Senior Hunter Clark - Player Advocate: BigMonty

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Dandenong Stingrays midfielder Hunter Clark is now a Saint after he was selected with pick No. 7 in Friday night’s NAB AFL Draft in Sydney.

With St Kilda's first of two top 10 picks - for the first time since the Saints drafted Luke Ball and Xavier Clarke in 2001 - St Kilda added a star inside midfielder before selecting rebounding defender Nick Coffield a pick later.

Clark, 18, was one of the most consistent midfielders in the draft pool, starring in the TAC Cup with the Stingrays and in the national championships for Vic Country.

Renowned for his poise and smart decision making, Clark is rated as one of the best kicks in this year’s draft and is equally as damaging on both sides of his body.

Clark is a dangerous playmaker who excelled behind the ball in the first half of 2017 before being unleashed through the middle of the ground across the back end of the year.

The Dandenong product averaged 26.8 disposals, 6.7 tackles, 6.2 clearances and 126 ranking points across 13 appearances in the TAC Cup this season.

Snapshot:

Height: 186cm
Weight: 79kg
D.O.B: 26/3/1999
Club: Dandenong Stingrays/ Vic Country
Position: Midfielder

 

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New St Kilda midfielder Hunter Clark was lost for words on Friday night.

The Dandenong Stingrays product had dreamt about hearing his name read out for as long as he could remember.

So when the Saints swooped at pick No. 7, transforming his dream into reality, Clark couldn’t quite describe the feeling.

“It’s kind of hard to explain because it’s been a dream of mine forever,” Clark told saints.com.au after being selected on Friday night.

“So to get an opportunity with such a great club is pretty surreal; I’m not too sure how to put it into words.”

Clark knew the Saints were interested in picking him, but with so much uncertainty surrounding the top ten, including Brisbane’s choice at pick No. 1, the classy midfielder had no idea where he’d end up on Friday night.

“I hadn’t had anything confirmed to me about St Kilda taking me,” Clark said.

“My manager would let me know little hints that the Saints were interested and the last few days I knew it could have been a possibility. But up until my name was called out, I had no idea where I was going.”

After playing across half-back in 2016, Clark transformed into a weapon on the inside this year, adding another string to his bow to show recruiters that he could win his own ball.

“I played half-back and wing last year so I wanted to challenge myself and prove that I can play as an inside player as well,” he said.

“I missed most of the pre-season with a groin injury and had a slow start to the year, so I was just building the first few games to get match fitness and game time and then I think I finished the season pretty well and showed what I can do.”

Renowned for his precision by foot on both sides of the body, Clark is set to help improve St Kilda’s ball movement for many years to come, which should complement an engine room that is well stocked with inside midfielders.

“I’ve worked hard on being able to kick on my left and my right for a number of years. It’s probably one of my main assets and I’m pretty confident and comfortable on both," he said.

Clark and the rest of St Kilda's draftees - Nick Coffield (No. 8), Oscar Clavarino (No. 35) and Ben Paton (No. 46) - began their new lives on Monday, training alongside their new teammates at Linen House Centre for the first time.
 

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Despite being linked to St Kilda in the weeks leading into last Friday night’s NAB AFL Draft, Hunter Clark had no idea he would land at the club closest to his home.

While many draftees had to pack their bags and relocate their lives over the weekend, Clark gets to remain at home in Mt Martha on the Mornington Peninsula.

The Dandenong Stingrays midfielder was the Saints’ first of four picks last Friday night, scooped up a pick ahead of new teammate Nick Coffield at No. 7, before the club added Oscar Clavarino at No. 35 and Ben Paton at No. 46.

“I had a little bit of a hope that it would be St Kilda, but you hear your name linked to quite a few clubs,” Clark told reporters at a press conference at RSEA Park.

“Up until my name was called out I didn’t really have any idea where I was going, so as soon as my name was read out I was stoked."

When Clark arrived at Linen House Centre on Monday morning, the first person he met was rebounding defender Dylan Roberton, who is another product of the Stingrays’ football factory – 11 current Saints were recruited from that program.

“I was waiting outside and Dyl Roberton walked past and he took me into the club and into the rooms,” Clark said.

“He’s a pretty special player to see for the first time.”

In his first press conference as an AFL footballer, Clark admitted hearing praise from St Kilda Coach Alan Richardson over the weekend had provided him with confidence ahead of his first day at the club.

“It gives you a big confidence boost hearing it from the head coach of the club saying those types of things,” he said.

“You don’t let it get to your head but coming into the club it does give you some confidence in yourself, so it’s definitely helpful.”
 

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He might have a similar hairstyle to two of the best in the business, but it's not the only thing Hunter Clark is trying to emulate.

The new St Kilda recruit has spent the last couple of years trying to mould his game around two of the game’s best midfielders in Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe and Western Bulldogs premiership hero Marcus Bontempelli.

