The possibility of being without Max King for Saturday’s match against Essendon won’t take the wind out of St Kilda’s sails, says Liam Stocker, as he and the Saints back their system in to get the job done this weekend. 

Both the Saints and Bombers face the possibility of being without their leading forwards for Saturday’s match-up, with King and Essendon’s Peter Wright to meet with the Tribunal after receiving respective charges from Round 2.

St Kilda will officially challenge King’s one-match sanction for rough conduct following his incident with Collingwood’s Finlay Macrae in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game.

Although diplomatic when asked about his teammate’s potential absence, Stocker was steadfast in his side’s ability to recapture and adhere to their brand of football, regardless of personnel.


“Whether Max is in or out, we have a ‘next man up’ mentality,” Stocker said at today’s joint media opportunity with Essendon’s Archie Perkins at East Sandringham Junior Football Club.

“A bit like the start of last year, we were missing key personnel and we’ll do the same job if we don’t have Max, and if we do, then brilliant.

“The most important aspect (of Thursday’s win) is it strengthens our resolve and our system. I think sometimes you can struggle to gain belief with your system when sometimes there’s writing on the wall or vision or edits (that) you don’t see in real-time.

“For us, we were pretty frustrated coming out of Geelong and really wanted to put our system in place, and we did exactly that.

Obviously there’s a few things to button down on, but for the most part we really felt like we got back to our way and playing our way. If we make mistakes playing our way, we’re pretty comfortable with that.

- Liam Stocker

Stocker returned to his former junior club, East Sandringham, on Monday afternoon to celebrate the return of senior and junior community football across the country as part of Local Footy Week.

The former Zebra is one of a number of players to graduate from the club’s junior ranks to AFL level, along with fellow Saint Max King, Gold Coast’s Ben King, Brownlow medallist Chris Judd and long-serving skippers Jobe Watson (Essendon) and Josh Kennedy (Sydney).

Now, Stocker is helping give back to grassroots level to inspire the next crop of men’s and women’s players in the making.

Essendon's Archie Perkins and St Kilda's Liam Stocker return to their old stomping ground for Local Footy Week. Photo: AFL Photos.

“It’s pretty cool to be back. I had so many great core memories here. I still remember something similar to this 10 years ago with Tom Lynch when he was with Adelaide,” Stocker said.

“I really understand the importance of a round like this and a culture like this when you can grow up and play footy in a safe environment.

“I think it’s really, really important into how we turn into AFL players. Coming back and realising what you got into this game for is another really important of my footy journey and plenty of others.”

Stocker, who signed a one-year extension at the end of last season, is thoroughly enjoying his time in red, white and black, having registered 25 club appearances to-date after four years spent at Carlton.

A core factor behind his flourishing form at St Kilda has been his relationship with senior coach Ross Lyon, whose two-way trust and “open door” mindset has brought out the best in the defender. 

Liam Stocker and Archie Perkins get asked all the tough questions from the East Sandringham Zebras. Photo: AFL Photos.

“It’s the most honest I’ve been with a head coach about how I’m going,” Stocker said.

“Obviously with my mental health struggles across the space of my career, I’ve really struggled with how honest I need to be with a coach and what time is right to speak about those things.

“There’s a high level of trust in him that I can go to him with things I’m worried about, but there’s also a high level of trust coming the other way when he’s very confident I can get the job done (on-field).

“I’m having so much fun doing what I’m doing. The relationship I have with Ross is so important to why I’m enjoying my football.”