MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Nick Riewoldt of the Saints is congratulated by Leigh Montagna and Josh Bruce of the Saints after kicking a goal during the round 23 AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

In the lead up to the 2017 season, we will be assessing each club’s list and naming our best 22 for round one. Working our way up the ladder; following the analysis of Port Adelaide, the next cab off the rank is St Kilda.

Ins: Nathan Brown, Jack Steele, Koby Stevens, Ben Long, Josh Battle, Ed Phillips, Rowan Marshall, Ray Connellan, Darragh Joyce, Jake Carlisle (returning from 2016 suspension).

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 16: Jake Carlisle of the Saints wears a waist belt in preparartion to train in an Anti-Gravity treadmill during a St Kilda Saints AFL pre-season training session at Linen House Oval on November 16, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. Carlisle had hip surgery early in the year after missing the season through his ASADA ban. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Outs: Tom Curren, Luke Delaney, Sam Fisher, Brenton Payne, Josh Saunders, Tom Lee, Brodie Murdoch, Cameron Shenton, Eli Templeton.

Zero Hanger 2017 ladder prediction: 10th

Last season was a fantastic year for the St Kilda football club. The Saints doubled their win total from the season before, many of their young players stepped up to the next level and they just missed out on finals if not for percentage.

In the off-season the Saints headhunted some depth players in Nathan Brown and Koby Stevens, as well as Jack Steele, who will strengthen the midfield when he is fit. Can the Saints make finals for the first time since 2011? or will 2017 be one year too many for their ageing stars?

Strengths

The Saints have a plethora of emerging and established forwards to choose from. Tim Membrey was a revelation in 2016, kicking 44 goals in his 17 games. Josh Bruce was slightly down on his 2015 form but was still a terrific contributor. Every year a new St Kilda key forward pops up to star in the forward line, hopefully in 2017 Paddy McCartin can get over his concussion problems and follow that trend.

during a St Kilda Saints AFL pre-season training session at Linen House Oval on November 16, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.

In the Scott Watters-Alan Richardson era, the Saints have been forced to blood a lot of youngsters to regenerate the list and it’s starting to pay off. There are several players who joined the club seeking more game time that still remain in the best 22. Dylan Roberton, Mav Weller, Tim Membrey and Shane Savage were all struggling for games at their respective clubs and have been turned into solid players for the Saints. Add to that the numerous first and second round draft picks they have coming through and there is terrific depth at the club.

Weaknesses

2016 was a fantastic season, but much of it’s success was on the back of the Saints ageing stars. By the end of 2015, Nick Riewoldt looked completely shot, in 2016 he miraculously managed to turn back the clock, putting in an amazing year averaging 21 disposals, 11 marks and two goals. The 34-year-old cannot be expected to repeat those numbers in 2017. The same applies for Leigh Montagna (33) and Sean Dempster (33) who both had terrific seasons. The Saints need a new brigade of players to take over as the stars of St Kilda.

The midfield really works well as a unit, but since the departure of Dal Santo, Goddard and Hayes, only Steven has launched himself into being one of the stars of the AFL. There are a number of players including: Newnes, Billings, Dunstan, Acres and Ross who are capable of making that step up to being an elite midfielder, Alan Richardson will need someone to if the Saints are going to play finals in 2017.

Projected St Kilda 2017 round one best 22:

FB: Sam Gilbert, Jake Carlisle, Jarryn Geary

HB: Dylan Roberton, Sean Dempster, Shane Savage

C: Leigh Montagna, David Armitage, Jack Newnes

HF: Jack Billings, Nick Riewoldt, Mav Weller

FF: Jade Gresham, Josh Bruce, Tim Membrey

FOL: Tom Hickey, Jack Steven, Seb Ross

I/C: Paddy McCartin, Blake Acres, Luke Dunstan, Koby Stevens

EMG: Nathan Brown, Nathan Freeman, Daniel McKenzie.

Not considered: Jack Steele (foot), Hugh Goddard (achilles).