If the Saints have had a few selection headaches leading into its first finals campaign since 2011, then there’s a selection migraine on the horizon ahead of Saturday’s elimination final.
Brett Ratten will be forced to make at least one change after Josh Battle was ruled out earlier today with foot soreness, but there’s a host of players eyeing off the utility’s place in the line-up.
Do the Saints opt for added midfield depth through the returning Zak Jones, or do they turn to the speedy Nicholas Hind to combat the Bulldogs’ run? Is experience in defence the right way to go, or does a youngster get their shot at the big time?
See who’s in the mix ahead of Saturday afternoon’s blockbuster with the Western Bulldogs.
St Kilda could be in for two massive midfield additions in as many weeks as Zak Jones firms for a place in the senior line-up.
The 25-year-old missed Round 18 against the Giants with a minor hamstring strain, but was showed no signs of concern in last week’s match simulation session.
Should Jones return to the side this weekend, he’ll be just one of three on-ballers – plus ruckman Paddy Ryder – with finals experience.
Jones was one of the Saints’ best-on-ground against the Western Bulldogs all the way back in Round 2, collecting 29 disposals, six clearances and a goal in the 39-point win.
Nicholas Hind’s journey in the AFL system has sent him to almost all corners of the country, and then some.
From his 21 games he’s played in every state/territory except for Western Australia and Canberra, and has even ventured abroad after being flown over as a last-minute emergency to Shanghai the week before his eventual debut in Townsville.
Now, the well-travelled Saint will be hoping to pack his bags for Saturday’s elimination final against the Western Bulldogs.
Hind was omitted for Round 18 against GWS, but will be desperate to reclaim his spot in the side after featuring in 10 matches this season.
The No. 40 was named in June's season restart against the Western Bulldogs where he gathered 15 disposals and was one of 10 goalkickers for the afternoon.
It’s been a long time between hit-outs for Dylan Roberton, but the experienced defender remains in the picture for a finals recall.
While the Saints’ defensive end features several players with September experience – including key defenders Dougal Howard and Jake Carlisle plus skipper Jarryn Geary – another seasoned head wouldn’t go astray.
Roberton’s leadership has been applauded throughout the challenging period, even after his lengthy spell without senior football.
And with Saturday’s elimination final drawing closer, there’s always the possibility that his patience may finally pay off.
As has been the case all season, Brett Ratten has a fair selection of defensive options to choose from heading into this week’s elimination final.
Jimmy Webster, Daniel McKenzie and Shane Savage remain in the frame, with the latter pair readily selected as emergencies throughout the course of the season.
Versatile option Jonathon Marsh shapes as a potential inclusion should the Saints opt for a taller offensive, while Ryan Abbott – picked as an emergency six times before his Round 16 late call-up – could help stretch the Dogs’ defence further.
Midfielders Jack Bytel, Ryan Byrnes and Ed Phillips are also gunning for a place in the long-awaited finals campaign along with Luke Dunstan, who has fully recovered from his pectoral injury.
The rest of the Saints’ list remains healthy with the exception of Josh Battle, who will miss Saturday afternoon’s match with foot soreness.
Round 18 line-up
IN: Carlisle, Hannebery
OUT: Hind (omitted), Jones (injured)
|B||Jake Carlisle||Dougal Howard||Callum Wilkie|
|HB||Nick Coffield||Josh Battle||Ben Long|
|C||Dan Hannebery||Hunter Clark||Bradley Hill|
|HF||Jack Billings||Tim Membrey||Dan Butler|
|F||Max King||Rowan Marshall||Jarryn Geary|
|R||Paddy Ryder||Jack Steele||Sebastian Ross|
|INT||Dean Kent||Jack Sinclair||Ben Paton|
|E||Ryan Byrnes||Shane Savage||Jonathon Marsh|