Rewind to the end of 2018, and a heavily-scrutinised campaign had put young Saint Jack Billings firmly under the microscope.
But just 12 months later, the No. 15 has responded to his critics in the best way possible.
A blistering start to 2019 culminated in a career-best season that has him as a hot favourite for this year’s Trevor Barker Award.
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The silverware would be well and truly deserved for the youngest member of the leadership group, with his consistency standing out across the entire season.
Billings opened 2019 in emphatic fashion to muffle his doubters, carrying on his tremendous form to emerge as a fan-favourite of the red, white and black.
The silky left-footer oozed class at every turn, becoming one of St Kilda’s most reliable players in a season riddled with injuries, patchy form and significant change.
His trademark composure was often a settling influence in some of the game’s most heated moments.
And it was in these scenarios, where the result rested on a knife’s edge, that Billings was at his best.
His incredible performance against Gold Coast in Round 13 was arguably the most impressive of his career.
33 disposals, 11 tackles, three clearances and two goals told the story, with the No. 15’s epic final term of six tackles, 10 touches and two goals edging his side to a last-minute victory at Riverway Stadium.
JB goes bang! pic.twitter.com/2tHYeTe9Te— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) June 15, 2019
It wasn’t the only time the superstar Saint stepped up to the plate when it mattered.
St Kilda’s five-point triumph over Hawthorn came largely as a result of his 34-disposal haul, while successive 28-possession efforts against Gold Coast and Essendon steered St Kilda to the perfect start to 2019.
The classy wingman notched up the 100-game milestone against North Melbourne to amass a career-high 35 touches and nine inside-50s, highlighting his prowess no matter the situation.
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And with a two-year contract extension tying him to Moorabbin, the club’s belief in his ability to lead the club to September couldn’t be clearer.
Much like Jade Gresham, the No. 15 was pushed further up the field to showcase his aptitude in the middle.
Billings’ proficiency on the outside saw him lead the Saints for uncontested possessions (399).
The extra time and space resulted in his third-placed ranking in the club’s inside-50s (81) and score involvements (116), while his 13 goals for the year reaffirmed his left boot as one of the Saints’ major assets.
By any measure, Billings has enjoyed a career-best year in red, white and black.
And his first Trevor Barker Award would be a fitting close to an individually brilliant 2019.
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