Unlikely survivor setting Saints on finals path

In the blink of an eye Sam Gilbert became the oldest player on the Saints' list and the only player at St Kilda who played in the 2009 and 2010 grand finals.

In some ways Gilbert is an unlikely final survivor from that era.

Battles with form and injury threatened his career in 2013-2014 when he played just 15 games and looked unlikely to revive the career he'd built on dedication.

That he did makes him a perfect elder statesman to help St Kilda's talented group return to finals for the first time since 2011.

"It's definitely my goal to hopefully get us back in that position again," Gilbert said.

But it's not just a personal goal for the 31-year-old who admits he took winning games for granted early in his career.

This time he derives his satisfaction from supporting young players on the list to move closer to achieving their dream of playing finals.

"If I can help them in any way that is why I am here and that is what I want to do," Gilbert said.

He has been pleasantly surprised at how rewarding passing on your knowledge can be, particularly when teammates are receptive.

"We have got a group that are really willing to learn and ask a lot of questions and have a desire to succeed in football," he said. "With an older player that makes that conversation a lot easier because you can see the work they put in."

Not that he's in his teammates' face relaying his experiences.

But his advice is valuable as he has seen some action since he arrived in 2005, playing in 11 finals and under four coaches in his 12 seasons. At that point in his career, Gilbert was a flanker with great endurance, but in 2018 he can play anywhere and everywhere, including as a back-up ruckman.

Gilbert and his teammates are enjoying being at Geelong Grammar on this week's training camp.

"As you get older [pre-season] doesn't become a burden," he said. "It becomes a bit more enjoyable, you start enjoying the hard work because you know what it is for."

It is for a shot at finals, something Gilbert knows is possible. "Our best is good enough," Gilbert said.

This story Unlikely survivor setting Saints on finals path first appeared on The Age.