Clark, who the Saints chose with their first selection in last month’s NAB AFL Draft at pick No. 7, starred in the midfield for the Dandenong Stingrays and Vic Country this year, after producing a dominant 2016 at half-back.


Renowned for his precise foot skills and his poise under pressure, Clark has looked to add Fyfe’s attack on the ball and Bontempelli’s composure in congestion to enhance his game.

If the Mt Martha product reaches anywhere near the heights of these two, St Kilda supporters are in for a hell of a ride.

“I took bits and pieces out of a few players, like Fyfe for example, the way he attacks the ball in the air and on the ground he doesn’t shy away from anyone at all, so I try and bring that to my game,” Clark told 3AW Sportsday on Tuesday night.

“And kind of a bit of Bontempelli as well because of his clean hands around traffic and being able to find space and release to other players.

“They’re just a couple of things that I’ve tried to introduce to my game over the last couple of years and I think they’re two of my strengths. They are two players that I look up to.”

Clark admits the leap from junior football to life in an elite environment has been even greater than he anticipated, but one he is loving every second of.

“It’s been pretty challenging; you’re there for a lot more hours to what you’re used to in the juniors and the intensity of every single drill is almost like a match,” Clark said.

“Some of the drills that we’ve been doing feel like you’ve been out in a match for five minutes. I expected (the increase in intensity) but some of it has been surprising.

“You know you’re going to be worked hard, but St Kilda does a really good job at managing the first-years’ workload so we don’t break down. Going to training is tough and my fitness is improving each session.”

 
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Hunter Clark highlights in U18 Allstars game


Hunter highlights in U17 Allstars game in 2016

Hunter playing for Vic Country against Vic Metro

Hunter in Tomorrow’s Heroes
 
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New St Kilda midfielder Hunter Clark has described the honour of receiving Leigh Montagna’s famous No. 11 as ‘special’, after the Saints announced their numbers for 2018.

Clark, 18, was St Kilda’s first selection at pick No. 7 in last month’s NAB AFL Draft.

After 287 games across 16 seasons in red, white and black, Montagna hung up his boots at the end of the 2017 season following a brilliant career for the Saints.

“It’s pretty crazy to come to a club and get a number like that straight up that means so much to Leigh and to the whole club – it’s pretty special,” Clark told saints.com.au.

While the pair never had the opportunity to play alongside each other, they did train together last year when Clark spent a couple of weeks at Linen House Centre as part of the AFL Academy program.

“I trained with him for a couple of weeks last year and he just brought lots of energy and leadership to the group and really stood out in that way,” Clark said.

“While I was there in that two weeks, I got to know what type of player and person he is and that was pretty awesome.”

Montagna, who played more games for St Kilda than all but six other players, said he was proud to pass the baton to an emerging star who he hopes will help lead the charge towards an elusive second premiership.

“I’m very proud to pass on the No. 11 and hopefully he runs around in it for a long time,” Montagna said.

“I suggested it to the club early days for Hunter to wear the number if he wanted it.

“I remember him training with us last season and being very impressed; we were playing handball games and he was running rings around us as a 16-year-old, so that was my first glimpse of him.”

The dual All-Australian admits handing over his number officially marks the end of his time as a player.

“I think it does mean officially the end that you’ve passed your number on," he said.

“I’m not too sentimental about it; obviously it was a big part of my life for a long time.

“But now I’m looking forward to watching young Hunter make the number his own and hopefully bring the club a flag in the No. 11.”

Off-season acquisition Logan Austin will wear the No. 24 his cousin Sean Dempster wore with distinction across a decade at the Saints.




Can’t wait for 2018 season.
 

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Hunter Clark entered his final year of underage football as one of the best prospects in the draft.

The Dandenong Stingrays product dominated across half-back in the TAC Cup in 2016, using his precise foot skills and calculated decision-making to cut games apart.

In 2017, Clark shifted from defence to a permanent spot in the midfield where he demonstrated how damaging he can be around the ball, strengthening his draft status in the process.

In a game at Trevor Barker Oval late in the season, against a Sandringham outfit stacked with class, Clark grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, convincing St Kilda recruiters he was the man they wanted.

“Dandenong had Luke Davies-Uniacke and Hunter in the midfield and Sandringham had [Andrew] Brayshaw and [Charlie] Constable in the midfield as well, so it was a really good challenge,” Saints State Recruiting Manager Chris Toce said.

“Hunter had been playing well in the midfield, but probably against lesser opposition. So it was a good chance to measure him up against two of the better inside mids in the draft.

“On the day I thought he was clearly the best player on the ground. He played four quarters; his attack on the ball was really strong; in really tough, typically windy conditions at Trevor Barker, his kicking was excellent on both sides of the body.

“What really, really stood out on the day was his last quarter. Dandenong was behind and had surrendered a really good lead and Hunter just took over in the last quarter and basically lifted them over the line.”

