Not all heroes wear capes.
Some, like Jack Steele, opt for a No. 9 guernsey instead.
Cult hero Fraser Gehrig was the most formidable Saint to represent the now-famous number, with its reputation forged from uncompromising toughness and the terror it evoked in the opposition.
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Although Steele doesn’t have the physical characteristics or sheer fear factor of G-Train, his terrorising of the opposition and hardened approach has carried on the guernsey’s legacy.
And it’s through his unrelenting attitude and striking on-field presence that has the 24-year-old in the hotseat for this season’s Trevor Barker Award.
There’s no doubt of Steele’s tackling prowess, with his unwavering focus seeing him record the highest number of tackles in the league this year (164).
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His stellar season produced the best tackling average (8.2) behind Melbourne one-gamer, Kade Chandler, while he also ranked third in the competition for average pressure acts (27.1) and defensive half pressure acts (13.7) per game.
Given Steele’s commitment, it’s no surprise the midfield bull topped the total tackle count for 12 of his 20 matches – five of which charted above 10 tackles.
The tackling machine fell one short of the VFL/AFL record for most tackles in a match following his masterclass against North Melbourne (18), catapulting him back in the running for the league’s top honour after two games on the sidelines through injury.
Steele’s extraordinary 2019 campaign also saw him move only behind Lenny Hayes (177) for the most St Kilda tackles in a season, despite the No. 7’s five additional games that year.
The Canberra product’s physical ascendancy was complemented brilliantly by his ability to win his own footy.
Each performance has served as another step in his evolution towards becoming an elite midfielder of the competition – one whose incredible versatility makes him nothing short of volatile.
The on-ball beast charted 20+ disposal performances 16 times this season – a season-high 28 disposals and 10 tackles against Carlton among his best of the year.
Steele also averaged almost 10 contested possessions per game, ranking third for the Saints.
And he’s done so while going head-to-head with some of the league’s most phenomenal talents.
Steele’s tagging role and successes in blanketing powerhouses Patrick Cripps, Nat Fyfe and Ben Cunnington, among others, has highlighted the incredible season he’s pieced together.
Rarely having his colours lowered, Steele’s unshakable dedication to the red, white and black was a constant inspiration for his teammates.
When the going got tough, the No. 9 never threw in the towel, instead throwing himself even harder at the contest to edge the Saints over the line.
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He’s a traditional blue-collar player – one who will roll up his sleeves, put in the hard work and go about his business without any fuss.
His humility and team-first mentality frequently sees him fly under the radar, despite the record-breaking performances, durability and consistency every week.
While starved of the recognition he deserves, a Trevor Barker Award may turn the conversation in his favour.
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