MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Jarryn Geary of the Saints leads his team out onto the field during the round one AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the Melbourne Demons at Etihad Stadium on March 25, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

St Kilda skipper Jarryn Geary has decided to step down from the role of captain of the Saints after leading the club for five years.

Geary, who shares the role with midfielder Jack Steele, was appointed as sole captain and successor to club great Nick Riewoldt for the 2017 season.

Injuries have limited Geary's chances to lead his side across the past several campaigns, having recorded 66 games as captain of the club. However, his leadership qualities have been greatly felt both on and off the field during and prior to his tenure as captain.

Speaking to AFL.com.au, Geary revealed the decision to relinquish his duties had been a present thought for some time, and that the call was one that took some difficulty to carry out.

“I think the decision is something I’ve been thinking about for 18 months,” Geary said.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 16: Tom Hickey (L) Jack Billings, Jarryn Geary and Jimmy Webster of the Saints (R) sing the club song after winning during the round four AFL match between the Collingwood Magpies and the St Kilda Saints at Etihad Stadium on April 16, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

“After the 2020 season, I had conversations with ‘Steeley’ about leading. I thought it was time for someone else to step into that role, whether it was with me or without me. In the end, we decided for that year it was going to be both of us. He did a great job, basically by himself in the end on game day.

“Post-season I had another think about it and thought it was the right time. I had a few chats to ‘Ratts’ and it was my decision. But for something that I had my head around for 18 months it was more difficult to voice than I thought it would be.

"I started getting a croaky voice because the role meant so much to me. Not so much the title – the title is great and I’m really proud and privileged to have been in the position for five years – but knowing the boys wanted me to lead the footy club for five years. Letting go of that was probably more difficult than I thought.”

Set to enter his 16th season at Moorabbin, Geary has been building toward a Round 1 return this year after playing just the three games in 2021.

The 33-year-old revealed he hadn't contemplated calling time on his career during a difficult past 12 months, with Geary hoping to hang up the boots on his own terms.

“I didn’t want to finish that way. I felt I had a little bit more to give. As funny as it sounds, my body feels pretty good; I’ve had 24 surgeries but my body actually feels pretty good so hopefully I don’t break anything this year,” he said.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - JUNE 02: Jarryn Geary of the Saints leaves the field injured during the 2019 AFL round 11 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Port Adelaide Power at Jiangwan Stadium on June 02, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos)

“I’ve always been the same. My career didn’t start out playing a game every week, I was in and out of the team constantly and always felt I needed to prove myself and probably still felt that way even as captain. I’ve never really felt any differently.

"I suppose the thing for me is I feel like I still have the capacity athletically to contribute. It is a strength of mine – I can run and I’m not slow – so that probably gives me a good opportunity to play. I know that I have to perform. It is probably going to be up to the guys below me whether I play every week.”

Steele, who joined Geary as co-captain last year, firms as the leading candidate to be appointed St Kilda captain for 2022, with the club likely to make an official call in the coming weeks.

“‘Steeley’ has come a long way really quickly. That was a big part," Geary added.

HOBART, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22: Jack Steele of the Saints leads the team out during the 2021 AFL Round 23 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Fremantle Dockers at Blundstone Arena on August 22, 2021 in Hobart, Australia. (Photo by Grant Viney/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

"The thing about Steeley is it probably took some time to realise his capabilities in that space. He openly admits he isn’t the most outgoing person and he probably didn’t have a lot of confidence in himself, but once his footy went to that level that he can play in his own right he saw that he was a leader. I’ve seen this coming for a long time."

The Saints will begin their 2022 AFL season against Collingwood on Friday, March 18 at Marvel Stadium.