Premiership Odds: $101

Prediction: 13th

The Saints have one of the more impressive young lists in the league, supported by a small number of experienced players, they will expect further improvement in 2016.

St Kilda have managed to pick up the pieces of a failed Ross Lyon era that decimated the club once he abandoned ship and St Kilda have reason to be optimistic heading into the new season.

I have them finishing 13th in 2016. There will be sides from last year’s top eight dropping out and, but I can’t see them finishing above any of those sides, however, they may surprise me.

The Saints had fairly low expectations for 2015, so six wins and a draw will definitely go down as a successful step forward for the club. They were able to see the development of a handful of exciting young prospects, while still enjoying the class of some of their veterans.

The fact of the matter is that the Saints are about two years away from playing finals footy and they should have another positive year under second-year coach Alan Richardson.

Key Ins:

Nathan Freeman, Jade Gresham, Brandon White, Bailey Rice

Key Outs:

Farren Ray, Tom Simpkin, Arryn Siposs, Adam Schneider

Key Player: Jack Steven

Last year saw Steven launch himself into the elite level of AFL midfielders with a stellar season, which saw him take home the Saints’ best and fairest award.

Combining a tough, in-and-under style with just another touch to make him a nightmare for opposition teams and he averaged 27 disposals per game throughout last season, including an impressive 6.9 tackles per game which had him finish fourth in the league in tackles.

This is a barometer of how Steven is able to affect the game with his physicality but also use his talent to continue to move the Saints forward.

Steven is able to affect the game in multiple ways and there is no reason he won’t improve in 2016 and beyond.

Rising Star: Seb Ross

The emerging St Kilda midfielder looked almost certain to cement his spot in the Saints’ best 22 during the 2014 pre-season, before tearing his hamstring in a NAB Challenge match.

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The young Saint was suddenly looking at 10-12 weeks on the sidelines, thus missing the opening half of the season.

He returned to play the last 13 games, finishing with a full head of steam in the final month to build some nice momentum into this pre-season and into the 2016 campaign.

With a basketball background, Ross excels in tight spaces and has the type of vison that makes him very similar to fellow ex-basketballer and Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury.

The North Ballarat product will do well to establish himself as a key ingredient of St Kilda’s onball division which includes Jack Steven and David Armitage.

Under the Pump: Shane Savage

Jake Carlisle would have taken this spot if he was not suspended due to the supplements saga.

Savage had himself a very nice 2015 season, averaging 17.7 disposals per game, however, there are several players who can play a similar position at the club.

Sam Fisher, Jimmy Webster, Dylan Roberton and Jarryd Geary can all play that running half-back role.

Carlisle’s loss means the Saints defenders all face a big season and Savage is one of them. There is really no Saint facing a huge make or break season, but if one had to be chosen, it could be the former Hawk.

Put it this way, he’s not in their best 22 at the moment, which means he will have to fight tooth and nail for his spot.

Weakness: Defence

Not having Carlisle there leaves a huge gaping whole in their backline, which the Saints had hoped would be filled by recruiting the former Bomber.

It means Josh Bruce may have to play some time down back instead of supporting skipper Nick Riewoldt up forward.

Questions remain over whether veterans Sam Fisher and Sam Gilbert can hold the Saints backline together and despite being decent one-on-one competitors, their best may be past them.

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Sean Dempster and Dylan Roberton will need to step up and have big years, while the likes of Jack Newnes and Jarryn Geary provide good support with Hugh Goddard also coming along nicely.

Strength: Midfield

David Armitage and Jack Steven were two of the most impressive yet under-rated midfielders in 2015 and will look to continue to improve as two of the senior players in this group along with veteran Leigh Montagna.

St Kilda have decent depth in their midfield group with a number of high-draft picks on its list. Jack Billings, Maverick Weller, Seb Ross, Luke Dunstan and Jack Sinclair will all look to improve on a solid 2015, while Billy Longer will be looking to establish himself as the number one ruckman.

As a young developing side, the fact that the Saints ranked eighth in disposal efficiency and committed the third most clangers in 2015 is not a surprise, but something that must be fixed.

The onus is on them to further improve their disposal efficiency if they are to persist with an uncontested possession game style or alternatively, they can develop their contested game, as they ranked just 14th in contested possessions per game.

What the fixture looks like: Really good

They play just two finalists from 2015 twice and double up against likely bottom four contenders Essendon, Melbourne and Carlton in what is shaping as a very favourable draw.

They travel interstate just five times, the least possible for a Victorian-based club. However, they face a tough first month with games against the Bulldogs, Port Adelaide and Hawthorn.

For a young, up and coming Victorian club, this is a dream fixture and one which should enable them to improve on 2015.

Best 22

B: Dylan Roberton, Sean Dempster, Jimmy Webster

HB: Sam Gilbert, Sam Fisher, Jarryn Geary

C: Nathan Freeman, Jack Steven, Leigh Montagna

HF: Jack Lonie, Nick Riewoldt, Jack Billings

F: Jack Sinclair, Josh Bruce, Tom Hickey

R: Billy Longer, David Armitage, Maverick Weller

I: Seb Ross, Luke Dunstan, Shane Savage, Jack Newnes


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