At a glance:

  • Key defender Bianca Jakobsson says a clear focus on "relentless improvement" has been the driving force behind the Saints this pre-season.
  • An added emphasis on player development under Paddy Hill has been just as important heading into St Kilda's third AFLW season.
  • Jakobsson has eyes on a strong follow-up campaign in red, white and black after injury limited her appearances in 2021.

A narrowed focus on “relentless improvement” has been the Saints' driving force heading into their third AFLW campaign, according to key defender Bianca Jakobsson.

Senior coach Nick Dal Santo’s mantra of giving “absolute effort” at every training session has been front of mind during the opening weeks of pre-season, fuelling the playing group on towards an improved 2022.

“I think there’s been a huge shift,” Jakobsson told saints.com.au.

“I feel really motivated and I think that comes back to the small things that the club as a whole have put in place from last season.

“Dal mentions it all the time, but there’s just a relentless pursuit for improvement. Everyone’s just come with that in the back of their mind that we’re there to improve every session, we’re there to get better and work on our strengths and our weaknesses.

“There’s a real competitiveness around the group, a will to compete and a want to get better and improve, which is basically all Dal’s been reiterating and it’s really showing on the training track.”

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Dal Santo: The team we want to be

Bringing honest effort, having purpose. AFLW Senior Coach Nick Dal Santo sets the tone as St Kilda's pre-season ramps up.

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An added emphasis on player development has been just as pivotal this pre-season, with the Saints’ restructured coaching panel making that aspect a key focus.

Paddy Hill has assumed the role of Head of Player Development & Strategy after serving as Assistant Coach (Forwards) in 2021, with Dale Robinson and Nicole Callinan in support as development coaches.

“With Paddy coming on board (in development), there’s been real structure around all the girls’ development; not only where they’re at with their footy, but where they want to take it,” Jakobsson said.

“There’s a clear focus in everyone’s mind as to what they’re working on because of that and they can then go out and focus on that on the track.

“I think there’s a lot more that’s been put in place around us getting better as individuals, but also as a team. The drills we’re doing have real purpose for our game style and the way in which we want to execute and play on gameday.”

Bianca Jakobsson joined St Kilda during last year's Sign and Trade Period having played 20 games between Carlton and Melbourne. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

The cumulative changes across the board have rubbed off positively on Jakobsson, who now has eyes on an injury-free stint heading into her second season as a Saint.

The 28-year-old broke her collarbone during a practice match in January – incredibly returning to the field in a little over three weeks – and also suffered a corked back in her debut game for the club against North Melbourne.

This season, the unhampered Jakobsson has been able to flourish, finishing third in last month’s two-kilometre time trial with a run just over seven-and-a-half minutes.

“It just feels different and I feel like I have a real purpose when I’m at the club and a real focus on what I need to do,” Jakobsson said.

“I just want to keep getting better, keep connecting with the coaches, the staff, my teammates and hopefully have a year with no injuries unlike last year.

“I don’t think I want to put too much pressure on myself, but I just want to keep improving and keep being a good teammate and try and introduce some of my leadership skills as well.

“I’m just really enjoying my football. I love coming to the club and every time I walk in, I’m really happy to see everyone. I just feel really well-supported at the moment.”