17/04/2024

The Saints look to use plenty of experience to improve on their last campaign (Photo: St.Kilda FCW)

The St.Kilda Saints will not be devoid of guidance anytime soon, with plenty of former leaders set to take the field in the red, white and black for season seven of the AFLW.

Hannah Priest remains captain of the Saints, a position she first inherited last season, and is joined by vice-captains Kate Shierlaw and best and fairest Bianca Jakobsson.

While the leadership group will be the face of the team, it’s the capability of those deeper in the list that has skipper Priest most excited.

Two of the Saints newest draftees in Deanna Joliffe and Hannah Stuart bring guiding experience with them already, as they were formerly the captain and vice captain of the Southern Saints respectively.

The Southern Saints, St.Kilda’s VFLW affiliate, competed in a grand final under Joliffe and Stuart’s leadership, a feat that hasn’t gone unnoticed by their new captain.

“It’s incredible to have draftees coming in that have that leadership experience.”

“Deanna being a teacher and Hannah being a nurse… they’ve got that life experience as well and they know how to balance life and footy and can help our younger girls along.

“They’ve just come off a really exciting VFL season so to have them in our team officially it’s a really good reward for their effort.”

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The Saints have also made strides to develop a junior leadership program that began at the beginning of last season.

The formerly mentioned Hannah Stuart will join Tarni White, Molly McDonald, Nicola Xenos, Rosie Dillon and Alice Burke in the program, aimed at accelerating players development and leadership skills.

The Saints have also found leaders in their moves on the trade table, with the likes of Nicola Stevens coming over from the Blues with experience in their leadership group.

Priest spoke highly of their big name signing, saying “Nicola Stevens has six years in the AFLW and hasn’t missed a game so she’s really helpful on field and off the field.”

Stevens also allows provides another option for the Saints up forward, who were criticised last year for their lack of attacking options after Caitlin Greiser was smothered out of games.

The Saints had a difficult season in season six, posting just two wins after a series of key injuries and departures.

One such departure, Georgia Patrikios, returned to the Saints for season seven after the league’s vaccine mandate was removed.

Priest spoke on Patrikios’ return, saying “We absolutely love Georgia and she’s definitely missed her footy.”

“We 100% welcomed her back to our club and she’s transitioned seamlessly back into the footy club as well.

“We’re really lucky to have her back and she understands that she’s going to be working really hard to earn her spot back into the team as well.

“We’re just thrilled to have her back.”

Patrikios looks likely to slot straight back into the Saints midfield, a position with a large hole to fill after the departure of Tilly Lucas-Rodd to the Hawks.

She will hope to regain her fine form of 2020 and 2021, where she claimed two best and fairest medals and became a star of the league.

Priest and the Saints open their season with a game against new kids on the block, the Sydney Swans.

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