15/04/2024

Liam Stocker has joined the Saints in the SSP period (Photo: St.Kilda Saints)

Former 19th pick Liam Stocker has been given a lifeline at AFL level, with St.Kilda picking up the former Carlton prospect as a supplemental selection on Friday.

Stocker had been training with the Saints throughout the off-season in the hopes he would be able to rekindle his AFL career that saw him play 28 games over four seasons.

Stocker spoke on his anxious few months while looking for a spot on an AFL list, saying, “The last couple months have been pretty difficult… I was obviously disappointed to not be on a list at the end of last year so I had a lot of hard work ahead of me.

“At the end of it all I’m really grateful to both clubs. I had a really good time in my four years at Carlton and now I get to start a new journey over here at St.Kilda.”

The 22 year old struggled to find regular game time towards the end of his Blues stint, finding himself lingering in the reserves through much of 2022.

Stocker, while initially drafted and developed as a midfielder, mainly found himself playing a defensive role when he was thrown into the senior side, with the Blues having one of the deepest midfield rotations in the league.

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After Stocker began training with the Saints in December, it was said that he had to prove he still had the hunger to compete at the AFL level, something that new coach Ross Lyon believes he saw in the sequential months.

“Ross just said ‘Look you’ve worked your bum off the last couple of weeks here and you’ve really proved to us you’ve got the appetite to be here’ and that’s kind of what coming in was all about.

“I just wanted to prove to people that I’ve still got the desire to be here at the highest level.”

Liam Stocker in his new colours (Photo: St.Kilda FC)

Stocker sat out the 2020 hub season, after citing declining mental health and a desire to improve his wellbeing before returning to the AFL.

Since that time off, Stocker believes he is “one of the best representatives” of taking time off for mental health and returning much better for it.

“I took the time and I got things right and everything that’s been thrown at me since has just been sort of a hurdle that I’ve jumped.

“I really treated it as a personal growth thing. I thought the opportunity to be mindful every day and take it one step at a time was something you don’t often get in day-to-day life.

“I got to come in every day, it was a fresh start every single day and I really appreciated that opportunity to learn.”

A lifelong Saints fan, Stocker also joins a former teammate at the Sandringham Dragons and fellow Saints fan in Max King, with the hopes he’ll be able to break in and maintain a regular starting spot in the new look Saints outfit under Lyon.

It is yet to be determined what position Stocker will find himself playing, with the chance to break into the Saints midfield next to skipper Jack Steele a likely objective.

He has become the sixth player to receive an SSP lifeline this off-season and the first to join the Saints outside of the national or rookie drafts.

The Saints still have another selection to be used before the February 15th cut-off date, with former Bomber Josh Eyre the most likely candidate after joining training with the Saints the same time as Stocker.

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