Many remember the 2010 Grand Final between St Kilda and Collingwood for the gobsmacking draw in front of over 100,000 people. St Kilda came from as much as 26 points down in the third quarter and was a bounce away from adding an elusive second premiership to their bare cabinet. Collingwood obliterated them the next week and the point commonly made was the level of St Kilda’s bottom six. The Saints were heavily criticized for their last six players in the 22, and also their bad draft selections.
From the draft periods of 2002 to 2005, St Kilda only has three players remaining – Sam Fisher, James Gwilt and Sam Gilbert, after Brendon Goddard’s departure to Essendon. But it gets even worse for the club that loved to trade.
In 2009 – the year that they won 19 straight games and lost the Grand Final by 12 points – they only upgraded Zac Dawson off of the rookie list. For a club that many thought was a powerhouse, they were the complete opposite with their youth. Luke Ball, pick two in 2001 draft, was one of St Kilda’s highest recent draft picks, and left for Collingwood at the end of 2009. There are a few names that they traded out and it was the fact that St Kilda traded players into the club for draft picks, instead of relying on youth which could have made the club stronger.
However, the club has changed since then and they have finally found some quality kids. In 2010, they drafted speedy Tom Ledger with pick 59, Arryn Siposs with pick 75, upgraded Tom Simpkin off of the rookie list, rookie listed 2012 Sandringham best and fairest winner Tom Curren and listed Jackson Ferguson on the rookie list.
Curren has been Sandringham’s best players over the last couple of seasons and the gutsy midfielder has the chance to be elevated to St Kilda’s main list. While Ferguson may be young and only 89 kilograms, the elegant full-back also has the chance to step up to the plate and fill St Kilda’s desperate need for a tall defender. Siposs is the pick of the bunch with 18 games to date and is finding his feet at the moment.
This was the start of something new for the club and the ‘rebuilding’ word can be phrased into the same sentence with these players, as the draft periods of 2011 and 2012 is where the excitement begins for the third oldest list in the league.
While these players may be young and a lot of hype surrounds them, the sheer excitement it is bringing to not only the club, but to the VFL affiliate Sandringham is enormous. Seb Ross was their first selection in 2011 at pick 25 and he has played three games with St Kilda, including his best game on ANZAC Day against Sydney. From the same draft, Jack Newnes at pick 37 has been known for his tough attitude and he has managed 10 games, battling fitness. Beau Maister from the West Coast Eagles was a later pick, but the tall marking forward has shone at the tender age of 27.
The same continues in 2012, with classy half-back flanker Nathan Wright at pick 24 being the most impressive with three games. Brodie Murdoch and Josh Saunders, picks 40 and 43 respectively, are the first AFL players to debut on international soil and were in very good form at VFL level before their introduction to the big time.
St Kilda has already debuted four players this year, numbers which have not been seen since the early 2000’s, but it does not stop there for the Saints with many sniffing for a chance to debut. Athletic tall forward Spencer White has caught the eye of many St Kilda and Sandringham fans. He is the Zebras’ current leading goal kicker with eight goals for the season, including a 70-metre run and goal against Werribee in round four. While he may only be young, he is one of many St Kilda players knocking on the door for senior selection.
In years gone by, there has been little excitement with their young talent. With the exceptions of David Armitage, Ben McEvoy, Jack Steven and Rhys Stanley, the club had done little for its future, along with a handful of rookies that have come through such as Jarryn Geary, Clint Jones and Tom Simpkin. St Kilda also picked up Ahmed Saad, Terry Milera, Tom Lee and Tom Hickey through trading with the expansion clubs, but that is it for a ‘rebuilding’ club.
St Kilda has taken this new approach and it has been a success so far. St Kilda missed the finals in 2012 for the first time since 2007 and this has given the younger players the chance to impress on the big stage.
While it may only be round six and there is a lot of expectation surrounding their future, the kids are gaining experience and they may be the ingredient for St Kilda’s next premiership assault.