At a glance:
- Jack Billings says "there are no guarantees" towards a successful 2021 campaign unless the Saints fight hard and improve on last year's promising season.
- The 25-year-old pointed to several players who have looked solid in the opening sessions of 2021, including new recruits Brad Crouch and Jack Higgins.
- Ex-Roo Mason Wood as also joined the Saints' training regimen in the hopes of being re-selected.
Success isn’t given, it’s earned. And it’s the mantra Jack Billings is sticking to as he and his Saints look to build upon their promising foundations from Season 2020.
Despite last season seeing St Kilda enter finals football – for the first time in almost a decade – and welcome a raft of game-changing recruits to the line-up, the young leader says the club will need to work even harder to back up their head-turning campaign.
“There are no guarantees for us this year,” Billings told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.
“Last year was a big step forward for the club and it was really exciting to make finals and then win that first final, but every year is different.
“We’ve identified those areas (to improve on), so we’ll get to work at training and start to implement some of those things.”
Billings is set to have two new faces flanking him this coming season through Brad Crouch and Jack Higgins, with the latter potentially shaping as a high half-forward option.
“Training two or three sessions with him (Higgins) now, you can just tell he’s got a lot of ability. He reads the game and has got great skills,” Billings said.
“I see him playing that high forward role. He’s got the ability to hit the scoreboard which we’ve seen so far from him, and he can potentially move up the ground.
“He’s got a good engine and could potentially give us a different look through the midfield which is exciting.”
Another new face on the training track is former Roo Mason Wood, who recently joined the St Kilda camp in the hopes of earning another crack at senior level.
The 27-year-old played 65 games for North Melbourne after debuting in 2014.
“He’s got a great head on his shoulders and has been around the AFL industry for a while,” Billings said.
“He’s a freak athlete and got some real good attributes, and you can never have enough of those guys. I think he’s training with us for a couple of weeks and we’ll go from there.”
More from Billings:
“He’s taking some time at the moment just weighing everything up and he’s clearly had some challenges over the last few years. He’s got a great family, three kids... and the boys love him, so he’s just going through that and the club and all the players are fully behind him. The way he fought back 12 months ago now, it was amazing and really inspiring for everyone at the footy club, especially all his teammates. He’s just working things out with his family and seeing where things are at and making sure he’s going to make the best decisions going forward."
"Crouchy’s fitted in really well. He’s a great man, obviously a quality player, he’s experienced and he’s slotted in seamlessly. He’s training really well and just getting to learn and gel (with everyone), especially with the midfield group. Things like that take a bit of time, but that’s what pre-season is for, just working out the way we want to play but also how he fits in and with his game and what he can bring to our team."
"Hanners is flying. We did a fair few running sessions in the off-season and his running capacity is one of his great strengths and we saw that first day back last week in the time trial. He’s someone we’ve got to look after with his history the last couple of years, but the main thing is making sure he’s available and ready for a long season."
"Hilly’s started really well. He came in last year with a lot of expectations on him, but I guess you can only speak about what’s happening now and he’s in really good shape. Out there today he was moving well and I think quarters going back to normal length this year is something that’s going to help him. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time for new players to get used to how guys around them play and how we play as a team. He’s comfortable now, he’s 12 months in so I’m looking forward to what he can do for us this year."