After bottoming out for a few years, many believed the Saints were on the rise prior to 2017. But after a middling season, the question has to be asked: Does St Kilda have enough talent to become a contender in the near future?
St Kilda have put together a group of very solid footballers. From line to line, there isn’t an area of the ground where you could say the team is really week.
In the middle, Jack Steven had an average season by his standards but should improve in 2018, Seb Ross dramatically improved and won a Best and Fairest, 2013 number three draft pick Jack Billings had his best season to date and Jack Steele had a promising first year in red, white and black.
Jake Carlisle, Dylan Roberton, Jarryn Geary, Jimmy Webster and Nathan Brown form a fairly well-balanced defensive set-up, while up forward Tim Membrey is a dangerous mobile tall and Jade Gresham had 60 shots on goal in his second year of footy. How Paddy McCartin and/or Josh Bruce fit into the same side will be a question that needs answering this year.
All over the park, there’s nothing really wrong with the Saints…
And at the same time, there’s nothing really that right with them either. They just feel vanilla all over the park.
Their midfield desperately needs an injection of class and flair. Of their current crop, Jack Billings looks their most likely to become that match-winning player they sorely need, but the Saints need one or two more of them. The trouble is, mid-table finishes don’t allow them to access the elite top five draft picks they really need. Perhaps another big crack at the trade table and free agency market will be required.
Alan Richardson has also lost two of his most experienced champions in Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna. While the duo’s output may have dropped in the final years of their career, from the outside the next generation of Saints leaders don’t seem to have the same presence as these club greats. With just one player over the age of 30, they’re very light on for big game experience.
A difficult choice, but should Jack Billings continue to improve at the same rate that he did in 2017, he could be a star of the competition by season’s end. The former number 3 draft pick averaged 92.7 Supercoach points and was top five in the league for score assists, however his return of 23.36 in front of the sticks was a big frustration. Improving that conversion rate will significantly improve his side’s finals prospects.
The Next Big Thing
In just his second season, Jade Gresham reaffirmed St Kilda’s decision to use a first round draft pick on him two years ago. Another player who frustrated with his inaccuracy, Alan Richardson would be hoping new goalkicking coach Ben Dixon can improve his 50% conversion rate in 2017. Now having stablished himself as a dangerous key forward, Gresham’s next challenge should be to push into the middle of the ground more and offer his side’s bland midfield a bit of a spark.
The Final Word
Perhaps we’ve all overestimated how far along the Saints are in their rebuild. With the fourth youngest list in the league, there is still time for club admin to get things right. Expecting another year of gradual improvement from the young players at St Kilda, but not much more.