffer a heavy loss this year.

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