THE FAMOUS Long name has come to St Kilda, with the Saints drafting Ben Long, a relative of Essendon great Michael and his son Jake, on Friday night.
Long, 19, was overlooked in last year's NAB AFL Draft, but rebounded with an outstanding 2016 season, both in the Under-18 Championships with Northern Territory and the Allies and in the VFL with Footscray, where he kicked six goals in the preliminary final.
The Saints liked what they saw and selected Long with their first pick, No.25, on Friday night.
St Kilda recruiting manager Tony Elshaug said the Saints had been impressed by Long's ability to improve every time he stepped up to a tougher competition, and by his mix of speed, class and toughness.
The Saints already boast one of the most exciting young forward lines in the competition with Josh Bruce, Paddy McCartin and Tim Membrey, but had no hesitation in adding 192cm forward Josh Battle to that mix.
Elshaug said Battle, taken at pick No.39, would take time to force his way into the Saints' team, but had qualities that would complement those of Bruce, McCartin and Membrey.
"You don't want to put a ceiling on them but clearly he's 18 and Paddy is 20, Tim's 22 and Josh Bruce is 24, so we think we've got a good mix there," Elshaug said.
"Over a period of time, they're not all going to play every week for obvious reasons – it's a pretty combative game, somebody's going to get hurt from time to time – but we believe he's a good addition to the club."
Selection No.25 – Ben Long
Tony Elshaug says: "Ben can play at both ends of the ground as a flanker. He's tough, wins a good ground ball, he tackles very strongly and has a good attack on the ball. He's also a good kick, has good speed and can go lateral. We were pleased with his Championships and then at Melbourne Grammar in between, but then he stepped up to Footscray in the VFL and played some good footy there. We just thought each time he played he improved."
Selection No.39 – Josh Battle
Tony Elshaug says: "A medium forward who comes up at the ball and he's a good goalkicker and kicked nearly 40-odd goals in the TAC Cup and should complement the forwards we have at the club. He's also an elite runner and a good young man."
Selection No.56 – Edward Phillips
Tony Elshaug says: "He's the brother of (Collingwood's) Tom, he's a wingman/half forward, who has good endurance and can kick right and left foot. We felt he improved as the season went on. He's a good character and did all the work, he's very reliable. We were pleased with what he did in the back half of the season. He played on Hugh McCluggage in a TAC Cup final and did a good job. He can take a good mark overhead so he provides a good mix to the midfielders we already have."