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Gallagher on Saints' young nucleus

St Kilda's new Head of List Management James Gallagher wants to see the Saints' growth continue. - St Kilda Saints,James Gallagher
St Kilda's new Head of List Management James Gallagher wants to see the Saints' growth continue.
I have an opinion of the list that is a bit different to some...I think there's the nucleus of a very good list there.
James Gallagher, Head of List Management

Meet former banker James Gallagher, the man tasked with fixing St Kilda's list. 

Tony Elshaug was moved on from the role in June (although he remains at the club as part of the handover) and Gallagher officially started about a month ago.

While he spent more than 12 years in the finance industry, Gallagher's passion for football never left after 38 matches at Adelaide and another 228 at Norwood in the SANFL.

"It's always been in the back of my mind that I'd love to jump across into the right opportunity within a footy club. This role is the right opportunity," Gallagher told AFL.com.au.

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The appointment of someone from outside the industry was surprising for some, but the Saints have faith in national recruiting manager Chris Liberatore and his department to evaluate potential draftees.

Gallagher sits between football manager Simon Lethlean and Liberatore in the pecking order and is in charge of strategy, in terms of how the club wants its list to look and who it should bring in.

"The head of list management role across clubs - it's not the same at every club. I think it's more defined by the skills and the expertise of the person doing that role," Gallagher said.

"Some list managers play a really heavy role in the identification of young talent. That's not my area of expertise."

Gallagher will watch the under-18s, and has seen the TAC Cup finals, but will focus on St Kilda, Sandringham, and other AFL games to assess the players the Saints have, and those they want to acquire.

 

The 38-year-old's expertise in finance, having arrived after eight years at Macquarie Bank, will be important for St Kilda.

"There's certainly an element of that in this role: managing TPP (Total Player Payments), assessing the value of players now and into the future and making calls on those. It's got applications in this role," Gallagher said.

"That's one thing that held me in reasonable stead, I think, throughout the interview process, was I have some footy knowledge, which is pretty strong. I also have a pretty strong background in finance, and one of the things that's probably a strength of mine is the ability to build relationships, which I think is really critical in this role too."

The Saints are beefing up the way they use numbers, having appointed Darren O'Shaughnessy as their senior analyst after a stint at Hawthorn as a consultant.

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Gallagher wants to see that growth continue.

"There's already a few things underway in regards to how we capture and store our information, how we assess data and analyse data and interpret it. There were some discussions on that before I started and that's really gathered momentum in the last month," Gallagher said.

"That just brings the next level of professionalism into the organisation which I think is really important. Footy clubs have evolved past any basic assessment of data and interpretation of data.

"It's a billion-dollar industry. We need to approach it like that."

After a four-win season which saw fierce pressure applied on coach Alan Richardson, Gallagher knows the heat is on.

"I'm OK with that. It's the job. It's not a surprise that that's the case. You go into a role like this eyes wide open," Gallagher said.

"I have an opinion of the list that is a bit different to some. I think there's the nucleus of a very good list there.

"I think we're young – I know we're young. I know that next year, of our best 22, there's probably 16 that are aged 26 and under. There's 20 of the 22 that are probably going to be 28 and under.

"I think there's a lot of positive there. I think we're a bit overweight in one or two areas, and a bit underweight in a couple of areas as well. That's what a large part of my role is, is to reconfigure the list a little bit."

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Those areas of surplus are in the midfield, which saw Luke Dunstan and David Armitage squeezed out of the side at stages, while there are plenty of rebounding half-backs.

As for deficiencies, the club lacks high-end talent  hence its determination to hold on to its early first-round pick  foot skills and speed through the midfield, along with pace in attack.

"We have some really good, clever small forwards that don't necessarily have real high-end speed, which is one of the reasons we've gone and approached (Melbourne's) Dean Kent about joining our footy club," Gallagher said.

He believes there is scope for the side to bounce back swiftly, having been on the brink of finals in 2016-17, but won't dispense the long-term view to focus solely on next season.

"We could get quick improvement by getting five 28-year-olds, but that's not what we want to do. The aspiration of the club is to win our second premiership."