They say that a week is a long time in footy. Well, a year must be a lifetime.

With season 2021 in the books for St Kilda, its young brigade has come a long way since the hub-life of the AFL last year.

Max King

Max King has come on leaps and bounds this season. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

It was less than a year ago…

...that Max King had just come off his first full season at the elite level.

The then-20-year-old shouldered an immense workload as the focal point of St Kilda's attack, closing out the season second only to Dan Butler in terms of goals scored (22) to guide St Kilda towards a long-awaited finals berth.


...the potential of King is beginning to be fully realised with some incredibly impressive performances showcasing the type of impact he can have on games.

Five goals against the Eagles in Round 5 led the Saints to a remarkable 33-point turnaround, as did a tide-turning six goals and eight contested marks in a phenomenal follow-up performance against the same opposition in the west.

Breakout patches against Brisbane (three goals) and Carlton (four) added to his rapid growth, with King bagging 22 of his 38 goals for the year post-bye. Just eight behinds were registered from his final eight games following a well-documented start to the season. 

The No. 12 topped St Kilda's stats for contested marks (48) and marks inside-60 (54), closing out the year with a place in the AFL Players' Association 22 Under22 side.

By the numbers…

Games: 20
Goals: 38
Season averages: 10 disposals, five marks, three contested marks, two goals per game
Best game: Round 19 v West Coast; six goals, nine marks, eight contested marks

Ryan Byrnes

Ryan Byrnes has impressed with his speed in the midfield and on the wings. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

It was around a year ago…

...that Ryan Byrnes made his debut in Round 7 against the Crows.

It would only be his one and only game for the year, but the speedy youngster showed promising signs throughout the club's time in Noosa that made a strong impression.


...Byrnes finds himself as a future add-on to St Kilda's engine room, with his 16-game season laying the foundations for an influential 2022 sequel.

Working his way back from a hamstring injury suffered in February, the 21-year-old pinned down a spot as a linking player between the midfield and half-forward line, spending time coming off the forward arc, along the wing and even short bursts at centre bounce.

Byrnes amassed a career-best 24 touches against the Western Bulldogs in Round 19, but his touch proved important in outings against Brisbane (two goals), Richmond (20 disposals) and Hawthorn (18 disposals, nine marks).

The young Saint will enter the 2022 pre-season with an eye on building off the the back of his solid second season.

By the numbers…

Games: 16
Goals: 6
Season averages:  16 disposals, five marks, eight kicks per game
Best game: Round 10 v Western Bulldogs; 24 disposals, 12 marks

Tom Highmore

Tom Highmore has slotted in seamlessly to the backline. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

It was less than a year ago...

...that Tom Highmore was plying his trade in the SANFL for South Adelaide.

The Canberra native had moved to South Australia in 2020 and impressed recruiters to earn an invitation to the 2020 NAB Draft Combine, with the Saints took a liking to the defender.

Following a swap of draft selections with Hawthorn, St Kilda ensured Tom Highmore would realise his dream of playing AFL footy.


...Highmore has firmly cemented himself as a crucial cog in St Kilda's backline.

After making his debut in Round 1 against GWS, the 'Callum Wilkie' clone entrenched himself both in the senior line-up and as a player in his own right following a breakout display against Adelaide (22 disposals, 15 intercepts and eight intercept marks).

The young backman's courage back with the flight and intercept plays made him appear like he'd been in the system far longer than 12 months, with a hand injury the only reason for him missing games post-bye.

Paired with Jimmy Webster and the zippy Jack Sinclair, St Kilda's half-back line is in safe hands as Highmore continues to develop his craft heading into his second pre-season at RSEA Park.

By the numbers…

Games: 13
Goals: 0
Season averages: 13 disposals, five marks, three tackles per game
Best game: Round 13 v Adelaide; 22 disposals, 13 marks, eight intercept marks

Leo Connolly

Leo Connolly had a debut like no other. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

It was less than a year ago...

....that Leo Connolly was thrown headfirst into the strangest season in the competition's history. 

The Gippsland recruit, taken at pick No. 64 at the 2019 National Draft, was unable to get a look into the well-settled line-up, instead getting his only game-day experiences through modified scratch matches against opposition teams.


... Connolly has proven himself as a seamless addition to St Kilda's line-up, and will be hoping to build upon an impressive year.

A last-minute debut as the medical sub against the reigning Premiers in Round 15 was far from the ideal introduction to the elite competition, but the youngster composed at the right time to make a promising impression.

Silky on both sides of the body and smooth coming out of defence, Connolly became a staple of the young brigade post-bye, only missing the last two matches of the year through concussion.

Connolly's best came against Carlton with 18 touches, but his assured displays throughout the year created a stable foundation for the seasons to come.

