Incoming St Kilda president Andrew Bassat has a message for long-suffering Jewish Saints supporters – “Keep the faith!”
Bassat was born in 1966, only a few months before the club’s one and only premiership, and like so many, has been given plenty of both pleasure and pain since.
“The ultimate goal of myself and everyone else involved with the club is to bring home our second flag,” Bassat told The AJN.
“However, we have a lot of hard work to do first. Nobody at the club is at all happy with our on-field performance this year and we are all determined to find a way forward that gives supporters fresh hope. And now is the time we really need members to stick with us to ensure we are working together in fighting back in response to a tough 2018.”
Bassat co-founded SEEK in 1997 with his brother Paul (an AFL commissioner since 2011) and is the company’s CEO, but the Saints, his life-long passion, have called on him in arguably their darkest hour.
Outgoing president Peter Summers described Bassat as “a person of great integrity and character, and his business acumen is matched only by his passion for the Saints”.
And clearly the board agreed, unanimously electing him after a thorough succession planning process. Bassat joined St Kilda’s board mid-2016, and also spent a short time as a director in 2007.
He wouldn’t be the first to have confused ambition with ability, but growing up his dream was to play for St Kilda, not to be president.
“My Jewishness may be responsible for the fact that I wasn’t much good at actually playing,” Bassat joked, despite playing 48 games for AJAX, including one at senior level in 1989.
“The fact that I think there have been more Jewish AFL presidents than players is quite telling!” And in December he will officially join an esteemed list of Jewish footy frontmen: Joseph Gutnick, David and Graham Smorgon, Richard Pratt, Ernie Joseph, Geoffrey Edelsten, Jacob Jona, David Berman, Morris Jacobs and Reuben Pelerman.
Bassat’s appointment makes him St Kilda’s second Jewish president – the first, Reuben Sackville, held the role from 1946 to 1955. Others part of St Kilda’s rich Jewish fabric: premiership player Ian Synman, Mordy Bromberg and Amy Silver (Southern Saints VFLW player).
“Honoured and excited” by the opportunity to lead the Saints, Bassat takes the reins with the club in a spot of bother both on and off the field. Under the presidency of the outgoing Summers, the Saints returned to their home in Moorabbin, on the back of a $50 million state-of-the-art upgrade; however, the club is still trying to clear a debt that exceeds $10 million.
On the field, the Saints have not played finals since 2011 and under current coach Alan Richardson, the past five years have yielded a winning record of just 34 per cent.
Despite the club’s prolonged struggles, Richardson’s contract was extended in October last year until the end of 2020; however, it’s the popular belief that unless fortunes turn drastically, he’ll be gone long before his contract expires.
The criticism of the Saints stems from their list, which lacks genuine A-grade talent. The club’s footy boss Simon Lethlean has already given list manager Tony Elshaug his marching orders, along with three assistant coaches, while much to the displeasure of supporters, injury-ravaged duo Nathan Freeman and Hugh Goddard were cut along with four others.
Bassat will officially begin his presidency at the club’s AGM in December.