“There was an incident right in front of us at half forward where he gave three efforts defensively in a really short space of time that just highlighted his competitiveness and work ethic – he was pretty cooked at that point of the game but his effort was overwhelming,” St Kilda’s other State Recruiting Manager Mark Smart recalled.

When Clark arrived in Sandringham on the final Saturday in August, he was one of a handful of players St Kilda was considering with their two top-10 picks.

When he departed Sandringham later that day, the Saints had found their man.

“We went into that day knowing that Hunter was a player of interest along with a number of players in that game,” Toce said.

“When you can actually measure a player up against another really strong team and really strong players you get a lot out of it; you see how they go about it and who has a bigger influence on the day. And on that day, I thought Hunter was the best player on the ground.”

Months later, St Kilda used their strongest draft position since 2001 on two Victorian’s, tying a bow around another recruiting cycle and, perhaps, one of the most important in the clubs pursuit of premiership success.


Can’t wait for 2018 season.
 

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If Friday’s match simulation is anything to go off, St Kilda supporters are going to love watching Hunter Clark go about his business.

Clark, who was the Saints’ first pick (No. 7) in last November’s NAB AFL Draft, flaunted all of the composure and class that he was renowned for at underage level, shining on a wing, through the middle and across half-forward at Trevor Barker Oval.

Along with Nick Coffield, who St Kilda snared a pick after Clark, the Saints have added two polished, poised youngsters that appear to have bright futures in the game.


“After a long pre-season, it was good to have a proper hitout instead of doing all the drills and running. It’s great to play a game and be able to play off instinct a bit more,” Clark told saints.com.au after Friday’s hit-out.

“I thought I went alright; when I got my hands on the ball I tried not to rush myself and thought I held my own.”

Clark lauded David Armitage’s guidance in Friday’s match practice, praising the experienced midfielder’s ability to help him navigate through different roles and different scenarios.

“‘Armo’ was great for me with his leadership. He played really well too, so it was great to see him in action,” Clark said.

“I was in a rotation with him and he knows every role inside out, so he helped me set up, called rotations and gave me a spell when I needed one.

“He set me up in positions to get the ball and made it easier for me to defend as well.”

With his first AFL pre-season nearly safely in the bank, the 18-year-old believes his body is adjusting to the physical demands of backing up for training day in day out.

“My body is starting to cope with the program a bit better. I’m not quite as tired at night and I’m starting to feel better ahead of training,” he said.

“I think I’m starting to get used to it and have adjusted to the routine before and after training.”

While Clark’s engine and strength have evolved over the summer in Seaford, the biggest gains he has made since arriving at Linen House Centre is in his self-belief.

“I think my confidence is probably the biggest thing that has improved across the pre-season,” he said.

“At the start, I was a bit nervous to get in peoples way or make mistakes, but a few of the boys have told me to back myself early on and I’ve tried to do that. It’s helped my footy having the confidence to back myself in.”


Can’t wait for 2018 season.
 

Brains Trust66

Norm Smith Medallist
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Not too long ago, Hunter Clark was like the students hanging over the fence at St Kilda’s training session on Monday, hoping to one day have the opportunity to be on the other side of the fence.

Now, the 2017 No. 7 pick is at the tail end of his first pre-season at Linen House Centre and firmly in the mix to make his first appearance for the Saints in this Friday night’s AFLX tournament at Etihad Stadium.

Speaking from St Kilda’s Community Camp at Peninsula Grammar, the silky midfielder admits it is hard to believe how quickly his life has changed.


“It’s worked out pretty well. It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember. I’ve worked as hard as I can to make it a possibility,” Clark told Channel 10.

“I think anyone who is willing to work hard and dedicate a bit of their life to footy or whatever they want to do it’s definitely possible to make happen.”

With the lottery nature of the draft sending players all over the country, Clark was one of the lucky ones, landing at a club that is almost in his own backyard.

“St Kilda was the perfect situation for me. It’s what me and my family were hoping for because most of the teams around the picks I was projected were interstate,” he said.

“I haven’t had to move out yet, I’ve been able to settle in at time which has made it a lot easier.”

While Clark hasn’t moved out of home just yet, he will leave the nest before the season starts when he moves in with two of St Kilda’s other draftees, Nick Coffield and Doulton Langlands.

Clark will focus all his energy on his first year in the AFL in 2018, but next year and beyond, he will add some study to his workload.

“This year I’ll have the year off just to get used to the whole routine and then next year I’ll look into doing some study of some sort," he said.


Can’t wait for 2018 season.
 

Moorabbin Ghost

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Apr 28, 2015
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Bitterly disappointed that my thread name is not in bold and no advocate name either...:'(

...But, Hunter’s first game of many for the red, white and black tomorrow night. He will be given significant opportunity on a wing and around the flanks to press his case for a round 1 debut.
This kid has something special written all over him.

9051EE0F-8759-415E-A4FA-2DF3970BEA1D.jpeg
 

JG22

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Showed his impressive tricks around congestion, as well as skills.

Most thinking we should be giving him the opportunity come round one.
 

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