St Kilda was relatively inactive during the recent player trade period before becoming the biggest talking point around the league with the shock sacking of Brett Ratten and acquisition of Ross Lyon. The news polarised Saints fans; some are optimistic about another fresh start while many believe this shows further incompetence within St Kilda's management.

Draft Hand

Picks: 9, 28, 32, 47

The Saints gained access to pick 32 as part of the Ben Long trade to Gold Coast, with the pick being tied to Fremantle.

They will keep picks 28 and 47 and will hope to put their single first-rounder to good use with pick 9.

List needs

Explosive Midfielder

St Kilda's midfield consists of hard-nosed inside players like Jack Steele and Zak Jones while the outside run comes from the wing position in the form of Bradley Hill, Daniel McKenzie and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera.

Brad Crouch was dynamic in 2022, yet neither he nor Seb Ross provide the explosion of a Luke Shuey-type player who can initiate run out of a contest quickly and feed the runners on the outside.

Jade Gresham plays this role productively but is simply not a big enough body to inflict maximum damage, rather best suited to a mid/forward role. St Kilda should be hoping to find the Chad Warner of the 2022 draft class.

Jade Gresham during the 2022 AFL Round 1 match between St Kilda and Collingwood (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

Defensive Forward

St Kilda's forward line has had the capacity to inflict damage in recent years, but goal-kicking woes and a lacklustre defensive structure have halted any consistency from showing. Opposing teams have been able to rebound 50 far too easily and efficiently, often launching their own attack and putting St Kilda mids and defenders under sudden pressure.

Jack Higgins was a positive pickup as a goal-sneak but he applies little defensive pressure. While Dan Butler is a capable pressure player, he is down on form compared to his near All-Australian 2020 season.

St Kilda would benefit greatly from a Brad Close-type role player who puts himself in damaging spots, is ready to lockdown rebounding runners and still threatens the goals.

The modern game encourages fast-paced play often initiated out of defensive 50, the ability to lock the ball in your forward line and make defenders work overtime is crucial.

Key Defender

St Kilda added Zaine Cordy in the off-season to assist Dougal Howard down back, but the squad would benefit from some more backline stability. Jake Carlisle was an important piece in 2020 and his retirement left a defensive hole that Howard hasn't been able to fill by himself.

Ideally, an elite key defender is needed for any side to inflict damage in the finals. While St Kilda don't have a Jacob Weitering or Jake Lever-level talent, they can help Dougal Howard thrive in a Ross Lyon-led defensive system with the assistance of a tall defender from this year's class.

St Kilda's Zaine Cordy following his trade from the Western Bulldogs (Image: St Kilda FC Twitter)


Paddy Ryder had been a luxury for St Kilda since joining the side in 2020, displaying elite-level ruck craft and having a best-on-ground performance in a memorable elimination final victory over the dogs.

His retirement leaves a gaping hole in St Kilda's stoppage and clearance game; while Jack Hayes had a blistering start to 2022, he is no certainty to fill this void come 2023. Rowan Marshall is one of the top marking players in the league at his best but is more effective around the ground rather than at stoppages.

Some security at the ruck position would not be the biggest difference-making factor but would be a bonus during the year when Hayes or Marshall need rest. Josh Battle is too valuable of a utility to be filling the ruck void.

Ideal Prospects

Cameron Mackenzie

This Sandringham prospect is coming off a dominant year at NAB League level in a stacked midfield, capping off his season with a 26-disposal, two-goal performance in a grand final win.

He has explosive traits with a quick first step, ability to extract handballs while being tackled, overhead marking ability and is a threat forward of centre.

He is likely to land at the Saints with pick 9 and would hopefully upgrade the one-paced nature of their midfield.

An alternative option with this pick could be Mattaes Phillipou, an athletic 190cm midfielder out of the Woodville West Torrens. He has a bigger body than Mackenzie and the ability to change games by hitting the scoreboard and shift the dynamic of a midfield with his height.

Phillipou is likely to be taken with an earlier pick but could be a dream selection if available at pick 9.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 16: Cameron Mackenzie of the Dragons in action during the NAB League Grand Final match between the Sandringham Dragons and the Dandenong Stingrays at Ikon Park on September 16, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Charlie Clarke

Another local prospect from Sandringham is Charlie Clarke, a 182cm half-forward capable of applying pressure and threatening the goals. He managed 29 goals over 15 games for the Dragons this year, including 10 in their finals series, showcasing his big-game ability.

He is a markedly tenacious player inside 50, displaying ferocious determination and intensity, a lacking feature of St Kilda's forward line. He would likely be selected with pick 28 and trained in a defensive forward role as he fights for the spot of Dan Butler or Jack Higgins.

A dream scenario for the Saints would be if Gippsland small forward, Jacob Konstanty could slide down to pick 28. He is another prospect with a notable work ethic and level of determination. He also takes pride in the defensive aspect of his game, averaging six tackles for the Power in his u/18 season.

At 176cm and 70kgs, he may struggle to find his footing early at AFL level but would be an attractive pick for St Kilda at 28 if available.

Max Gruzewski

This 193cm Oakleigh Chargers utility is one of the most versatile players in the draft with his size, athleticism and ability at either end of the ground.

He has an exciting vertical leap that allows him to impact overhead contests and make difficult spoils or take strong pack marks.

While he is not yet a fully developed player, the upside is attractive. He could be a valuable third tall behind Howard and Cordy, playing a Jeremy Howe or James Sicily-type role. His versatility means he has the capacity to shift forward if possible, perhaps interchanging with Josh Battle as a utility.

Ethan Phillips

Phillips could be an option later in the draft as a mature-aged key defender from Port Melbourne. At 23 years of age, he is a readymade player who has dominated the VFL with ridiculous intercept stats in 2022 under the watchful eye of recruiters.

Phillips averaged 11.5 intercept possessions and 5.1 intercept marks over 15 games for the Borough, he has much of the qualities required for a tall defender in the AFL. St Kilda has shown incompetency with regard to player development historically, so perhaps a ready-made defender is the more effective key defensive option.

Will Verrall

Verrall caught the eye of recruiters after a brilliant 2021 season for South Adelaide in the SANFL U/18s, displaying athleticism and around-the-ground ability as a 199cm ruck/forward.

His 2022 season was hampered by injury, a worrying sign given St Kilda's injury history with Rowan Marshall and now Jack Hayes. Still, Verrall's bottom age 2021 year saw him touted as one of the best ruck prospects in the country, averaging 23.4 hitouts over 15 matches, feeding his rover Jason Horne-Francis.

He would provide more security at the ruck position, and would potentially create another list spot if the Saints decide to move on 31-year-old backup ruckman, Tom Campbell.