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.
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.