Out of contract at the end of 2022, St Kilda midfielder Jack Bytel is putting his best foot forward to receive one last chance to prove himself worthy of an extension.
Coming to the end of his third season on the St. Kilda list Bytel has managed 16 senior games, 13 of which were in 2021, and none this year, partially through injury. In 2021 he ranked fourth amongst rookie players for clearances, and second for tackles.
Bytel had a strong start to the VFL season for Sandringham, averaging 23 disposals and 4.5 tackles in his opening seven matches. A foot injury kept him out for two months, and he made his return to football two weeks ago against Coburg after not playing at all since Round 9.
In his two return games, Bytel has accumulated 47 disposals and 10 tackles and will be hoping to make a return to the AFL as St Kilda push for a finals spot in the final month of the home and away season.
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Touted as a quality inside midfield bull who slid in the draft order due to concerns around his back injuries, it would be a shame to see Bytel delisted after just three years on the list.
Although, Bytel could very well be squeezed out due to the success of first year Saints Mitchito Owens, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and especially Marcus Windhager.
Windhager played a career best game on Sunday, keeping Tim Kelly to four disposals and collecting 23 of his own. He plays a very similar role to Bytel, and it is hard to see coach Brett Ratten playing them both in the same side.
With veteran Dan Hannebery and out of form star Zak Jones also playing at VFL level vying for spots in the side, life is being made very difficult for Bytel to earn a spot in an already midfield heavy St Kilda side.
Injuries to Jack Billings and Jade Gresham in St. Kilda’s 28 point win in the west on Sunday will open the door for some battling fringe players to come into the side for this week’s game against Hawthorn. Still recovering though, Bytel likely isn’t top of the pecking order for a call-up.
Right now, Jack Bytel’s career hangs in the balance and it may even come down to whether or not St Kilda looks to add some midfield depth in the off season. For now all he can do is continue to perform for Sandringham and hope for a senior return.
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