There's officially a full-stop on pre-season with St Kilda's AAMI Community Series clash against North Melbourne officially in the books.

Here are five key takeaways as the red, white and black turn its attention towards its season opener against Geelong later this month.


Who comes into the backline mix?

With the Saints’ backline facing potential absentees via Jimmy Webster and Dougal Howard - plus Jack Sinclair being touch-and-go to face Geelong - there could be some readjustments to the make-up on the cards less than a fortnight out from Round 1.

Riley Bonner was certainly doing his chances at Saints debut no harm with his impressive pre-season run, but could just about be a lock to take on the Cats after another crisp outing on Sunday.

The running half-back amassed a team-high 30 disposals to accompany his seven inside-50s, six rebound-50s, 727 metres gained and a goal to boot in the 19-point win over North Melbourne, putting his name firmly in contention for the Saints’ opening games.

Zaine Cordy only played a handful of minutes in place of Dougal Howard (suspected hamstring) yesterday, however could easily step into the key defensive post should his teammate miss some football.

Meanwhile, Arie Schoenmaker showed good signs with 16 disposals and 11 marks in his first hit-out in club colours, while Josh Battle is expected to slot straight back into the squad after sitting out Sunday as a precaution following a knee knock last week.

New faces place their bids

There were four first-time Saints named for last year’s season opener against Fremantle, and it’s looking like there could be a similar number featuring at GMHBA Stadium this time around.

Liam Henry and Riley Bonner are firming towards first-up appearances in red, white and black after an impressive body of work in their first year at the club; Henry’s pace and creativity a particular standout to complement Ross Lyon’s fast-paced, transition-based gameplan.

Draftee Darcy Wilson (24 disposals, 644 metres gained) fits into that mold as well having put together another commendable display at RSEA Park on Sunday, while fellow draftee Hugo Garcia hasn’t looked out of his depth after being thrust into centre bounces, despite having just nine touches on the weekend.

Arie Schoenmaker came into Sunday’s line-up in the place of the rested Josh Battle (knee), accruing a game-high 11 marks in a well-rounded outing, while Lance Collard came within inches of kicking a pre-season Goal of the Year contender in the third term tucked up against the boundary line against blustery winds.

Liam Henry can play

There’s only been a small sample size in Saints colours, however Liam Henry’s bag of party tricks is looking very, very deep.

Everyone knows sizzling speed and creative foot skills are the 22-year-old’s bread and butter, but it was his astounding goal from the boundary nearing the close of the day’s play that took that to another level.

A desperate spoil back with the flight, pick-up off the deck and lightning-quick acceleration away before jamming home a brilliant banana off just a few steps was the highlight of the afternoon; the magical major just a slice of what could transpire in the ensuing weeks.


Skipper Steele the real deal

If Jack Steele keeps on building in the direction he is currently, the skipper is firming towards a return to his strongest football in 2024.

The No. 9 has done a mountain of work over the pre-season after an injury-hit 2023, putting in a mountain of work over the past few months to enter the new year "guns a-blazing", according to teammate Liam Stocker, and the early fruits were shown on Sunday.

Jack Steele put together another influential performance against North Melbourne. Photo: Felix Curtis.

Steele (21 disposals, nine tackles) was again among the Saints' against the Roos as he looks to pick up where he left off from last season's terrific September showing against GWS; his contest work, leadership and strength in-close earning multiple commendations from his teammates post-game.

While not quite the high numbers from this two All-Australian seasons, the impact Steele is having on his side and his teammates is well and truly on the up.

Tall timber deliver again

Multiple avenues to goal unsurprisingly means less reliance on any one player, and it’s certainly showed on the scoreboard over the past two weeks.

It’s two successive weeks now that Max King, Tim Membrey and Cooper Sharman have bagged multiple majors against opposition, with the three-pronged offensive providing the Saints’ ball-users with several options to keep opposition defenders on their toes. 

It was admittedly hard going for St Kilda’s tall stocks after quarter-time with the trio held goalless up until the final term (and to just two behinds in the third quarter), but it was in that last stanza where the big men stood up to the plate.

Cooper Sharman reels in a clutch mark late in the contest to extend the Saints' lead in the fourth quarter. Photo: AFL Photos.

Membrey’s composure to put the Saints back in front came at a vital time as North Melbourne looked to build upon its slender advantage, before Sharman took to the skies to reel in a brilliant grab and give his side a handy buffer with the breeze moments later.

Add in Mitch Owens (two goals) to the mix and his contested marking prowess both inside the arc and higher up the ground, and the Saints’ multiple avenues to goal are solidifying as a promising prospect heading into 2024.