Off-Season Preview - St Kilda

Picks: 3, 57, 61 ,63, 75, 93, 111 (prior to any potential compensation and priority picks being handed out)

Out of Contract:
•    Billy Longer
•    Darragh Joyce
•    Darren Minchington
•    Doulton Langlands (rookie)
•    Hugh Goddard
•    Jack Lonie
•    Lewis Pierce
•    Logan Austin
•    Maverick Weller
•    Nathan Freeman (already delisted)
•    Nathan Wright
•    Ray Connellan (already delisted)
•    Sam Gilbert

While few can envy the task of the recruiting staff at the Gold Coast Suns this off-season, tasked with revitalizing a list at an a unappealing destination attempting to survive in the competition, it can be said that the task facing their counterparts at St Kilda isn’t much easier.

To all and sundry at Moorabbin, this year was a tremendous underachievement. Despite being so close to breaking through to the finals the past two seasons, the Saints were in wooden spoon contention for the majority of the season, unable to make up the huge loss created by the retirements of Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt at the end of last season.

It’s an interesting exercise in hindsight – would the Saints have kept their 2 first round picks (shrewdly obtained in what was perceived to be an incredibly one sided deal with the Hawks in 2016), and invested in Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield, knowing that this season would be another bottom 4 finish, rather than a trip into September? If not for the failed efforts by North Melbourne to sign every free agent in the AFL, NBL and IPL auction, a greater spotlight would have also been shone on their inability to attract a free agent to the club to help out their paper-thin midfield depth. Whilst the long-cited issue of commuting to Seaford has now been resolved with a return home to Moorabbin, the largest debt of any club in the AFL certainly makes it difficult for any player of note to see them as a genuine destination club.

The trade movements of last year will also hurt the club’s versatility with its list management, having traded it’s second and third round picks in this years’ draft in a complicated deal to move up in last year’s draft to acquire the yet-to-debut Oscar Clavarino and Logan Austin. St Kilda now holds no picks between pick 3 and 57, with pick 3 almost certain to move down to 4 if the Suns do not match any offer for Tom Lynch. The looming trade with Sydney for premiership midfielder, Dan Hannebury must also be taken into account. Pick 4 is well over market value for a player handily described by Mick Malthouse as an “old 28 year old”.

Pick 4 for Sydney’s pick 14 and Hannebury appears relatively fair for the Saints with future picks swapped to even things out. In theory, the upgrade in points works out to be to the value of pick 22, reasonable-ish compensation I’d argue, though, the Swans and their 5 year contracted player would disagree. Another sticking point for Sydney would be having another pick in the first round to ensure they have enough points to bid adequately for Nick Blakey. As it stands, the Swans hold picks 31 and 34 (which could both drop as many as 4 spots after compensation), which carries enough points to match a bid around pick 14, which is slightly below where most projections have Blakey going. Subsequently, I suspect the Swans’ offer will be Hannebury and their future first round pick, unless they are able to obtain another top 30 pick from somewhere.

As it stands, Darren Minchington, Hugh Goddard, Jack Lonie, Mav Weller and Sam Gilbert have played more than their fair share of VFL at Sandringham this year. I’d be hard pressed to name any of these players in the next hypothetical Saints’ premiership team. At the same time, all of the above provide far better value than what would conceivably be on offer at pick 57.

It is also difficult to see where there is any trade value on the remaining list to buy back into the draft either. Would a club offer a pick of a higher value for Jack Newnes or Jack Sinclair than what the club value them internally? Could the Saints take a huge gamble and part ways with Jack Billings? A popular rumour doing the rounds has the Lions offering their first pick in exchange for Seb Ross or Jack Steven. I feel like the Saints would be hard pressed to not take it, but in doing so, requires a firm commitment from both the club and the AFL that there is another 3 years at least in this rebuild.

The ruck situation at the club is also a dilemma that requires a gutsy call. None of Billy Longer, Lewis Pierce or Tom Hickey are showing themselves to be the standout candidate despite each having numerous cracks at the #1 ruck mantle. Tom Hickey conceivably survives, being the only one of the trio contracted for another year. From there, if the remaining two were to survive, does the Lewis Pierce loan agreement with the Frankston Dolphins continue next season? Or do you allow Pierce and Longer to fight it out on the same level for their claim to be the Saints’ number one ruckman?

I found Pierce’s VFL form far more encouraging than Longer’s, and his games late in the year to say he has a bit more to offer at AFL level. If given more time to develop, he has many of the late bloomer characteristics that ruckmen tend to hold. On the other hand, Longer was a first round draft pick, and touted to be the best ruckman of his draft class. It’s difficult to ignore that pedigree.

Do the Eagles or the Dogs bail the Saints out by offering above market draft picks for either? I imagine there’s better candidates out there for either side.

In conclusion, no side is faced with more tough calls in this off-season than St Kilda – pick 3 or 4 in a highly touted draft class is a great asset to hold, but is it enough when the rest of the list is in dire need of revamp and very few other assets are left to rectify that?

Check out Cam's previews of the Gold Coast and Carlton off-seasons.

 

Cam Read will be providing the off-season outlook for all clubs over the next little while. If you want to give us a Like on Facebook or a Follow on Twitter, we’d really appreciate it. 

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