Jade Gresham got through his return to playing after a season long injury at St Kilda's intra-club game today. Image: St Kilda

A pair of important Saints have put their nerves to the side and gotten through their first competitive matches of 2022 after missing significant portions of 2021 stuck on the sidelines.

A pair of important Saints in Jade Gresham and Ben Paton have put their nerves to the side and gotten through their first competitive matches of 2022 after missing significant portions of 2021 stuck on the sidelines.

The Saints were plagued by constant injuries in 2021, with the engine room copping the brunt of the injuries with stars such as Jade Gresham, Zak Jones, and Dan Hannebery all missed large chunks of the season while young stars

Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield were primed for career-best seasons before also suffering injury setbacks.

While Hannebery was a non-participant today and sat on the sidelines today along with Jack Billings, Jarryn Geary, and Paddy Ryder, The Saints are set for a major boost to their engine room in 2022 after Zak Jones was a standout across the four-quarter match and returning star Jade Gresham reminded everyone of his talents and just what he can bring to the St. Kilda line-up.

The injury-plagued superstar missed all but three games in 2021, going down with a season-ending Achillies injury in Round 3 against Essendon.

Splitting his time between the centre square and the half-forward line, Gresham showed off his customary burst and agility to get out of traffic all on show. Gresham was positioning himself just out the back of a midfield stoppage, allowing him to burst through and impact moving forward.

Gresham got through his allotted game time on return, playing two and a half quarters before heading for an early finish on a successful return to match play.

Speaking after the game, assistant coach Brendon Lade said that Gresham was “nervous” heading into today’s hitout but once he settled he grew in confidence and was able to impact from the get-go and did everything the coaches expected of him.

” He had some minutes he had to get through,” Lade said

“He was just to get through today, he was pretty nervous.

“Weh had a good chat, (i said to him) when the ball is there you win it, that’s what you do well so do that.

“I think he’s starting to get a little bit of confidence back, which is good for us”

“His summer has been good, hasn’t really missed a beat, he had a few little setbacks here and there but generally he’s been very very good.

“Probably improved his running a little bit…He’ll play forward and a bit of midfield (this season) that’s exciting, that forward half player for us”

Another player who impressed on his return from serious injury in 2021 was defender Ben Paton.

Paton missed the entire 2021 season after a double fracture of his leg in the pre-season.

His return to the Saints line-up is even more timely and important given the recent loss of youngster Nick Coffield who went down with an ACL injury only weeks ago.

He looked assured across half-back, used as he was in 2020 as an outlet kick from deep in defence and distributing the ball up the field.

Paton has completed a full pre-season after the bad break last year and in recent weeks has stepped up his levels and output on the track, getting back to the damaging player that the Saints profited from so much in their 2020 run to the finals.

” He’s been going since November,” he said.

“He got some real confidence over the last two weeks, we’ve seen a big rise in his form, confidence. For anyone who’s broken a leg before it just takes a couple of hits to just make sure it’s alright”

“We were very impressed with him today”

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Meanwhile, the battle for the final supplementary spots on St Kilda’s list went up a notch as former Port Adelaide defender Jarrod Leinert and former Richmond father-son Patrick Naish staked their claim for an AFL lifeline. Both were impressive in patches throughout the four quarters with both players kicking a goal.

The Saints have two openings on their current list with Woodville West Torrens’ forward/ ruck Jack Hayes also firmly in the running to claim one of the list spots available. The Saints may opt to open a third spot and place Coffield on the inactive list.

St Kilda faces Carlton next Thursday in a practice match at Ikon Park to continue their run-up to the season proper. Gresham who only played a half today is set to increase his loads and play more game time while Jack Billings is also set to feature in the Saints’ first competitive game against opposition for the year.

A decision is still to be made on the availability of Paddy Ryder and what level Dan Hannebery will play at, either in the AFL game or the VFL game that will follow.

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