At a glance:

  • Paddy Ryder says how he is "the best player (he) can be" with Rowan Marshall in the side in the latest episode of The Sounds of the Saints podcast.
  • Saturday against Sydney marked just the third time Ryder has played in Saints colours without Marshall in tow.
  • Ryder says he was relieved that Marshall would spend time recovering from a plantar fascia issue so he didn't have to "carry the burden" of playing through pain.

Saturday afternoon against Sydney was just the third time Paddy Ryder has lined up in St Kilda colours without Rowan Marshall by his side.

Judging off the numbers alone, the veteran ruckman's numbers in the No. 1 role while in the absence of the "big sponge" – who is recovering from a plantar fascia injury – have been superb.

The 33-year-old has amassed 109 hit-outs from his past three games, with his healthy average of 35 hit-outs per game – although sampled from just six matches – second only to his All-Australian year in 2017 (37.7).

But while Ryder has more than held his own flying solo in the ruck these past few weeks, he knows his best football is played with Marshall in tow.

“I need Ro in the team for me to be the best player I can be, and he knows that,” Ryder said on the Sounds of the Saints podcast.

“He’s put his body through a lot of us this year and he’s been playing through pain and all that sort of stuff.

When I found out that he was going to have to miss a few weeks, I was so happy for him to not have to carry that burden of performing when he’s feeling underdone.

- Paddy Ryder

“I said to him ‘you just watch the weight lift off your shoulders and just enjoy the next few weeks’. Just enjoy yourself, enjoy getting back into it and rehab yourself really well.”

Marshall played the first four matches of the year without Ryder after the latter took personal leave to spend time with family and reconnect with his culture in Western Australia.

The pair have united just three times on-field this season, securing wins against Hawthorn and Gold Coast before Marshall went down during the side’s gutsy performance against Geelong.

“I’m missing him at the moment, but I do know when we do get him back once he’s healthy I’m going to be enjoying my football a lot more,” Ryder said.

“I said ‘I’ll hold it down in the ruck there while you’re out’, but I can’t wait to have him back. He complements my game so much and makes it easier for me to play football.”

Although Ryder’s recruitment as a 31-year-old ruckman had many questioning whether it would impede on Marshall’s development (he finished runner-up at the Trevor Barker Award following a breakout campaign), it’s undeniable that the partnership has given a leg-up to the young Saint’s progress and longevity to the 250-game Ryder.

The two have gone on to form brotherly bond in their two seasons together, with Ryder relishing the opportunity to impart his knowledge to his protégé.

“I just try and be a big brother to him. He’s so unselfish,” Ryder said.

“The way he talks, the way he listens… he asks questions, he never fires back or does anything like that. He’s just a really good teammate who plays really hard.

“He’s like a big sponge the big fella. He’s always looking to learn even though he’s pretty good at what he does do anyway, he’s always asking and chatting to me about stuff.

“From my point of view, I just try and (show him) through my career what I’ve learned and put myself in his shoes and (try to) give him the right feedback and the right direction.

“He’s such a good player for us and such a good person, I can’t wait to have him back.”

Listen to the full Sounds of the Saints podcast with Paddy Ryder in the media player below.

Podcast guide

0:00 - Introduction
1:10 - A fortnight flipped on its head
2:10 - The significance of wearing Nicky Winmar's guernsey
4:20 - The Ripple Effect documentary
6:24 - Experiences with racism and its perpetuation through social media
10:50 - Breaking down barriers
12:56 - Reconnecting to culture
14:54 - A 'big brother' to Rowan