14/04/2024

2022 looms to be a huge year for the Saints. (Photo: St Kilda FC/Design: Will Cuckson)

After a mediocre year last time out, the Saints will look to improve on those efforts, and return to the finals in 2022.

2022 looms to be pivotal for the Saints. After a meteoric rise to finals football in 2020, Brett Ratten’s charges fell well short of replicating such feats the following year, leaving questions for the red, white and black to answer heading into the new season.

Last year:

10th (10-12), 91.5%

An opening-round win against a highly-fancied Greater Western Sydney outfit initially put the AFL on notice, before early-season drubbings against the likes of Essendon and Richmond placed St Kilda on the backfoot.

A run of one win in five matches between May and late June, exemplified by a 111-point hammering at the hands of eventual grand finalists the Western Bulldogs, saw the Saints needing a miracle to make the eight.

Whilst an impressive run of three straight wins elevated the club back into contention, the three straight defeats that followed immediately after put paid to any hopes of featuring in September.

Despite the fact that St Kilda could garner positives from 2021, namely the emergence of former SANFL star Cooper Sharman at the top level, 2021 was not the year that most Saints fans were envisioning, nor expecting.

Ins:

Tom Campbell (Delisted Free Agent – North Melbourne), Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (Pick 11 – Glenelg/Marion), Michito Owens (Pick 33 – Sandringham Dragons/Next Generation Academy), Marcus Windhager (Pick 47 – Sandringham Dragons/Next Generation Academy), Oscar Adams (Pick 51 – Glenelg), Jack Peris (Category B Rookie Elevation – Sandringham Dragons/Next Generation Academy), Josiah Kyle (Category B Rookie Elevation – Dandenong Stingrays/Next Generation Academy)

Outs:

Sam Alabakis (Delisted), Jake Carlisle (Retired), Oscar Clavarino (Delisted), Luke Dunstan (Delisted Free Agent – Melbourne), James Frawley (Retired), Paul Hunter (Delisted), Jack Lonie (Delisted), Shaun McKernan (Retired), Dylan Roberton (Retired)

Track watch

Bradley Hill has hit the ground running this preseason, as he looks to play a key role in the Saints’ return to finals football.

The ex-Fremantle and Hawthorn speedster is nothing short of electric at his best, and may well hold the key to St Kilda’s revival in 2022.

After impressive performances in both match simulation and the three-kilometre time trial, Zak Jones looks ready to reach new heights.

The boyhood Saint has pieced together a brilliant preseason, looking set to propel his club to the business end of the season once more.

On the injury front, an anterior cruciate ligament to starlet Nick Coffield is a cruel blow to his burgeoning career, whilst on a more positive note, Dan Hannebery is priming to be up for Round One selection after remaining injury-free.

What to look forward to

Following two injury-interrupted campaigns, the return of livewire forward Jade Gresham should whet the appetite of Saints fans far and wide.

After suffering an awful Achilles tendon rupture against the Bombers early last year, the South Morang junior will be re-introduced to the fold alongside a myriad of exciting talents at Moorabbin.

The prospect of a full season for mid-season draftee Cooper Sharman, after kicking 10 goals in five games to close out 2021, should give the former Woodville-West Torrens talent a huge opportunity to truly make his mark on the AFL.

A four-goal haul against Fremantle in the final round of the season detailed his immense talents in microcosm, and if he can unleash his full arsenal in the forthcoming season, opposition sides will be placed on high alert.

First-round draftee Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera bears two of footy’s most famous surnames, but he will be eager to make his own way in the league this year.

The nephew of Brownlow Medallist Gavin, the South Australian talent possesses all the hallmarks to be a quality AFL footballer, and one of the Saints’ brightest talents moving forward.

It’s a big year for:

After Jarryn Geary made the decision to relieve himself of his captaincy duties, star midfielder Jack Steele will take on the mantle completely on his own accord.

The reigning Trevor Barker Medallist at the Saints, Steele is now an undisputed star of the competition, polling the equal-fifth most votes in last year’s Brownlow Medal count.

As most of the burden was already heaped upon the shoulders of the former Greater Western Sydney man, it will be interesting to see whether he will have to acclimatise to leading the team out alone and the knock-on effect that will have on his game.

Jack Steele is already one of the game’s biggest names and brightest stars, but if he can take his game to another level, it will go a long way to boosting the Saints’ flag chances.

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Coach pressure index

Medium

Despite a disappointing 2021, Brett Ratten has a list that is well-prepared for an assault up the ladder.

After a strong end to the 2019 campaign following the departure of former boss Alan Richardson from the hot seat, as well as a 2020 season that usurped expectations, Ratten still has time on his side to make the most of his opportunity.

It would take a truly dreadful season for the former Carlton coach to be under any immediate threat, but another season of mid-table mediocrity may well see the pressure gauge ramp up.

Predicted Round 1 lineup

Ladder range

5th-12th

The past two seasons show how difficult St Kilda is to predict this season, and the disparity in positions proves that.

With the likes of Gresham and Ben Paton set to play a key role in the year ahead, the aim should be for the club to return to the top eight once again.

While the double chance may be a step too far for the red, white and black currently, the bottom half of the eight is an achievable target for a list deprived of success and ready to achieve it.

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