By the numbers…

Games: 7
Goals: 1
Season averages: 12 disposals, three marks, eight kicks per game
Best game: Round 20 v Carlton; 18 disposals, 13 kicks, three marks

Cooper Sharman

Cooper Sharman has left St Kilda fans excited for the 2022 season. Photo: Lucy Edwards.

It was less than a year ago…

...that Cooper Sharman was playing, in his own words, “stress-free footy” with mates in his hometown of Leeton in rural NSW.

A move to the Woodville West-Torrens at the start of 2021 SANFL season reignited the young forward’s draft ambitions, with his form both at senior and reserves level ultimately catching the eye of St Kilda recruiters.

The Saints went on to snap up Sharman with pick No. 21 at the 2021 mid-season rookie draft.


...Sharman proved to be one of the biggest surprises to come from the season that was.

Rushed over to Sydney just a few days after being drafted, the 21-year-old went on to play every game since making his debut as the unused medical sub in Round 19.

Sharman bagged multiple majors in every on-field appearance – a four-goal bag against Fremantle the best of the lot – despite a limited preparation, with his smooth kicking action, clean hands and impressive leap cementing his name as one to watch in 2022.

By the numbers…

Games: 5
Goals: 10
Season averages: Nine disposals, four marks, two goals per game
Best game: Round 23 v Fremantle; 15 disposals, six marks, four tackles

Jack Bytel

Jack Bytel was impressive in the final game of the year for the Saints. Photo: AFL Photos.

It was just over a year ago that…

…Jack Bytel made his AFL debut against the Cats.

While he only managed three games in his maiden season, he offered glimpses of his strong inside work that could become an important asset to St Kilda's future brigade.


…Bytel will look to continue growing his influence as the Saints steam towards 2022.

Despite finding himself in and out of the side throughout the year, Bytel nevertheless lined up for 13 matches to gain crucial experience in the club's well-established engine room. Co-captain Jack Steele brought the budding Saint under his wing during the year, showing him the midfield ropes to give him a crucial leg-up in his development.

Bytel ended the year on a high with a return to the seniors in the final game against Fremantle, while also booting his first goal in the big league.

By the numbers…

Games: 13
Goals: 2
Season averages: 12 disposals, four tackles, three clearances per game
Best game: Round 9 v Hawthorn; 21 disposals, seven clearances, eight tackles

Oscar Clavarino

It took a little longer, but Oscar Clavarino finally made his AFL debut this season. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

This time last year...

...Oscar Clavarino was continuing his pursuit of a long-awaited AFL debut. 

With the cancellation of the 2020 VFL Season and the Saints relocating to Queensland, Clavarino was unable to argue his case for a senior selection and watched on from the sidelines as the Saints stormed into the finals.

But now...

... Clavarino's hard work has paid off in the best possible way.

It was a debut 1283 days in the making for the defender, with Clavarino at last given the nod heading into St Kilda's Round 11 clash with North Melbourne.

Clavarino held his spot for the following game against Sydney, breaking back into the senior side for a further three games from Round 19 onwards.

By the numbers…

Games: 5
Goals: 0
Season averages: Seven disposals, three marks, three one-percenters
Best game: Round 19 v West Coast; 14 disposals, six marks, three inside-50s

Matthew Allison

Matthew Allison has continued to develop his game. Photo: Lucy Edwards.

It was less than one year ago that...

...the dream came true for Matthew Allison when he was selected with pick No. 26 at last year's National Draft.

The Calder Cannons product was touted as a strong marking presence who had the ability to play in different positions across the ground.


...Allison is poised to continue his growth heading into his second year as a Saint.

Playing a variety of different positions for Sandringham in the VFL, the 19-year-old was mainly used as a defender, working closely with coaches Jake Batchelor and Dylan Roberton as he moulded his craft.

Named as an emergency for three games this year, Allison will be hoping to continue his development in 2022 and earn a debut throughout the season.

Max Heath

Max Heath is balancing the life of an AFL footballer with his VCE studies. Photo:

It was a year ago...

...that Max Heath was in the middle of Year 11 and working through his studies in lockdown as the pandemic saw the country come to a standstill.

Playing where he could for Xavier College and the Sandringham Dragons, a lack of footy throughout 2020 meant he was not picked up in last year's draft.

But after getting back into the swing of things in 2021, the youngster decided to make himself eligible once more for the mid-season draft.


... Max Heath is preparing for his Year 12 exams while also balancing his life as an AFL-listed footballers.

The 18-year-old ruckman/forward was taken with pick No. 7 in the mid-season rookie draft after he showed glimpses of his talent for the Dragons in the TAC Cup in 2019.