A tough country boy, a quiet kid from the coast and a Northern suburbs local with – according to the Peninsula product – a “pretty gross” hairdo.

It doesn’t seem to be the most likely of friendships, but for young Saints Ben Paton, Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield, they’ve become one of the most tight-knit groups inside club walls.

The circle of mates, alongside fellow third-years Oscar Clavarino and Doulton Langlands, have spent plenty of time together as housemates or – now up in Noosa – quarantine buddies, but are happy to be in each other’s back pockets.

The three young Saints enjoy their downtime with a day out fishing. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

“We’re all different in our own way, but we all hang out and get along well,” Paton says.

“Off the field we’ll joke around and take the piss out of each other and what-not, and on-field I suppose that correlates.”

Getting stuck into Coffield’s self-maintained haircut is a well-worn starting point to poke fun at (it’s “the nature of the beast”, according to do’s proud wearer), while Clavarino has mastered the art of getting under Clark's skin.

I used to get Doulton to cut my hair, but I wouldn’t let Coff anywhere near it.  He does a bad enough job on his own, so I won’t let him touch mine.

- Hunter Clark

Paton has a bit more dirt on Coffield’s supposedly wrinkle-free, largely unopened wallet.

But on-field is where their connection has truly sung.

The fledgling trio has just 86 senior games to its name, but all three Saints have locked down key roles in St Kilda’s remodelled defence to hold out several veteran backmen.

Sunny Noosa. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

“I think it gives us the confidence that our teammates believe in us and that Ratts and our coaches believe in us,” Clark says.

“I think we’ve all done pretty well so far, so it’s just given us a boost that the club has that belief that we’re able to do this and play such a significant role for the team.”

Coffield has played his best games for the Saints over the past three weeks, with his prolific marking and intercept plays growing in tandem with his confidence and influence on games.

After a shoulder injury late in Season 2019 derailed his run, extended gym work in the off-season is now starting to reward the No. 1 on the field.

A series of repeat, critical intercept marks in defence against the Crows last Monday night was just a glimpse of it all coming together for the 20-year-old.

His strength is his marking and for a tall guy, he's pretty fast and skilful. I think we've seen in the last two weeks, Coff's started to put that all together.

- Hunter Clark on Nick Coffield

Nick Coffield baits his line. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

Clark's composure, meanwhile, has remained unwavering with his added responsibilities across half-back and through the midfield.

The Mt Martha local was sensational in Saturday's win over the top-of-the-table Power, with his poise and class with ball in hand flooring St Kilda and Port Adelaide fans alike.

His cool head across half-back (a game-high 24 disposals, five rebounds) and silkiness through heavy midfield traffic on Saturday night have shown how much his game has grown, even compared to his sensational second half of 2019.

He's pretty crafty. Some of the stuff he does, you're a bit like 'how does he do that?'.

- Ben Paton on Hunter Clark

Hunter Clark prepares to cast. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

Paton has rounded out the budding group of defenders superbly.

His largely unsung efforts have slid under the radar compared to the performances of Coffield and Clark, but his influence on the backline has been equally profound.

Paton has led the Saints for intercepts in Ben Long's absence and has charted in the top-three for marks in four out of eight games this season, all while playing critical shutdown games on some of the opposition's most damaging players.

It's the 21-year-old's no-fuss performances on players such as Kane Lambert and Brad Ebert which have made him “someone that everyone loves to play with”.

If you tell him to lock someone down and give him a role like that, you know he’s going to get it done, regardless of the player and who they are, he just finds a way.

- Nick Coffield on Ben Paton

Ben Paton reels in this first catch of the evening. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

St Kilda’s backline remains one of the youngest and comparatively inexperienced defences in the league, with senior defenders Jake Carlisle and Jarryn Geary boasting four times more experience between them compared to the young contingent.

Dougal Howard only tipped over the 50-game mark last fortnight, while rookie pick-up Callum Wilkie is yet to miss a game after debuting in Round 1 last season.

A big driver in the emerging trio's confidence has been St Kilda great and backline coach Aaron Hamill.

‘Sammy’ has been formative in all of their respective developments, from Sandringham VFL to their rise through the ranks of the red, white and black.

Over the past four years, he’s helped get them through confidence dips and lulls in form to sculpt the three young men into the Saints’ next generation of defenders.

He’s also quick to rip into Coffield's haircut whenever the opportunity arises.

A perfect day out. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

"He’s unreal, he’s always trying to back me in and give me the confidence to play my game,"  Coffield said.

"I know that when I’m playing he trusts me to play my role and play it well."

With the coaches’ backing, a fast-tracked gelling in the new-look backline and a strong off-field friendship to complement it, there’s a lot of upside for the young brigade.

The confidence is brimming and the results are starting to transpire.

When you know those people better so you’re going to want to play for them a lot more, and I suppose if you’re connected you can communicate well on the field and not feel like you’re playing with strangers.

- Ben Paton

Now, with the Saints set to play four games in sixteen days beginning this Saturday, it’s just a matter of keeping it going.

“We’ve won some pretty good games against Richmond, the Doggies and Port, so just being able to get wins like that under our belt while we’re a young group is pretty exciting for us,” Coffield says.

“Hopefully we can keep winning and playing the way we are together and can just keep building from there.”