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Kingsley: Young guns have the potential to develop into top-line stars

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 16: Jack Billings of the Saints (left) chats to Jade Gresham of the Saints during the 2017 AFL round 13 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the St Kilda Saints at Etihad Stadium on June 16, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Will Jack Billings and Jade Gresham take another step forward in 2018?
Hopefully over the course of this season we can start to see a lot of players develop into top-line players.
Adam Kingsley

While the Saints don’t possess a glut of superstars like some of the powerhouses of the competition, St Kilda Senior Assistant Coach Adam Kingsley believes they might be the time spring replaces winter this year.

Reigning Trevor Barker Award winner, Seb Ross, and the man who finished just behind him in the best and fairest, Dylan Roberton, are two players who elevated their standings in the game last year, providing clear examples of what is possible in the space of a season.

With another pre-season drilled into budding stars Jack Billings, Jade Gresham and Jack Sinclair, plus a fully fit Jack Steven, Kingsley is confident the perception that St Kilda lacks star power will change in 2018.

“It isn’t a restricting factor and won’t dictate whether you win or lose, but hopefully over the course of this season we can start to see a lot of players develop into top-line players and start being recognised as that too," Kingsley told The Age.

“Guys like [Jack] Billings and [Jade] Gresham, we are looking to see Jack Steven reproduce his best football after a season last year ruined by hamstring tendinitis.

“Seb Ross is progressing really well, Jack Sinclair is elite according to Champion Data. We feel we have got the people there who can become those top-line players albeit not being recognised that way yet.”

Kingsley expects Billings, who the Saints chose with the third pick in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, to split his time between half-forward and the wing this season, where he can best utilise his precise left boot.

“I think he will play high half-forward and wing and inside this year,” Kingsley said.

“He did a little bit of work over the summer as an inside midfielder. When he gets outside he is quite effective for us both forward and midfield.

“He will probably get a bit more attention ... from the opposition. Being able to flick him around a bit, he is flexible in the way he plays, that will help him and it will help us.”

After missing last Wednesday night’s opening JLT Community Series game against Carlton due to a minor hamstring strain, Billings is expected to play in the final game of the pre-season when the Saints face Melbourne on Thursday night.