Under pressure St Kilda coach Alan Richardson has applied the blowtorch on his team, slamming the physical commitment of his players and questioning if they even care after the Saints were "smashed" by Sydney.
The scrutiny over Richardson's future is set to intensify after the Saints were thumped by 71 points – their seventh loss in a row.
The fifth-season coach signed a contract extension through to the end of 2020 last October but a loss next week against the Gold Coast Suns, who were annihilated by 108 points by Greater Western Sydney, would raise serious questions about his position.
In a season where many expected them to challenge for their first finals appearance since 2011, the Saints have not won since round one and sit 16th on the ladder, above only rebuilding pair Brisbane and Carlton.
Richardson was scathing in his assessment of the Saints' performance, particularly their first quarter in which they conceded the first nine goals of the match.
They were beaten 18-6 in the clearances and lost the contested possession count 29-39.
"It was an unacceptable performance, it was unacceptable in terms of the physical commitment required to play AFL footy full stop, but particularly against a side like Sydney," Richardson said.
"Smashed, just beaten comprehensively everywhere by an outstanding footy team. We just weren't in the fight, weren't in the game.
"Whenever they went forward they looked cleaner, certainly tougher, they were a ruthless footy team, and we were far from that."
The Saints showed encouraging signs the previous fortnight against Richmond and West Coast, the first two weeks of a four-week block leading into the bye, but their effort against the Swans was a big step back.
"We let ourselves down badly today, there's no doubt about that. There were some reasonably positive signs the previous two weeks but when the game was up for grabs, smashed," Richardson said.
"We lost the second half by 10 points but it was done and dusted by then."
Richardson gave his team a spray at quarter time, after which they lifted briefly, saying only youngsters Josh Battle and Jade Gresham had showed the commitment expected.
Richardson foreshadowed changes next week for the trip north to take on the Suns, who are also in strife after back to back hidings.
Former No.3 draft pick Jake Billings, Nathan Freeman and forward Josh Bruce are among those who can put their names forward for a promotion by playing well in the VFL for Sandringham on Sunday.
"We've got some players that I think could potentially come in and help us in that area, they'll have to perform strongly and show they're ready to accept that position," Richardson said.
"The guys that have played there's not much they can do about that now, what I want from them irrespective of position is to look at the way we started the game and make sure they learn from that.
"If they stay in the team that they respond in a way that suggests they learnt and more significantly that they care."
Swans coach John Longmire described the first term as his team's "most efficient of the year" after they scored nine goals from 13 entries inside 50.
"It's not one particular thing, it's a combination of a few things, just making sure you scan when you going forward and assessing all your options," Longmire said.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald
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