Veteran St Kilda defender Sam Fisher has received strong peer support after a media report alleged his off-field behaviour was causing concern at the AFL club.
Teammate Leigh Montagna defended Fisher as the team prepared to travel to Boulder, Colorado for an altitude training camp.
The report stated that Fisher could lose his spot in St Kilda’s leadership group.
“From my point of view, I saw that article and there was nothing in that,” Montagna said.
“There’s been no talk about that at all, about (his) leadership.
“He’s won two best and fairests, he’s one of our most professional players.
“From the players’ point of view, I didn’t see much substance in that article.”
It has already been a tumultuous off-season for the Saints, with star midfielder Lenny Hayes undergoing open heart surgery, Brendon Goddard using free agency to join Essendon and Jason Gram sacked over off-field issues.
The Saints dropped out of the top eight this season under new coach Scott Watters, but Montagna remains bullish about their prospects.
“The improvement is going to come across the board and what’s really pleasing for St Kilda is the Sydney model,” he said.
“If you look at the way they went about their premiership, they still have their older guys playing at a really high standard, but the young guys stepping up and improving.
“Certainly if we can follow that model … we’re very positive about what’s ahead of us next year.”
With Goddard gone and veteran leaders such as Hayes and captain Nick Riewoldt in their 30s, Montagna said it was vital that mid-range players picked up the slack.
“We have some guys who have played a lot of football in that middle tier – Jarryn Geary, Sean Dempster and Ben McEvoy,” he said.
“Guys who are in that middle bracket, we’re probably looking for them to step up.
“There are probably a few of us who have been in the leadership group for a few years now and it’s probably time, with Brendon leaving and Nick and Lenny getting a little bit older, that some younger guys step up.”
Goddard has just returned from Essendon’s altitude camp in Boulder and Montagna said some Saints had been in touch with their former teammate about the training.
It will be the first time that the Saints team have gone through a full-scale altitude camp.
New St Kilda conditioning boss Bill Davoren is a big fan of altitude training.
Davoren is a long-time triathlon coach and he has arranged for Dave Scott to speak to the Saints during their Boulder trip.
Scott is one of triathlon’s most famous figures, winning the Hawaiian Ironman six times.
Also on Tuesday, the Saints announced they had delisted Nick Winmar with one year left on his contract.
His dismissal means all of St Kilda’s 2009 recruits are no longer at the club.
Andrew Lovett was sacked without playing a game, while Jesse Smith, Adam Pattison, Will Johnson and Brett Peake are also gone.
Winmar, who played two senior games, is the cousin of Saints great Nicky Winmar.