Liam Henry and Riley Bonner will make their club debuts this Saturday night against Geelong, however Ross Lyon has confirmed the Saints will be without Jack Sinclair for their season opener.

The reigning Best & Fairest was in contention to feature at GMHBA Stadium after spending the past month on a modified program managing a calf complaint, but was ruled out for Round 1 prior to this morning’s training session.


Bonner and Henry have each impressed in their new colours, with the former poised to slot into the half-back void left by the injured Sinclair.

The duo will be accompanied by debutant Darcy Wilson, who on Tuesday was confirmed to feature against the Cats.

“Wilson’s clearly playing, Bonner will play and Henry was a great trade-in acquisition we believe,” Lyon said.

"(Sinclair's) on track. As always we have a contingency approach to rehab: tick the box and move forward, miss the box or get ahead, bring him forward. At this stage he's on track but he just needs to keep jumping those hurdles.

“Our aim is to improve. We know it’s not without challenge. You don’t have to do much wrong; even Port last year you blink and you’re 1-5 and everyone’s coming over the hill.

“Sometimes it can just be about taking opportunities or accuracy. In a sense, we’ve got a strong foundation, we’ve set some standards and our belief system is pretty strong, but we also understand - as Craig McRae said - we felt we’ve improved but others are really improving too, and we’re seeing that with Carlton and GWS.

“It’s a real reminder that it’s a brutal competition.”

After a successful first year back at the helm which yielded a finals appearance and the emergence of premium young talent, Lyon is backing in his side to better themselves across the board in this year's sequel.

“We certainly built belief. There was a lot of challenges coming in, coming together, building chemistry, building out a gameplan in a short period of time," Lyon said.

“We had well-documented senior injury problems, but out of that came a lot of opportunities for Owens, Caminiti, Sharman, Phillipou… Windhager, Wanganeen-Milera and Byrnes. 

“To be honest, no one tipped us last year to make the eight. If I spent my time pondering everyone’s summaries about us and predictions, I wouldn’t get much work done.

“(Pressure) is always there. If you’re an AFL coach, and AFL club or an AFL player, there’s always expectation, particularly the expectation on effort. We pride ourselves on effort and never giving up,  and I thought we did that. If that’s one of our measures, I think that will be the aim again.”


Geelong's revamped home deck will draw plenty of locals for their season opener, however Lyon said he was backing in the red, white and black faithful to pack the stands for the opening rounds of the season.

"We want to win, but we want to play our brand, our footy, and make our supporters proud," Lyon said.

"We'd love the Saints fans to get there, and even Round 2, and start getting on the march and getting behind us."