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'Special' honour for Clark

Josh Gabelich  December 15, 2017 9:10 AM

Dare Raw: Numbers announced (14/12) Our cameras capture the moment when Leigh Montagna announced to the new recruits their player numbers. (Thursday 14 December, 2017)
AFL 2017 Media - NAB AFL Draft

New Saint Hunter Clark will wear Leigh Montagna's No. 11.

It’s pretty crazy to come to a club and get a number like that straight up that means so much to Leigh and to the whole club.

New St Kilda midfielder Hunter Clark has described the honour of receiving Leigh Montagna’s famous No. 11 as ‘special’, after the Saints announced their numbers for 2018.

Clark, 18, was St Kilda’s first selection at pick No. 7 in last month’s NAB AFL Draft.

After 287 games across 16 seasons in red, white and black, Montagna hung up his boots at the end of the 2017 season following a brilliant career for the Saints.

“It’s pretty crazy to come to a club and get a number like that straight up that means so much to Leigh and to the whole club – it’s pretty special,” Clark told saints.com.au.

While the pair never had the opportunity to play alongside each other, they did train together last year when Clark spent a couple of weeks at Linen House Centre as part of the AFL Academy program.

“I trained with him for a couple of weeks last year and he just brought lots of energy and leadership to the group and really stood out in that way,” Clark said.

“While I was there in that two weeks, I got to know what type of player and person he is and that was pretty awesome.”

Montagna, who played more games for St Kilda than all but six other players, said he was proud to pass the baton to an emerging star who he hopes will help lead the charge towards an elusive second premiership.

“I’m very proud to pass on the No. 11 and hopefully he runs around in it for a long time,” Montagna said.

“I suggested it to the club early days for Hunter to wear the number if he wanted it.

“I remember him training with us last season and being very impressed; we were playing handball games and he was running rings around us as a 16-year-old, so that was my first glimpse of him.”

The dual All-Australian admits handing over his number officially marks the end of his time as a player.

“I think it does mean officially the end that you’ve passed your number on," he said.

“I’m not too sentimental about it; obviously it was a big part of my life for a long time.

“But now I’m looking forward to watching young Hunter make the number his own and hopefully bring the club a flag in the No. 11.”

Off-season acquisition Logan Austin will wear the No. 24 his cousin Sean Dempster wore with distinction across a decade at the Saints.