After a warm welcome, it was a gruelling start to the AFLW pre-season with a two-kilometre time-trial.

The excitement as the Saints’ inaugural squad gathered officially for the first time was enormous, with new faces, uniforms and a surreal sense that the wait was finally over.

After coach Peta Searle set the tone in the pre-training meeting with a mix of emotion, humour and vigour, it was down to business with a race against the clock.

The Saints hit the ground running as pre-season officially got underway.

Ali Drennan was the standout, with the midfielder charging home to eclipse young gun Isabella Shannon and recent draftee Hannah Priest.

Sam Johnson and former Adelaide forward Jess Sedunary rounded out the top-five with another chasing pack not far behind.

Shannon led the squad around the 400m track for the first two laps before Drennan motored into the lead, setting the standard with a gut-busting run.

Drennan has been part of the Saints' journey to AFLW from the beginning.

When St Kilda fielded a team in the 2018 VFL Women’s competition, it was the athletic on-baller who stood up and took charge.

She was a joint recipient of the inaugural Southern Saints best-and-fairest award, as well as being selected in the VFL Women’s Team of the Year.

Ali Drennan leads by example and represents the red, white and black with pride.

Her efforts were rewarded with a spot on North Melbourne’s list for the 2019 AFLW season.

With the Saints officially granted entry into 2020, Drennan was convinced to return to the red, white and black for the club’s historic first season.

She was again one of the stars of the Southern Saints VFL Women’s season which finished in a heartbreaking preliminary final loss.

Shannon’s run was as impressive as any on Monday night, with the 18-year-old tackling her first pre-season at open-age level.

Isabella Shannon in action at the two-kilometre time trial.

Her and fellow youngsters Molly McDonald (who rattled home in the top-10 last night) were listed by the Saints prior to the Draft under the rules that allowed teams to sign a small number of players from their region’s academy.

Alongside the highly talented Georgia Patrikios, Tarni White and Nicola Xenos, the pair will form part of a young nucleus set to make their mark at RSEA Park when the season kicks off on Sunday February 9.