At a glance:
- Senior coach Brett Ratten believes Ben Paton has become a 'mini-JB' after being housemates with Jack Billings.
- Paton has lived with Billings since he was first drafted in 2017.
- The 21-year-old is in the running to earn a Round 2 selection after a strong pre-season.
You wouldn’t think that a household of two, young AFL players would be the most productive environment, generally speaking.
But for Ben Paton, living with Jack Billings has been massive in the formative years of his career, both on and off the field.
The young Saint has bunkered down with JB since he was drafted in 2017, settling into Melbourne’s south-east after moving from his native Albury.
And it’s something which senior coach Brett Ratten believes has been a huge benefit in cultivating the youngster’s perspective over the years.
“I think what it’s done has given him a rounded view on what AFL is about,” Ratten told saints.com.au.
Billings is held in very high regard within club walls, twice finishing in the top-five of the Trevor Barker Award.
The 24-year-old was elevated to the leadership group midway through last season, and in 2020 was voted in by his peers alongside Jarryn Geary, Dylan Roberton, Bradley Hill, Tim Membrey and Seb Ross.
“JB’s a very good mentor and Pato’s had the good fortune of living with him and watching it first-hand, so it has to rub off on you,” Ratten said.
“As we know, really good habits become engrained and that’s probably what JB’s doing for Pato here – just showing him the way.”
Paton isn’t the only Saint to benefit with an older head in-house.
Hunter Clark has moved in with Jack Lonie and has credited that to a growth in his professionalism, while Jack Bytel has been living with Dan Butler for several months.
Paton himself has shown plenty of promise this off-season, earning a Round 1 berth in a side where spots were incredibly difficult to earn.
“Pato's really developing his game, he’s a good user of the ball, goes both sides and can play small and medium height,” Ratten added.
“He’s done a good job to try and kickstart his career and to get into Round 1 was great. We’re still working through some things, but he’s trained pretty well.”
A Trade Period for the ages, a new coach, a new St Kilda. A perfect pre-season had the new-look Saints full of momentum.— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) June 7, 2020
Then, everything stopped.
The March | Ep 01. Presented by @peppermoney
And with the season restart less than a week away, Ratten will have a tough task ahead picking the side to get the Saints on the board.
“The next week for all these blokes is going to be really important,” Ratten said.
“Any player that was in doubt for Round 1 or had some injury issues are now pretty much cherry ripe, so the squad’s looking healthy and most should be available.”
St Kilda will meet the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on Sunday 14 June.