With St Kilda’s Round 5 fixture against Carlton rescheduled to Thursday night, Brett Ratten’s selection plans could be in for a shake-up, opening the door for two young Saints to make their debuts.
With Zak Jones in doubt for this week’s clash due to hamstring tightness, Jack Bytel’s natural grunt could be the perfect replacement come Thursday night.
The former Calder Cannons co-captain was touted as a top-five draft pick last season, before niggling back issues saw him slip down the draft order to pick No. 41.
Surgery to repair a bulging disc ruled the sturdy mid out for Season 2019, resulting in all eyes turning towards what Bytel would do in 2020.
Now, under the Thursday night lights of Marvel Stadium, the 20-year-old may finally get his crack at a senior debut.
Bytel has been a standout in the Saints’ past two scratch matches against Collingwood and Richmond, racking up plenty of inside possessions in tandem with Ryan Byrnes.
A year-long back rehabilitation has been frustrating for the young Saint, but senior selection for Thursday night would be the perfect pay-off for his patience.
There’s one in every draft class, and Ryan Byrnes might just be the bolter who catches everyone by surprise.
Snapped up by the Saints with pick No. 52 in the 2019 National Draft, the 19-year-old is a ready-made footballer, boasting a 180cm and 80kg frame.
The former Sandringham Dragons captain averaged 25 disposals per game in his draft year, and has carried that form directly into his practice outings for the red, white and black.
Byrnes starred in St Kilda’s two scratch matches alongside Bytel, booting two goals to complement his impressive numbers against the Tigers.
With serious breakaway speed and plaudits from his teammates, Byrnes could slot right into the senior line-up for Thursday evening’s marquee match.
The effectiveness of a dual-ruck rollout has generated quite a bit of conversation, but it’s difficult to look past Paddy Ryder.
The All Australian ruckman was a late withdrawal from last week’s match against Richmond, but will look to squeeze back into the starting 22 for Thursday night.
While Ryder’s first-rate tapwork speaks for itself, the ability for the big man to swing forward and clunk contested marks could be a serious weapon in bringing down the Carlton defence.
With Jacob Weitering and Sam Docherty in sublime form, adding another tall target to the attack could stretch the Blues’ backline thin and get the Saints on the scoreboard.
Whether he’s additional relief for Rowan Marshall in the ruck or another focal point in attack, there could certainly be room for Ryder in this week’s line-up.
With a seven-day break becoming five yesterday morning, the shorter turnaround has cast doubt into the availability of several prospective Saints.
Jarryn Geary will resume training full training in a bid to return for Round 5, while Jimmy Webster will also have less time to force his way back in.
In a big injury blow for the Saints, Luke Dunstan will miss a significant chunk of the season after tearing his pectoral muscle in last Saturday’s practice match against Richmond.
Zak Jones will be monitored during the week with hamstring tightness.
The 25-year-old would more than likely be a certain starter if not for the amended five-day turnaround.
Midfielders Jack Sinclair and Ed Phillips continue to press their cases for a senior berth, while Daniel McKenzie has entered the selection conversation in recent weeks.
Round 4 line-up
IN: Battle, Kent
OUT: Ryder (soreness), Hind (omitted)
|B||Dougal Howard||Jake Carlisle||Callum Wilkie|
|HB||Ben Long||Josh Battle||Hunter Clark|
|C||Jack Billings||Zak Jones||Bradley Hill|
|HF||Dan Butler||Tim Membrey||Dean Kent|
|F||Jack Lonie||Max King||Jonathon Marsh|
|R||Rowan Marshall||Jack Steele||Dan Hannebery|
|INT||Nick Coffield||Jade Gresham||Sebastian Ross|
|E||Ed Phillips||Jack Sinclair||Daniel McKenzie|