ST KILDA coach Alan Richardson doesn’t expect the new sub rule to compromise the Saints' plans and strategies for 2014, although he admits there has been a greater emphasis on endurance this summer.
“The reality is that from an overall team perspective we’ve looked to run a bit harder,” Richardson said following St Kilda’s intra-club practise match on Saturday.
“Irrespective of the sub rule change, it’s probably an area we’ve looked to get better at.”
Last August the AFL confirmed that interchange rotations will be capped at 120 per game for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, based on recommendations from the AFL’s football operations department.
Certain teams in the latter half of 2013 regularly averaged upwards of 140 interchanges per game, while St Kilda regularly hovered around the 130 mark.
“We only have to drop between 10 and 12 rotations so we aren’t too far off the mark. It won’t be a really big issue for us,” Richardson said.
At the forefront of this ambition for greater endurance is Leigh Montagna, a renowned gut runner who is likely to spend more time resting forward this season rather than on the bench.
“Montagna is in really good shape, he’s had a fantastic pre-season and I don’t think he’s missed a session.”
The 30-year-old was his usual typically-polished-self on Saturday, but it’s the Saints new-look defence that has Richardson most excited ahead of the NAB Challenge.
“Delaney and Bruce have been introduced into the footy club to be able to play in that [key defensive] position,” he said.
“Fisher isn’t necessarily a full-back, but he’s a big bloke and is up and running again. Gwilty is also able to play as a key defender depending on the match-up. I think we are going to be in pretty good shape down there.”
Another new arrival to the club is Billy Longer, the 20-year-old joining Tom Hickey and Lewis Pierce in the Saints ruck division.
“We have a really significant focus on improvement and development across the board and it’s probably typified by our rucks in many ways. We’ve decided to go young so we’ll support that with a really strong program.”
“[Darren] Jolly will come in and play a really significant role there. [Simon] McPhee, [Paul] Hudson and [Lindsay] Gilbee as development coaches have got really critical role to make sure we fast-track these guys.”
“If we are going to improve, and that’s clearly our plan, then those guys need to come along quickly.”
Richardson advocated the benefits of developing a successful culture - however for the next month winning practise games comes second to preparing for St Kilda’s clash with Melbourne on Saturday March 22 at Etihad Stadium.
“We will use NAB Challenge to prepare for round one and continue to focus on some new strategy such as offensive and defensive methods,” Richardson said.
“We will use the NAB Challenge to continue to grow with respect to all those areas. We’ll review our performance really strongly and use it as really strong preparation.”
You can follow Tom Morris on Twitter: @tommorris32