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Saints tour Shanghai

I'll be able to tell my teammates and other staff about what to expect when you come to Shanghai
Jack Billings

Jack Billings is on his way back to Australia after a whirlwind fact-finding mission in Shanghai as St Kilda prepares for its first-ever game in China.

The Saints were last week unveiled as Port Adelaide's next opponent at Jiangwan Stadium, with the two sides set to go head-to-head in round 11.

St Kilda and the Power have committed to playing in China for the next three years, with the Saints selling off one home game per year as part of the deal.

Billings flew to China with teammate Daniel McKenzie, head of fitness Matt Hornsby and chief executive Matt Finnis.

The foursome arrived in Shanghai last Saturday night, with Billings and McKenzie staying four nights while Hornsby and Finnis departed earlier due to work commitments.

HUB: Everything you need to know about Shanghai 2019

The group toured Jiangwan Stadium and its facilities on Monday and also spent time visiting hotels in Shanghai as the Saints prepare for the trek.

Billings told AFL.com.au his first trip to China was an eye-opening experience as the Saints try to strike a balance between embracing a new cultural experience and maintaining some routine before the game.

"It's great that the AFL is trying to expand our great game internationally, and to be a part of it is a privilege," Billings said.

"At the end of the day, even though you're in a different country, you're still there to play a game of footy. In the back of your mind, you have to remind yourself that even though everything around you is going to be different, you still need to treat it as normal as possible.

"Coming here now has been really good, so next year I'll be able to tell my teammates and other staff about what to expect when you come to Shanghai.

"It's a long flight but we'll get here a few days before and have time to adjust. I think mentally realising it is what it is, and not letting it affect the way we want to play against Port Adelaide (is important).

"We've been visiting a few hotels while we've been over here, testing them out in terms of facilities and nutrition, food. I think as much as we can, if we can keep it to our normal routine at home that would be good. That means trying to eat the same thing, so we've been speaking to hotels to see if they can provide that sort of stuff but also once the game finishes we will definitely be going out to some nice Chinese restaurants."


BOOK: Join the Saints when they take on the Power in Shanghai

It's not just food and the long-haul flight that pose a challenge, but also the weather.

The average June temperature in Shanghai is about 24 degrees, but the mercury can often hit the 30-degree mark.

An average humidity of 82 per cent could also make conditions difficult for the players.

"At the moment it's currently low 20s in Shanghai, so it's really nice weather," Billings said.

"But I'm pretty sure it's going to be hot in June next year. We've spoken about it, and we'll just have to make sure that we're really well hydrated heading into the game.

"Over the summer months during pre-season, we will train in some pretty hot weather, 40 degrees, so that will get us well conditioned for the game if it gets that hot."

Aside from visiting hotels and checking out the local sights, Billings and McKenzie have been training in Shanghai.

They also attended the China International Import and Export expo on Tuesday, an event with over 40 world leaders in attendance.

Of the 4000 exhibits at the expo, the AFL and Port Adelaide were put on the global stage as part of Austrade's presentation.

The Saints plan to send more players to Shanghai early next year, as they continue to build relationships in China before their first game.