Tarni White is set to move into the Saints' midfield in 2022. Photo: @stkildafcw Twitter

St Kilda skipper Hannah Priest has offered up the best indication yet of her side's 2022 midfield mix, praising 'composed' young star Tarni White as she transitions to the engine room.

St Kilda skipper Hannah Priest has offered up the best indication yet of her side’s 2022 midfield mix, praising ‘composed’ young star Tarni White as she transitions to the engine room.

White was curtailed by injury in her debut season, but returned in 2021 to showcase her competitive traits as a running defender.

The Saints weren’t put off by her injury history, taking White with the 30th pick in the 2019 national draft despite coming off an ACL reconstruction.

She debuted in Round 1, 2020 and showed her sky-high potential across the first three games of the season before she was cruelly struck down with another ACL tear that ended her year.

Persevering through her second 12-month rehabilitation, White made a triumphant return to the AFLW in Round 5 last season with 20 disposals (10 contested) and seven marks down back for the Saints.

Her courage and competitive edge has shone through in her 13 games at the top level, and it’s those traits that has new coach Nick Dal Santo earmarking her to step into the big boots of Georgia Patrikios.

Saints skipper Hannah Priest spoke about White’s excellent pre-season and why she was excited about her upcoming year at Captain’s Day on Tuesday.

“Tarni is a very versatile player – she’s very strong and very athletic,” she said.

“Probably the greatest thing I’ve seen Tarni develop over the pre-season is her composure with the footy. She’s very strong, she can win the ball, but the way she can be really composed with the ball and find targets at training and ultimately when our games begin – Tarni will be an exceptional player.

“Her work ethic is second to none as well so she’s going to be a very exciting player and we’re really proud that she’s stepped up to a midfield role.”

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White has trained with the midfield group over pre-season and has gone through an intense training block to get her endurance levels up to standard.

If she is able to combine her tough, uncompromising approach to the game with smart ball use and composure in traffic then she can become a star of the AFLW in 2022.

White’s midfield opportunity comes about in the absence of the top two of the club’s 2021 best and fairest. Devastatingly, Tyanna White will miss the season after rupturing her ACL in the pre-season, while star Georgia Patrikios has made headlines all off-season with her decision to forego the COVID-19 vaccination.

“There’s obviously a bit of external noise with a couple of our players – obviously Tyanna Smith with an ACL injury and Georgie (Patrikios) as well, but we’ve put in a huge pre-season and we’ve just been focusing on what we can control,” Priest commented.

While the Saints will miss the dynamic midfielders, they are welcoming young stars back from injury who will slot straight back into the fold.

“We have a huge opportunity to boost our midfield,” Priest remarked.

“We obviously had Liv Vesely out with a calf injury and Rosie Dillon as well, and they’re exceptional players. [They’re both] really strong inside mid players so, if anything, we’ve got a new-look midfield but something we’re excited about because they are such strong players.

“We’re really looking forward to watching Rosie and Liv back and a few other players who have had their time in the midfield as well such as Tarni White who has trained exceptionally well this pre-season.”

The Saints will once again be one of the youngest sides in the competition, but welcoming Vesely (23 years of age) and Dillon (25) to the engine room gives the club some more experience around the ball to go with White (20) and Nicola Xenos (20) who will return from her own ACL tear.

Priest thinks this is an exciting period for the Saints, who will open up the AFLW season against the Tigers down in Frankston on Friday night.

“We’ve got a really young side with a lot of talent and a lot of potential,” she smiled.

“We’ve put in a huge amount of effort in the pre-season to bring everything to our game and boost our confidence and just get better as footballers.

“Being able to play the games and having an actual opposition is very exciting, but also just seeing how much growth and development we’ve out in over the pre-season and seeing that come to the games is something I’m most excited about.”

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