An influx of new talent, including high-profile recruits Bradley HillPaddy Ryder and Zak Jones, was instantly pinned as being a crucial factor in St Kilda's rise up the ladder.

But it wasn't just the new blood that played a critical role in the Saints' surge into finals football.

The meteoric rise of Jack Steele into an All-Australian, premier midfielder caught the AFL world by storm, the continued rise of Rowan Marshall played a vital hand up forward and in the ruck, while the contributions of Jade Gresham and Dan Hannebery before injury struck were equally formative.

With time in hubs fast-tracking the new group's cohesion and wins on the board away from home showing as a result, there was plenty to like from the reshuffled midfield contingent.

Jack Steele

Games (2020): 19
Games (career): 
Season averages:
 22 disposals, 11 contested possessions, five clearances, five tackles
Best game: Round 13 v Brisbane, 25 disposals, 10 tackles, six inside-50s, one goal
Key stat: First for St Kilda's disposals, contested possessions, clearances, tackles, pressure acts, inside-50s, goal assists and score involvements

A monster season from Jack Steele reaped plenty of individual awards and played a major role in getting St Kilda into finals. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

“He probably doesn’t get the accolades he should.”

They were the words of then-caretaker coach Brett Ratten late last season, who credited Jack Steele for continuing to stand tall amid a tumultuous year for the club.

But in 2020, after Ratten released the 24-year-old as a fully-fledged two-way midfielder, the league-wide recognition came flooding in.

Hellbent on dragging the Saints up the ladder and oftentimes playing like a man possessed, the modest Steele pulled in his maiden Trevor Barker Award, secured All-Australian honours and earned top-five finishes in the AFL Players’ Association Most Valuable Player and AFL Coaches’ Association Champion Player of the Year.

An equal-third finish at the 2020 Brownlow Medal – with maximum votes in four games – was the perfect salute to cap off his phenomenal crusade.

Steele was among the red, white and black's best almost every week, and although the former hunter found himself as the hunted several times throughout the year, he rarely had his colours lowered.   

Zak Jones

Games (2020): 16
Games (career): 
Season averages:
 19 disposals, 10 contested possessions, four clearances, four tackles
Best game: Round 2 v Western Bulldogs, 29 disposals, six clearances, three tackles, one goal
Key stat: Second for St Kilda's ground-ball gets and clearances, third for tackles and contested possessions 

Zak Jones was unswerving in his inside efforts in 2020. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

After spending time as a wingman and half-back during his time at Sydney, Zak Jones packed a punch in his new colours as a pivotal inside midfielder.

The lifelong Saints fan inherited the club's famous No. 3 and lived up to the mantle through his workman-like ethic, courage at the coalface and toughness with ball in hand.

Jones was a vital cog in getting St Kilda’s engine room up and running, finishing in the top-three for clearances, tackles and contested possessions despite missing three games through separate injuries.

Starring efforts against the Western Bulldogs and Essendon – his 100th game – marked the hard-nut's best performances of the year, while a goal against his old side in Round 9 was the icing on top of the cake.

Paddy Ryder

Games (2020): 14
Games (career): 
Season averages:
 21 hit-outs, 34.6% hit-outs to advantage, two marks, one goal
Best game: Round 8 v Port Adelaide, 29 hit-outs, 10 disposals, two goals
Key stat: First for St Kilda's hit-outs and hit-outs to advantage, equal-first for score launches

Paddy Ryder is chaired off the ground after his 250th match. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

Determined to make a point after being shown the door at Alberton, Paddy Ryder made waves at his third club to be a pivotal figure for the young side daring to make the top-eight.

First-class tapwork and dominance above his shoulders punctuated the 257-gamer’s year, with his clinical ruck craft all around the clock gifting St Kilda's on-ballers pristine use.

Ryder boasted one of the best hit-outs to advantage rates in the league by season's end (34.6%) and backed up his elite impact on the scoreboard with 10 goals – six of which came from his last five games of the year.

