AFL Rd 3 - Gold Coast v Adelaide
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 21: Ben King of the Suns celebrates a goal with team mates during the round 3 AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Adelaide Crows at Metricon Stadium on June 21, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Despite coming into season 2021 highly fancied, the Saints disappointed. Several lacklustre performances saw them blown away in a few games, leading to crisis talks and needing to catch the competition.

They never really recovered and eventually missed out on finals. If that wasn't bad enough, the club has now also inherited the unwanted title of longest premiership drought.

There's no skirting it, the club needs to win a flag soon to be relevant. With a mixed age profile on their list, the Saints went to the draft to inject some youth. Grabbing Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera in the first round to add some class was a smart move.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera of South Australia in action during the NAB AFL U19 Championships game between Western Australia and South Australia at Mineral Resources Park on August 28, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Likewise, topping up with NGA prospects Mitchito Owens and Marcus Windhager. The Saints also managed to add some key position depth and some raw rookies to push the senior group.

However, unless every pick turns out to be a star, the Saints are still short in a couple of key areas. Their quest to finally add a second premiership hinges on their ability to fill a couple of gaps.

SEE ALSO:
If your team could steal one player: Adelaide Crows
If your team could steal one player: Brisbane Lions
If your team could steal one player: Carlton Blues
If your team could steal one player: Collingwood Magpies
If your team could steal one player: Essendon Bombers
If your team could steal one player: Fremantle Dockers
If your team could steal one player: Geelong Cats
If your team could steal one player: Gold Coast Suns
If your team could steal one player: GWS Giants
If your team could steal one player: Hawthorn Hawks
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If your team could steal one player: Melbourne Demons
- If your team could steal one player: North Melbourne Kangaroos
- If your team could steal one player: Port Adelaide Power
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If your team could steal one player: Richmond Tigers

Gaps in best 22

The Saints are well stocked in the ruck department for now. With Rowan Marshall amongst the league's best and Paddy Ryder playing inspiring footy. Max Heath was picked up in last year's Mid-Season Draft, so they have already begun to plan for the future.

Likewise, the Saints have a well-balanced forward line. The smalls of Butler, Higgins and Billings are all more than capable. With Tim Membrey, Max King and Marshall/Ryder combining as the tall, it's a pretty handy forward line.

AFL Rd 4 - St Kilda v West Coast
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 10: Max King of the Saints celebrates a goal during the round four AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the West Coast Eagles at Marvel Stadium on April 10, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Where the Saints are lacking however, is the need for another key defender. Whilst Dougal Howard does his job, ably deputised by Cal Wilkie and Tom Highmore, there is a need for another genuine tall.

Particularly after the retirements of Jake Carlisle and Dylan Roberton. A key defender shapes as the largest hole on their list.

However, that's not the only gap. It's been well-publicised that the Saints lack an elite midfielder to ease the pressure on Jack Steele. A goal-kicking midfielder with class would be the ideal ready-made player for the Saints to break into the top four.

Options to steal

Option 1: Ben King

Perhaps the only realistic option for the Saints, but what an option. The club has dreamed of having the King twins line up in the red, black and white since the day they were drafted. Crucially, he is the right age at just 21 years old.

Besides being a marketing dream, Ben King would add an extra dimension for the Saints. His ability to hit the scoreboard goes without saying, however it's his versatility that would appeal most. Playing mostly as a defender in his junior football days, King could be the ultimate swingman for the Saints.

With the 2.1 goals per game he averages, the Saints would have a formidable forward line. Throw in his fantastic hands - more than four marks and two inside 50 grabs per game on average -  and the sky's the limit. His presence would prevent other teams from ever doubling up on either twin without exposing themselves elsewhere.

While the big man is coming out of contract at the end of season 2022, there is no real indication he is gettable. The Suns, not to mention the rest of the competition, will be working on Godfather offers to keep or get him. Still, the Saints can dream.

Option 2: Christian Petracca

This one will sting for Saints fans. The Demons superstar was there for the taking when the club had Pick 1 in the 2014 Draft. They instead opted to go down a different path, however there's no doubting he is what the club is missing.

An explosive bull at the stoppages who can go forward and impact the scoreboard, a dream pairing with Jack Steele would make the Saints a genuine top-four chance. His average of more than a goal per game is perhaps the second most desired quality the Saints could use.

It's his stoppage work they would be desperate to take advantage of. He averages over six clearances and inside 50's per game. How the Saints would love to have him sharking Paddy Ryder's taps.

Having established himself as bonafide top-five talent in the AFL in season 2022, there's no doubting he would be the ideal steal candidate. The Norm Smith medallist's now proven ability to perform in crucial moments would be tantalising for a club looking to break their premiership hoodoo.

Option 3: Marcus Bontempelli

Like Petracca, there will be a forlorn sense amongst St Kilda fans that the Bont should be a Saint already. Glossing over that, there's no disputing that Bontempelli is a dream steal target for the Saints.

His work around the contest is almost unparalleled in the competition, while his forward craft makes him almost unstoppable. Averaging over a goal a game, the Bont would add something the Saints desperately lack. That's without even mentioning his 6.6 inside 50's per game.

With him alongside Jack Steele, Brad Crouch, Zak Jones and Jade Gresham, the Saints would have a fairly complete midfield.

Bontempelli's age profile is a good fit for the club, but he has one other crucial ingredient. Leadership. His leadership separates him from the pack and is something the club is desperate to add to their list.

Option 4: Jake Lever

Perhaps the biggest no-brainer following the retirement of Jake Carlisle, the Saints need an intercept key defender. The club's backline is decent, the likes of Cal Wilkie, Dougal Howard and Tom Highmore are dependable.

However, none is yet an elite talent. Lever would add a crucial piece to the Saints' chances of being a regular come finals time. His intercept work is arguably the best in the competition, while his age is the right fit for the club.

His presence would significantly ease the pressure on the Saints, who at their worst, conceded 90 points per game on average in 2021. As the number one ranked player for intercepts per game, Lever would be the perfect steal for St Kilda.

Verdict

Despite the all-star calibre that is Bontempelli, Petracca and King, the Saints would have to look toward Lever as the most suitable acquisition in this hypothetical choosing.

Bolstering their key-defensive stocks would certainly solidify their chances of moving further into premiership contention.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 15: Jake Lever of the Demons handpasses the ball during the round four AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Melbourne Demons at Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 15, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Media/Getty Images)

In working with the aforementioned Howard, Wilkie and Highmore, Lever would slot into a similar role that has seen him emerge as a top defender at the Demons.

With plenty of promising players already in midfield, and Max King a carbon copy of his brother, the Saints' choice would likely be in the frame of the premiership key-backman.