St Kilda have been named as rank outsiders to seize glory in 2019 after a tough trade period followed a poor season. The Saints finished 16th in the ladder, with just four wins, and they ended the 2018 campaign with six straight defeats. They had the opportunity to regroup this spring, but they were unable to entice any of the most desirable stars to Melbourne. The club retains their reputation as perennial underachievers, having finished bottom of the ladder more times than any other team and having the second lowest all-time win percentage, so they struggled once again to attract top talent.
Top betting sites have the Saints as $101 underdogs for 2019 Grand Final success, with only Carlton and Gold Coast for company at the bottom of the betting. The bookies clear do not hold out much hope for the new arrivals and their ability to boost the men in red, white and black. They brought in Dan Hannebery, and he could improve their fortunes if he regains full fitness, but Sydneyâ€™s willingness to let him go does not spark a great deal of optimism. They also brought in Dean Kent from Melbourne, while Tom Hickey departed and they were left with a draft order of 4, 36, 46, 67, 79.
A brutal clear out.
St Kildaâ€™s official website called the summer clear out â€œbrutalâ€. Nine players have gone, including seven delistings, the trade of Hickey and one retirement. Koby Stevens was forced to call time on his playing career due to a range of concussions, while Sam Gilbert, Maverick Weller, Nathan Wright, Darren Minchington, Hugh Goddard, Nathan Freeman and Ray Connellan were delisted.
Simon Lethlean, general manager of football, remains upbeat about their future prospects, despite on-field struggles and a well-documented power struggle in the boardroom. â€œDanâ€™s a highly-accomplished midfielder who will be a significant addition to our group,â€Â said Lethlean. â€œHe will help the likes of Jack Steven, Seb Ross and Jack Steele enormously, but weâ€™re also excited about what he can teach Jade Gresham and Hunter Clark. He is a respected leader and someone with a lot of finals experience, which will be invaluable for our young group on and off the field. I know he is eager to get started, and weâ€™re equally eager to see the impact he can have in 2019 and beyond.â€
Dean Kent can provide pace and power.
Kent should also provide an injection of pace into the Saintsâ€™ forward line and Lethlean is pleased to have the 24-year-old on board. â€œDeanâ€™s biggest strengths are his speed, power and penetrating kick,â€ he said. “These are attributes weâ€™ve identified as pretty important for our group going forward and weâ€™re excited to secure his services. Heâ€™s proven to be a dangerous forward during his career to this point, and we also think that he can play a role for us higher up the ground and through the midfield to add a different element to our current group.â€
Fans are now eagerly anticipating the November 22-23 draft. They will also hope to see more from the current crop. One player with plenty of potential is Shane Savage, as the 27-year-old Kiwi delivered several strong performances during the campaign. He was often a crucial player for Saints, providing the springboard for several attacks and displaying strong distribution out of defence. The former Hawk boasted an 87.5% disposal efficiency rating, and fans will hope to see more of that elite ball use in 2019. He was also third for rebound-50s among the Saints squad, behind only Jimmy Webster and Ross, and director of coaching Danny Sexton praised his work ethic and consistency.
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AFL popularity growing in New Zealand.
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Meanwhile, sports wagering is also growing each year. AFL betting looks set to continue in New Zealand as well as Australia if Savage manages to thrive once again for St Kilda and lead them to a better season in 2019. â€œShaneâ€™s been really consistent for us,â€ Sexton said. â€œHe trained really hard, heâ€™d come into the footy club at all hours and invested quite a bit in his fitness and in his body, and that put him in a really good position at the start of the year. Heâ€™s held up his end of the deal defence-wise and some of his ball use is just outstanding, so heâ€™s been a really valuable contributor this season.â€ If he can keep it up, Hannebery can return to his best and some strong draft additions can be made then Saints might just surprise a few people next season.