A hamstring tendon injury cruelly ruled the veteran out of a semi-final berth, but without his mammoth efforts throughout the year and in the elimination finals, an October berth would have remained a dream.

Rowan Marshall

Games (2020): 19
Games (career): 
Season averages:
 15 hit-outs, 14 disposals, four marks, three clearances, two contested marks
Best game: Round 16 v Hawthorn, 14 disposals, eight marks, three marks inside-50, two goals
Key stat: Equal-first for St Kilda's contested marks and score launches, second for hit-outs, hit-outs to advantage, inside-50s and contested possessions, third for clearances, fourth for metres gained

Another stellar year from Rowan Marshall. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

With Paddy Ryder joining the red, white and black's ranks heading into Season 2020, many feared the inclusion would be a hinderance to Rowan Marshall's development as the Saints' No. 1 ruckman.

But doubts were quickly allayed when Ryder began to show his class at centre bounce and Marshall thrived both in the ruck and up forward.

Marshall was superb as a marking target in attack, yielding an equal team-high 30 contested marks for a return of 13 goals, while his skill in the clearances, hit-outs and contested ball had barely diminished despite increased minutes in the offensive end.

The Portland product finished fourth in the 2020 Trevor Barker Award after a second-placed finish last season, and also polled eight votes at the Brownlow Medal to sit equal-second with Dan Butler in the club’s count. 

Seb Ross

Games (2020): 16
Games (career): 
Season averages: 
18 disposals, seven defensive-half pressure acts, five score involvements, three clearances, three tackles
Best game: 
Round 16 v Hawthorn, 23 disposals, eight clearances, seven inside-50s
Key stat: 
Third for St Kilda's score involvements, fourth for score launches

Seb Ross tracks down the Sherrin.

After shouldering a great deal of midfield responsibility in his second Trevor Barker Award-winning year, Seb Ross was finally able to share the load in 2020.

The vice-captain played numerous team roles throughout the course of the year, sacrificing his usual high-disposal numbers on the inside to negate the impact of the opposition's most destructive players. 

Triple Norm Smith medallist Dustin Martin and Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli were two of the high-calibre players to have Ross hot on their heels, with the latter reined in during the heart-racing elimination final.

Despite missing three matches with a calf injury, Ross finished in the top-10 of this year's Trevor Barker Award for the fifth consecutive year.

Bradley Hill

Games (2020): 19
Games (career): 
Season averages: 
15 disposals, 11 effective disposals, 297 metres gained
Best game: 
Round 16 v Hawthorn, 22 disposals, three inside-50s, 484 metres gained
Key stat: 
First for St Kilda’s metres gained, uncontested possessions, fourth for effective kicks

Bradley Hill takes off along the wing of TIO Traeger Park. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

As the prized recruit of the Saints' mammoth trade haul, Bradley Hill's arrival at RSEA Park undeniably came with lofty, external expectations.

The wheels started to gain momentum as the triple-Premiership Hawk found his footing in the new side, with his outside dash and positioning along the wings providing a dangerous outlet for the Saints.

While conversations inevitably compared his disposal numbers from the year prior, the damaging bursts of Hill's impact and his superb hard-running began to show, particularly in crucial patches of games.

A 12-disposal final quarter against Melbourne and prominent roles against Essendon, Richmond and Hawthorn marked some of the 27-year-old's best for the year.

Hill was inducted into the club's leadership group at the beginning of the season and represented the All Stars in the AFL's State of Origin Bushfire Relief Game in February.

Jack Billings

Games (2020): 19
Games (career): 
Season averages: 
18 disposals, three inside-50s, 283 metres gained
Best game: 
Round 2 v Western Bulldogs, 24 disposals, five inside-50s, three goals
Key stat: 
Second for St Kilda’s effective disposals, metres gained, uncontested possessions, fourth for inside-50s

Jack Billings dishes the ball out to a passing teammate against Gold Coast.

