It was a move back so Jack Sinclair could move forward, and what a move it ended up being.

Heading into the 2021 pre-season, the 26-year-old had the question posed to him by senior coach Brett Ratten: what do you think about a role in the backline?

The end result: a second-placed finish in the Trevor Barker Awards, the Robert Harvey Best Clubman award and a career-best average of 21 disposals per game.

“It was all pretty new to me, it came pretty quickly in the pre-season. They only put me in there in the last month of it,” Sinclair told saints.com.au.

“I think it was maybe injuries and they just wanted to look at it, and it seemed as though it has worked pretty well.

“Coming into the season, I wasn’t too sure how it was going to go, I’ve never played defence before. I feel like I’ve made some real steps forward with my defence (since then), and even just being back there with a bit of leadership and being the eyes for the team.

“I felt like I had a lot to learn but now looking back, I think I’ve come a long way.”

It was unfamiliar territory for the 119-gamer, who had spent much of his career in the midfield with occasional stints up forward. It had been a solid position for the No. 35, who had put together some decent years for the Saints.

But seven seasons into his career, inconsistency still had been a theme through Sinclair's time in the AFL system. Always serviceable, but never the game-breaker that he had the potential to be, it was a move into defence that would see the 26-year-old transform into the gut-running defender that is seen patrolling across half-back today.

Now utilised by Ratten as the link between the backline and the midfield, Sinclair has now cemented himself as an important part of the St Kilda defensive structure.

Adding on kilograms without sacrificing his running prowess, Sinclair’s role is now one that sets up the transition of the footy from the backline into a scoring opportunity, while he sometimes may float forward to snag a couple of goals.

But while his offensive threats are noticeable to the naked eye - 11 goal assists across the year, second to only to Tim Membrey -  it is the defensive efforts which Sinclair brings that has impressed those most inside the club.

“Sincs is an absolute star,” Tom Highmore told saints.com.au.

“His offensive threats are what everyone sees, but I think it's defensively within the four walls of the club which is what he has really become known by.

"He’s made a conscious effort over the last couple of the years to do the hard stuff, that’s what we see as a footy club and as a footy team and it is what we respect the most."

Jack Sinclair's move into the backline has led to a career-best season. Photo: AFL Photo.

Helping in his mindset around his new role in the backline, Sinclair will often write EDW on his wrist-tape as a reminder to what he is expecting of himself on the field.

“It is something I’ve explored throughout the year, to keep my head in the game,” the defender told Sounds of the Saints.

“I want to have an edge and be a strong defender first and foremost. The ‘W’ is to want the ball - when it is in my hands, I feel like good things happen. It’s about reminding me to be confident in myself.

“The D is demand, to demand more of my teammates to step up.

“It’s more about me being a leader. I’m at that age now where I can challenge more on the field and challenge the guys to be better. It’s about me wanting to win and trying to improve my teammates.”

This leadership quality has been crucial for the relatively inexperienced St Kilda defence, and his direct feedback is something that Sinclair’s teammates value immensely. 

“Sincs is so good in the leadership space,” Highmore said.

“Like Doug (Dougal Howard), you know exactly what you are going to get, they’re so passionate and so caring at the same time.

“He can give direct feedback, but you know it’s always coming from a good place because he cares about the team and its team-first with him.”

Hugely popular around the club, one only has to look to Sinclair’s zoom background at the Trevor Barker awards - a picture of housemate Daniel McKenzie celebrating a goal - to see the type of relationships he has around the club. 

Now as he heads into the 2022 season, Sinclair will continue to look back as he moves forward, citing past performances as the motivation for what the club is capable of.

“For me, the win we had against the Bulldogs (in 2020) in the finals and walking off the ground – everyone was so happy that we’d not only made the finals, but that we’d won one,” Sinclair said.

“We got in the rooms and sung the song with all the staff, and I just think what an amazing moment that was.

“That is what fuels me, because it isn’t much fun missing out.”