The fans have spoken, and as voted by you, Jack Hayes is this week’s Dare Iced Coffee Sainter of the Round.
Hayes’ transition from the SANFL to AFL may have come “out of the blue”, but the 26-year-old debutant was unfazed on the Friday night stage, delivering a captivating first-up performance to almost edge his side over the line against a new-look Collingwood.
The No. 47 closed out his first night as a Saint with 18 disposals (11 contested), 10 score involvements, eight score involvements and three crucial goals, finishing as the highest rated player on the ground.
His mammoth third quarter (eight disposals, three marks, two goals) helped swing momentum back St Kilda’s way after the margin blew out to a game-high 35 points, with the big man's influence up forward, as a relieving ruckman and as a tall target between the arcs unmatched by any other Saint.
While Hayes’ goalkicking ability and comfort reeling in contested marks were apparent on the big stage, his tidy disposal (90 per cent efficiency) was just as proficient. A clinical, opposite-foot kick inside-50 during his tide-turning third term – which threaded perfectly between two Collingwood defenders – was the perfect example, as was his form in front of goal.
It was less than six months ago that Hayes had come off a sensational SANFL season, complete with back-to-back SANFL Premierships with Woodville-West Torrens, captaincy honours for South Australia, the coveted Jack Oatey Medal and a podium finish at that year’s Magarey Medal.
Skipper Jack Steele earned two votes for his 28-disposal effort under the roof, ending the evening as one of St Kilda’s leading contributors.
The reigning Best & Fairest added to his display with seven tackles and six clearances, with his work around stoppages important as Collingwood’s dangerous form through the middle of the ground began to pick up.
Steele was accompanied through the midfield by Jade Gresham (24 disposals, two goals) for the first time since Round 3, 2021, along with on-ball regulars Brad Crouch (27 disposals) and Seb Ross (19).
Jack Sinclair rounds out this week’s voting, with the runner-up from last year’s Trevor Barker Award picking up where he left off in 2021.
The revamped half-back collected 25 disposals, five rebound-50s and a game-high 599 metres gained, as well as a much-needed goal to kick off his side’s third-term revival.
Alongside his usual role in defence, Sinclair spent extended minutes through the midfield on Friday night, with his pace and clean use forward of the ball giving the Saints a fresh look at the contest during the third term.