A seamless collection from centre bounce yesterday against West Coast was the textbook display of Marcus Windhager’s potential with Sherrin in hand.

Clean, powerful and effective, the 19-year-old midfielder’s break from the middle – and again when he almost replicated the act along the boundary line later in the contest – looked as if he’d been in the game far longer than what his 14-game tally would suggest.

But it’s without the ball tucked under his arm where Windhager has arguably had the greatest impact on his team.

Despite accruing a career-best 23 touches of his own at Optus Stadium, the story of Sunday afternoon was his shutdown role on Tim Kelly, who was restricted to four touches courtesy of the young Saint’s tone-setting efforts.

Windhager’s performance was close to top billing between the Saints’ supporter circles post-game, and certainly didn’t slip past the gaze of captain Jack Steele.

“Marcus set the tone with his role and everyone else was there to support him,” Steele told saints.com.au post-match.

“I had a few words with him at Captain’s Run on Saturday. I just said to him to make sure he’s demanding of others in-game. Obviously everyone is going to try their best to help him out and get the job done, but I said to him that he needs to also demand it of us as well.

02:21 Mins
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RD19 | 'It was such a team performance': Steele after Round 19 win

St Kilda Captain Jack Steele spoke to STK Media following our Round 19 win over the Eagles

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“He’s a first-year player and might not feel comfortable to do that, but it’s important that he’s getting boys to help him out if he’s out of position or whatnot.

“I’m very proud of him. He’s such a driven kid and I was so happy for him finding out he’d kept Tim Kelly to four or five touches.

To get that done went a long way to winning the game. We’re all proud of Windy and what he did, that was such a team performance.

- Jack Steele on Marcus Windhager

It’s not the first time Windhager has executed in matches which have ultimately fallen in favour of the Saints.

Tagging roles on Touk Miller and Sam Docherty against Gold Coast and Carlton respectively have proven vital, while from a positional sense, covering off the corridor to prevent Geelong from slicing its way up the middle was a contributing factor in the Round 9 come-from-behind win.

Brett Ratten and midfield coach Ben McGlynn were strong on the idea of Windhager taking up the role on Kelly in the lead-up to the game and even on the flight over to Perth, with some final words of advice from Steele and Seb Ross giving Windhager the green light to crack in.

It was a physical and bruising encounter filled with scuffles from siren-to-siren, but one which his teammates – from Brad Crouch in the guts laying down a hard tackle on Kelly or Hunter Clark communicating when he was moving forward – made easier by pinching in to get the job done as a team. 

“For me it was just being on the back of him all day, just getting physical around the contest,” Windhager told saints.com.au.

“The boys were supporting me, picking me up if I got hit off the ball, but big Ro, Steeley, Crouch, Sebby all in the middle, they were super and helped me heaps.

“With a bit of help from the boys in the middle and down back communicating to me made it a lot easier.

“From my debut to now, I just feel like when I back myself in that’s when I play my best footy. At the start I was a bit tentative, just trying to get used to it as I’d never played at such a high level – the bodies, the speed, the physicality are so much greater – but I think I’ve adapted to the environment now.”

01:44 Mins
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RD19 | 'It's a pretty good feeling': Windhager after Round 19 win

Marcus Windhager spoke to STK Media following our Round 19 win against the Eagles

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