After being touted as a top eight contender, St Kilda’s 2018 campaign was an unmitigated disaster, finishing 16th with a paltry four wins and a draw.
The Saints were their own worst enemy at times, continually letting themselves down with poor ball use and an inability to convert in front of goal at crucial stages.
Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna’s departures exposed a glaring lack of leadership within its ranks, with several players failing to take the required step to fill the void left by the two champions.
The additions of Sydney premiership player Dan Hannebery and Melbourne speedster Dean Kent will bolster the club’s engine room, but the lack of class and skill through the midfield remains evident.
Injuries to key personnel didn’t help embattled coach Alan Richardson who will be one of the coaches under the most pressure heading into the 2019 season, despite being contracted until the end of 2020.
Here’s what their best 22 looks like pre-draft:
B: Jarryn Geary, Nathan Brown, Dylan Roberton
HB: Jack Newnes, Jake Carlisle, Jimmy Webster
C: Jack Steele, Dan Hannebery, Jack Sinclair
HF: Dean Kent, Tim Membrey, Jack Billings
F: Jade Gresham, Josh Bruce, Jack Lonie
FOL: Billy Longer, Jack Steven, Seb Ross
I/C: Nick Coffield, Blake Acres, Hunter Clark, Paddy McCartin
Long term needs
St Kilda are crying out for A-grade talent right down the spine of their team.
There is a distinct lack of star power on the Saints’ list. Apart from Jade
Gresham and Seb Ross, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who could join that elite bracket.
Midfield polish is lacking, while another key defender should be pursued to shore up the back-six.
The unsuccessful pursuit of former West Coast bigman Scott Lycett indicates the Saints are keen on adding another ruckman, but will have to make-do with Billy Longer and Rowan Marshall next season.
Short term needs
A drastic improvement from several under-performing players is the main priority for St Kilda if they’re to fare better in 2019.
First-round draft picks such as Longer, Luke Dunstan, Jack Billings must increase their output, while former number one pick Paddy McCartin will be hoping to stay injury-free.
High-end draft picks Nick Coffield and Hunter Clark will hope to become permanent fixtures in the club’s best 22 after showing glimpses of their capabilities.
Curing their goal-kicking yips will also help the Saints’ cause after kicking more behinds than goals in 16 of 22 matches in 2018.
Draft picks: 4, 36, 46, 67, 79
Who could they target?
With pick 4 up their sleeve and depending on who Carlton and Gold Coast take with the first three selections, St Kilda could secure a highly-skilled youngster to address a deficiency within its list.
South Australian prodigy Izak Rankine has x-factor and skill in abundance, while Victorian Bailey Smith has been hailed as a star midfielder in the making.
Fox Footy draft expert Matt Balmer described Rankine as one of the most exciting prospects to come out of the U18 system in recent memory.
Already stock-piled with talls, a move for injured forward Max King, who did his rehab at the Saints, seems unlikely.