MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 29: Caitlin Greiser of the Saints in action during the 2021 AFLW Round 01 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Western Bulldogs at RSEA Park on January 29, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The Saints were a puzzle of inconsistency in 2021 in just their second year in the competition. 2022 brings new challenges for the side to overcome if they hope to climb the ladder and find that elusive first finals spot, with injuries and renovations looming over the campaign.

With RSEA Park unavailable until at least Round 6, the Saints will be forced to relocate to a new home ground to start the season, while Nick Dal Santo in his first season as coach will have a big headache to start the season should the club be without star midfielder Georgia Patrikios.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 14: Nick Dal Santo, Senior Coach of the Saints looks on during the St Kilda training session at RSEA Park on October 14, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

2021 Recap: 

Building from a solid inaugural season which saw two wins and four losses, the Saints started 2021 well with a strong nine point win over the Western Bulldogs. The side struggled from then on, winning just two games for the remainder of the season as the club struggled with injury and lapses in form.

Young star Tyanna Smith had a breakout season while best and fairest winner Georgia Patrikios was the standout in red, black and white. Hannah Priest had her best season in the competition down back, while acting as co-captain alongside Rhi Watt, Kate Shierlaw and Cat Phillips.

A strong last round win over the West Coast Eagles to the tune of 56 points wasn't enough to lift the Saints from the bottom four, finishing the season in 11th position. The Saints were dealt a blow during the off-season, with Smith suffering an ACL injury that will see her on the sidelines for the 2022 season.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13: Georgia Patrikios of the Saints is tackled by Madison Prespakis of the Blues during the 2021 AFLW Round 03 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Carlton Blues at RSEA Park on February 13, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Offseason Moves: 

The Saints have been busy after adding two players to the inactive list due to injury, picking up experienced former Tiger Alana Woodward through free agency and signing Paige Price as a rookie. Lucy Burke also joined the team as a replacement player through the Southern Saints.

Draft night was reasonably quiet at Moorabbin, picking up three new players. Ella Friend was selected with the number 4 pick after making the age cut-off for the 2021 draft by just two days.

Recruits: Alana Woodward (delisted free agent, Richmond), Paige Price (rookie), Lucy Burke (Southern Saints VFLW, replacement player)

Draftees: Ella Friend, Ash Richards, Leah Cutting

Inactive: Paige Price (hip), Tyanna Smith (ACL)

Out: Poppy Kelly (Richmond), Claudia Whitfort (Gold Coast), Selena Karlson (retired), Alison Brown, Clara Fitzpatrick, Tamara Luke, Nadia von Bertouch (delisted)

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Strengths and Weaknesses: 

When the forward line was firing in 2021, the Saints were impressive. The side kicked over 50 points on three occasions: 51 (Round 1), 51 (Round 4) and 76 (Round 9), with Caitlin Greiser taking out the club leading goal kicker title with nine goals across the season. Against a strong defence though, the Saints have struggled to find a plan B. The club scored less than 15 points on three occasions in 2021, Round 2, Round 5 and Round 8, a score rarely high enough to win. If the Saints want to climb the ladder in 2022, consistency is key.

Perhaps the biggest weakness in this St Kilda side is the midfield depth. With Patrikios' role at the club still undecided, as the 20-year-old hasn't been placed on the inactive list, and Smith's season ending injury, the club has suddenly lost speed and class in the centre. With new recruit Lucy Burke filling the half back role, former Tiger Alana Woodward will have big shoes to fill as she steps into the centre.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 29: Caitlin Greiser of the Saints in action during the 2021 AFLW Round 01 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Western Bulldogs at RSEA Park on January 29, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Season Summary

Richmond (H), Collingwood (A), Melbourne (A), West Coast (H), GWS (H), Brisbane (H), Carlton (A), Gold Coast (A), Geelong (H), Adelaide (H)

Defining period

With the opening three rounds of the season taking place in Melbourne against two top four sides from 2021, the Saints have an opportunity to make a mark on the competition. Their opening round match up against Richmond, who finished just above them in 10th last season, is a prime time opportunity to get the season off to a good start. With tough games against Collingwood and Melbourne to follow, where the Saints are certain to be underdogs, and then a winnable game against West Coast at home, the first month of the season is absolutely crucial to the St Kilda's campaign.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: Tyanna Smith, Hannah Priest and Claudia Whitfort of the Saints celebrate after the 2021 AFLW Round 09 match between the West Coast Eagles and the St Kilda Saints at Mineral Resources Park on March 28, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Gary Day/Getty Images)

Prediction 

With two of their stars from last season unlikely to spend any time on the ground in 2022, it's hard to see the Saints improving on their 11th place finish in 2021. However, with Dal Santo taking the reins in his first year as coach, a shake up in the absence of star power could be the thing to push the Saints up the ladder. Losing so much experience though, won't improve the Saints' lack of consistency, and it's unlikely to see them being talked about in finals contention as the season goes on.

Danielle Sorati: 12th
Mitch Keating: 11th
Jake Benoiton: 11th
Cameron Grimes: 13th
Ed Carmine: 9th
Niesha Happell:
12th
Michael Georgiou: 11th