An integral part of the midfield fabric and a clean user heading into attack, Jack Billings continued to highlight his importance in the remodelled midfield unit.

The hard-running wingman worked himself into brilliant positions around the ground to rack up uncontested ball and gain valuable territory, charting second in each statistic by the end of the year.

Complementing Billings' midfield class was his ability to hit the scoreboard, with the classy on-baller one of 10 Saints to tip over double figures in the goalkicking tally.

A three-goal haul against the Western Bulldogs in Round 2 marked his best outing for the year, while his growth as a leader of the club continued to gain traction after being inducted as an official member of the leadership group in 2020.

Jack Sinclair

Games (2020): 12
Games (career): 
Season averages: 
14 disposals, five ground-ball gets, three inside-50s, three tackles, one goal assist
Best game: 
Round 9 v Sydney, 15 disposals, seven tackles, seven clearances
Key stat: 
Third for St Kilda’s goal assists

Jack Sinclair was named as an emergency for the first seven games of the year before holding his spot all the way up to the semi-final. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

Being named as an emergency for seven straight matches would be more than enough to test anyone's resilience.

But hard work and a positive attitude ultimately paid dividends for Jack Sinclair, who locked down his place in the best 22 after returning to the senior line-up in Round 8.

Lightning-quick and offering a crucial link in offensive chains, the 25-year-old's impact was immediate and continued to grow as the Saints headed towards a drought-breaking finals campaign.

Sinclair's ability to scoop up the loose ball, gain territory and drive his side into offence added a dangerous layer to St Kilda's engine room, while seamless transition between inside-mid, half-forward and wingman only bolstered his importance to the new-look line-up.

Dan Hannebery

Games (2020): 8
Games (career): 
Season averages: 
18 disposals, three inside-50s, three clearances, two tackles
Best game: 
Elimination final v Western Bulldogs, 19 disposals, five inside-50s, two clearances
Key stat: 
Top-10 for St Kilda’s total clearances

Dan Hannebery's late return after undergoing hamstring surgery was a massive boost in the club's finals march.

Season 2020 looked like it would be a similar story to Dan Hannebery's injury-hampered first year as a Saint. 

What began as a minor hamstring strain in Round 5 worsened to a separate hamstring tendon injury by Round 8, ultimately forcing the former Swan to fly back to Victoria for surgery.

But it wasn't the end for Hannebery, who put in a mountain of work to rebuild his body, board the last flight up to Queensland and ultimately return for the last home-and-away match of the year.

The 29-year-old's experience and leadership on-field played a critical role in the Saints' first finals campaign in nine years, with an steadying role against the Western Bulldogs pushing the club into a semi-final.

Jade Gresham

Games (2020): 11
Games (career): 
Season averages: 
18 disposals, seven ground-ball gets, five clearances, three inside-50s
Best game: 
Round 9 v Sydney, 23 disposals, eight inside-50s, two goals
Key stat: 
Third for St Kilda's centre clearances, fourth for total clearances

Injury limited Jade Gresham to just 11 games this season. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

A permanent injection into the Saints’ inside brigade began to realise Jade Gresham’s full potential, before a season-ending back injury brought his run to an end.

The industrious on-baller was earlier sidelined with a PCL injury from the season opener, but returned from the league’s two-month shutdown in top condition.

It was enough for Brett Ratten to throw Gresham the challenge of transforming from a good servant to a great player, with the State of Origin representative taking up the gauntlet in the ensuing weeks.

The 23-year-old featured in the top-three of the Saints’ clearance counts eight times from Rounds 2-11, with his energetic presence at stoppage, collects at ground-level and scraps to gain territory becoming stapes of the club’s midfield.

Stress fractures in his lower back ultimately benched Gresham after Round 11, and despite joining Dan Hannebery in a late-September quarantine, was ruled out for the remainder of the season.