Buckenara: Treloar a fit but not priority for Saints
Playing finals this year is the first step towards St Kilda winning the second premiership in the club's history but the hardest part is yet to come.
If we're being realistic, making the finals is actually the easy target to reach as you build a list you hope can eventually challenge for a flag but taking the next steps is very difficult. It gets harder and harder to progress and stay in the window to challenge because teams improve every year, so clubs must keep improving their list to get it in a position to make top four, then hopefully a preliminary final and then a Grand Final.
The Saints will be a finals contender again next year and if everything goes right, they can challenge for the premiership in 2022 or 2023 but it's easier said than done.
St Kilda's list is showing signs of becoming a serious premiership threat and improved consistency this season is a reflection on the growth within the playing group combined with a fresh coaching outlook from Brett Ratten. With 14 B-grade players and five players aged 21 or under with A-B grade potential coming through, including Max King, Josh Battle, Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield who had breakout seasons, there is a good base there. But the biggest issue that continues to hold the Saints back is the lack of top-end talent. St Kilda still doesn't have any A-graders.
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The inclusion of Bradley Hill, Zak Jones, Paddy Ryder, Dougal Howard and Dan Butler has helped to inject more leg speed and ball-winning ability into a team that was bland and one-paced but that's only the beginning. The Saints still have holes in their list that need filling, including more outside runners and creative halfbacks with elite kicking skills, before they can take that difficult next step in becoming a top-four team.
It's over to the list management and recruiting staff to identify players from rival clubs who can come in and add star power to help take this team to the next level. Be aggressive, make calls to players like Ben Brown and Adam Treloar because you never know what answer you'll get unless you ask the question.
St Kilda has a reasonably balanced list but they need another key defender. Jake Carlisle is out of contract - is he the man to play on the big key forwards like Tom Lynch and Tom Hawkins? They're the types of players St Kilda will need to stop if they're to go deep in the finals and be a serious premiership contender.
Jack Steele's emergence this year was impressive but the Saints can't rely on him to do all the work, they need another big-bodied midfielder in the middle to provide more toughness around stoppages, while they need outside runners and rebounding defenders with pace and elite kicking skills. The return of Jade Gresham next year will be handy.
St Kilda will land Brad Crouch from Adelaide who will be a fantastic addition and add that extra bit of toughness in the midfield.
The Saints should look at Treloar but only if Collingwood is willing to pay some of his mega contract over the next few years. Treloar can play as an outside runner and has that pace they need but I wouldn't make him a priority given the Saints only have pick No.15 at their disposal and the Magpies will want more than that. A trade looks very difficult.
Melbourne's Tom McDonald would be a smart target and while he's been played as a key forward for the last 3-4 years, he's best suited down back. That's not to say he can't be moved forward at times - players who can play at both ends are very valuable.
Daniel Talia was linked to a trade to Essendon, so if he's interested in a move out of Adelaide he's exactly the type of player that can help propel the Saints from a 6-8 side to a potential top-four team. He's been one of the game's most reliable defenders but given he's 29, I think a pick in the 30-40 range would be a fair trade. It would be a very good deal for the Saints.
St Kilda should also ask the question of Michael Hurley given Essendon is in a rebuild/refresh phase.
Battle, Butler, Clark, Coffield, Gresham, Hill, Jones, M. King, Steele, Jack Billings, Jarryn Geary, Dougal Howard, Rowan Marshall, Tim Membrey, Ben Paton, Seb Ross, Jack Sinclair and Callum Wilkie.
Carlisle is a player who could be put on the trade table to see if there's any interest and get a deal done to as a more reliable key defender to play on the big forwards.
Jack Lonie is a handy player but he doesn't do enough and could benefit from a new environment. I think he's a player that would be of interest to clubs looking for a clever small forward, such as Carlton.
Luke Dunstan is a high draft pick that barely featured this year and could be used in a trade with Adelaide along with a late draft pick to secure Talia. Dunstan is a South Australian who might appreciate a return home. At 25 years of age, he's in the right age bracket for the Crows.
RATING THE LIST
B: Billings, Butler, Carlisle, Geary, Gresham, Hill, Howard, Jones, Marshall, Membrey, Ross, Sinclair, Steele, Wilkie
C: Alabakis, Dunstan, Hannebery, Hind, Joyce, Kent, Long, Lonie, Marsh, McKenzie, Parker, Phillips, Roberton, Ryder, Savage, Webster
Developing (with A-B grade potential): Battle, Clark, Coffield, King, Paton
Developing: Byrnes, Bytel, Clavarino, Connolly
What the ratings mean:
A-grade: Elite player on any AFL list
B: Top 10-18 player on most lists
C: An 18-30 player on a list
Developing: Aged 21 or under
It was terrific to see St Kilda play finals in 2020 and there are signs that this might be the start of a premiership challenge over the next couple of years, but whether that ultimate goal is achievable will depend on how well the playing group comes together under Ratten and how well the list management and recruiting teams can add to the list over the next two years. There are holes that need to be filled before the Saints can seriously announce themselves and getting an A-grade star is a must. With more maturity and growth from the playing list over the pre-season, I can see the Saints being a finals contender again next year and challenging for a flag in 2022 or 2023.
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Originally published as Buckenara: Treloar a fit but not priority for Saints