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Emerging pair carrying form into the summer

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 15: Jack Steele and Blake Acres of the Saints in action during the St Kilda Saints open training session at the Linen House Centre on November 15, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media)
Young midfielder Blake Acres has made a flying start to his fifth pre-season at Linen House Centre.
Overall I just need to get better with my skills, so my kicking and my handballing will be a big focus for me over the pre-season.
Blake Acres

Emerging midfielders Blake Acres and Luke Dunstan flew home at the tail end of the 2017 season and have carried that momentum through the first five weeks of the pre-season.

The 22-year-old pair overcame a slow patch midway through the season to finish the year as well as anyone at Linen House Centre, with Dunstan polling more Trevor Barker Award votes than anyone in the final six rounds and Acres polling in five of the last six games.

With the senior leaders spending the first week of their program in the Tiwi Islands, Acres and Dunstan have been two players who have driven the group over the first month of the summer, both in performance and leadership.

West Australian Acres admits his finish to the season has fuelled his belief ahead of what looms as an important 2018.

“It was good to see him and even myself get a few touches towards the back end of the season,” Acres told on Thursday.  

“It does give you a bit of confidence heading into the next season knowing you can play at that level and at a pretty high level as well.

Me and him are both excited, we’ve got a lot of work to do still before games, but we’re looking forward to it.”

After backing up the 16 games he played in 2016 with 18 in 2017, Acres is focused on building his tank and sharpening his skills over the summer months in Seaford.

“For me it’s to keep building my running capacity and to keep working on my strength in the gym with my weights,” he said.

“Overall I just need to get better with my skills, so my kicking and my handballing will be a big focus for me over the pre-season.

With no Nick Riewoldt or Leigh Montagna for the first time since 2001, St Kilda’s younger leaders like Acres and Dunstan, Jack Billings and Jack Sinclair have stepped up to drive the group.

“The one to four years have really stepped up. Guys like me, Jack and Luke from that draft are really trying to drive that group and get them to speak up in training and in drills,” he said.

“We’ve still got to improve that area as well, but it’s really been coming from the real young guys and the older guys have seen that and commented on it a few times.”