The coaching staff involved in assembling this team should take a bow.
With talent at the premium it is in the AFLW, getting an expansion team together is hard work. Yet somehow, when you cast an eye across this new Saints line-up, you see a surprising amount of talent all across the field. St Kilda haven’t gone for big-name recruits but instead have brought back as many St Kilda-origin players from other teams as they can, plus the best ‘moneyball’ selections they can muster — players who can fill a role but didn’t cost too much to acquire.
And then there’s that first-round draft pick, which thanks to Lucy McEvoy’s move from the Geelong zone to the Melbourne zone ended up landing St Kilda one of the Victorian draft’s big three: Georgia Patrikios. It’s not just the Greek name – Patrikios is similar to Maddy Prespakis in that she should make an enormous impact on St Kilda’s midfield in her very first year. She’s not quite as good with the ball, but she’s a much more dynamic athlete with straight-line speed combined with Monique Conti-style agility, and her trademark is blasting past opponents with a candy-fake and sidestep.
For company in the middle Patrikios will have Nat Exon, who can be considered a top midfielder after her last season at Brisbane. Then there’s young former Roo Ali Drennan, young talent Molly McDonald and former Dees speedster Cat Phillips. All up, it won’t be a strong enough midfield to avoid some maulings at the hands of the best AFLW line-ups in 2020 but it’s a good start for an expansion team and sets a solid foundation for 2021 and beyond.
The backline then boasts an interesting combination of youth and experience, with veteran Adelaide gut-runner Jess Sedunary and VFLW standout Clara Fitzpatrick combining with the excellent 27th draft pick Nicola Xenos and highly rated Queensland youngster Tarni White.
Up forward youth and promise are provided by the tall and athletic Izzy Shannon, while speed is brought by former Lions gun Kate McCarthy. Plus there’s the tall and agile Kate Shierlaw and the imposing strength and size of Caitlin Greiser, who has at times looked unstoppable at VFLW level.
Again, there are too many ifs, maybes and question marks to allow for a higher predicted finish than 13th, but I won’t be especially shocked if the Saints surprise a few people this year.