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Wilkie ends record drought following stellar debut season

St Kilda great Stephen Milne presents Callum Wilkie with his famous No. 44 jumper. St Kilda great Stephen Milne presents Callum Wilkie with his famous No. 44 jumper.

Callum Wilkie broke ground in his first year at St Kilda. 

It was a debut season few could only dream of, with the No. 44 emerging from relative obscurity into one of the Saints’ first-picked players every week. 

Remarkably consistent, trustworthy and measured, the 2018 North Adelaide best-and-fairest took incredible strides in establishing the foundations of a prosperous career. 

WILKIE'S RISE: From state-league to first-picked

But the former accountant was also breaking long-standing club droughts in the process. 

Wilkie was the first Saint in 24 years to play every game in his debut year, the impressive feat last achieved by Steven Sziller all the way back in 1995. 

Gilbert McAdam (1991), Mark Gamble (1986), Peter Kiel (1982) and Russell Greene (1974) each played the maximum number of games in their first year at St Kilda. 

With the exception of Greene, all were mature-age recruits. 

Of the unique group, the 23-year-old Wilkie notched up the most marks (113), and is likely to have topped the rebound-50s count (74), however that statistic wasn’t recorded until 1998. 

The rebounding defender’s ability to read the play saw him top his side’s intercept possessions (130) and intercept marks (45), while charting second for total spoils (75). 

The left-footer was just as sharp with his kicking, operating at over 84% disposal efficiency with an average of 15 possessions per game. 

His maiden year hasn’t gone unnoticed, the likes of Seb Ross and Brett Ratten applauding his reliability against some of the game’s most seasoned forwards. 

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It's hard to believe he's only played 18 games. @callumwilkie_ has been a revelation in 2019.

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It’s hard to believe given the superb year he’s had, but it wasn’t until Jake Carlisle, Dylan Roberton and Nathan Brown were all ruled out of Round 1 that Wilkie got the call-up. 

The Roosters premiership player was thrust into the limelight, making his debut alongside fellow draftee, Matty Parker. 

A solid 11 touches, nine one-percenters, eight spoils and four intercept marks signalled the beginning, with Wilkie’s influence growing with each passing game. 

The mature-age Saint starred against Hawthorn with 21 disposals and eight intercepts, before backing it up against Carlton (19 disposals, six marks), North Melbourne (nine marks) and Fremantle (17 disposals, seven rebounds). 

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After being overlooked every year since 2014, Wilkie could be forgiven for thinking his shot at the big-time had passed him by. 

But doing it the hard way through the rookie draft has reaped enormous rewards, with the No. 44 trading out the suit and tie for the red, white and black. 

From the SANFL, to the rookie draft, and now, to the record books at St Kilda. 

It’s been one hell of a year for Callum Wilkie.