ALAN Richardson is committed to making players earn their place in St Kilda’s senior team this year.

Last season 42 players represented the Saints at senior level and while it was in some ways beneficial to give the experience to a range of young players, the senior coach is hoping for a more intense battle for spots in 2015.

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Illustrating this point is Paddy McCartin - a talented young forward with great potential – but no certainty to debut against GWS in Sunday’s season opener.

“Paddy is in the mix but he’s not a certainty to play,” Richardson said on Thursday morning.

“It’s pretty simple really… He won’t play just because he’s our first round draft selection. He will play because he’s earned his spot. That’s a healthy footy club and environment.

“He’s been pretty solid for us in the NAB Challenge without being exciting. He’s here for a career, not for round one, but if it is that he gets selected, I’m sure he will play his role."

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In the same vein, Richardson will not rush Jack Billings back from a hamstring injury, despite the 19-year-old having completed an intense training run last Saturday.

“We were reasonably conservative with Jack and we didn’t have a VFL game [last weekend], but his session reflected a game in many ways,” he said.

“He’s done a lot of work and a lot of miles and is in good shape. He hasn’t played though, so we will have to make that call.”

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Billings will join Shane Savage (hamstring) and Leigh Montagna (knee) for a fitness test on Thursday that will determine their availability for round one.

Richardson also said Nick Riewoldt “couldn’t have been more impressive” with the way he trained on Tuesday and is a good chance to be named – providing the skipper is emotionally ready for the challenge. 

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