The St Kilda Football Club seem to have a rich history with the number one.
One premiership. One unlucky bounce in 2010. One toe poke in 2009. And the highly prized, number one overall pick in the AFL draft. Well, the Saints have had the number one pick three times, but you get what I mean.
It’s now time to investigate St Kilda’s sweetest and sourest drafting moments since 2001.
If you’ve read my previous scouting reports on the some of the other AFL clubs, you’ll know the draft selections below will be labelled either sweet or sour depending on how that player’s career turned out. This could include playing 250 games, asking for a trade, captaining the side or being delisted after two games.
Since this analysis starts from 2001, Nick Riewoldt, arguably one of St Kilda’s greatest players ever, warrants a mention. Drafted with pick one in 2000, Riewoldt currently sits at 288 games, 632 goals, a 5-time B&F winner, 4-time All Australian, the captain of the club and one of the most courageous players to ever play the game. Let’s get in our time machines.
Top five sweets
1 – Dal Santo & Montagna
2001 was an interesting draft year for the Saints. Luke Ball at pick 2? Xavier Clarke at pick 5? Hmm, I’m not sure those selections were too sweet, but we’ll get to those later on.
Rather, let’s focus on what went right, and it comes in the form of Nick Dal Santo and Leigh Montagna. St Kilda drafted Dal Santo with pick 13 in the ‘super draft’; a pick they received in the deal, which sent Barry Hall to Sydney.
Since Simon Black’s retirement, Nick Dal Santo has taken over as one of the most consistent AFL players in the modern era. Before the hamstring injury at North, it’s hard to pinpoint a time in his career where he’s missed a large chunk of the season. In 11 years with the Saints, Dal Santo played 260 games, kicking 140 goals, earning three All-Australian selections and placing runner up three times in the Grand Final.
The veteran midfielder joined North Melbourne via free agency in the 2013 offseason after the Saints decided not to match North’s offer. He’s played 27 games with the Roos and has added much needed experience and leadership to their line-up.
Leigh Montagna joined the Saints via the 37th pick in the 2001 AFL Draft. Like Dal Santo, Montagna has enjoyed a great career with the Saints. The hard-running, hard-tackling, hard-working veteran midfielder has played 238 games (140 goals) with St Kilda and has been named in the All-Australian team twice in his career.
One of Montagna’s best attributes is his leadership. Himself and Riewoldt are soldiering on for the better of the club. They’re mentoring and preparing St Kilda’s young stars to lead the club into the future. And that couldn’t of been better displayed last week, when ‘Joey’ kicked the winning goal to sink the Demons with 20 seconds to play.
A remarkably consistent tenure with the Saints, Montagna has averages of 23 disposals, 4 marks and 4 tackles a game over his over career.
2 - Brendon Goddard
Pick one in 2002. Pick two in their sweetest drafting moments since 2001. Goddard somewhat rejuvenated the importance of having a utility player in your team in the AFL. In what has been a remarkable career, Goddard’s versatility is the standout. He can play ferociously in the middle, deep in the forward line, on the wing and across halfback.
He played in 205 games with the Saints, kicking 104 goals. He was named All-Australian in 2009 and 2010, and almost single-handedly carried St Kilda across the finish line in the 2010 drawn Grand Final.
He joined Essendon via free agency in 2013 in the hopes of winning a premiership. He’s played 53 games with the Bombers and won his first best and fairest medallion in his first season with the club.
A premiership still eludes him, but Goddard’s remarkably consistent career (mainly with the Saints) will be defined by his intensity on and off the field, his athleticism, his long powerful kicking and his wonderful contested marking.
3 - Sam Fisher
Sam Fisher was drafted with pick 55 in the 2003 AFL Draft and has gone on to have a 200+ game career with the Saints.
For over a decade, Fisher has been the sweetest, most reliable defensive unit for the Saints. Injuries have hit him late in his career, but it’s important to remember just how damaging Fisher was during St Kilda’s successful period.
Fisher’s best weapon is his attacking run off halfback. In the prime of his career, he was the AFL’s most damaging rebound defender. Most of St Kilda’s attacking plays would run through Fisher off halfback. He could also do a defensive number on the opposition’s best forwards.
An All-Australian nod in 2008, and two best and fairest in 2008 and 2011 are the highlights of his career. He won’t win a premiership in his career, but Fisher will go down as one of the Saints’ most reliable, loyal and sweetest draft picks since 2001.
4 - David Armitage
It’s taken some time, but David Armitage is finally delivering on his former pick nine expectations. St Kilda drafted him with their top-ten pick in 2006 and 118 games later; Armitage is in career-best form, he’s putting his hand up to be the next captain of the club, and he’s knocking on the doors of the All-Australian selectors.
For the first four years of his career, Armitage was in and out of the Saints line-up, with 13 games the most he played in a season up until 2011. But since then, it’s been a steady build to the big-bodied, hard-running and prolific ball-winning midfielder he has transformed himself into.
Remarkably, in the first half of this season, Armitage is averaging 31 disposals, 5 marks and 6 tackles a game. Things couldn’t be sweeter for David Armitage, and hopefully there are some sweet times ahead for the Saints.
5 - Jack Steven
St Kilda committed a drafting crime in 2007, when they stole Jack Steven out of the AFL Draft with the 42nd pick.
He’s a steal, he’s a gem and Jack Steven is St Kilda’s future. The 25 year old has 101 games for the Saints, and emerged in 2013 as one of the best up and coming midfielders in the game. He won his first best and fairest in 2013 with St Kilda.
He’s possibly the most exciting player on the Saints’ list. He tackles, he’s lightning quick, he’s explosive and he loves the contest. He’s a clearance machine and he leads the AFL in Total Inside 50’s. He has a penetrating long kick and his leadership and value were exhibited last week, when he carried the Saints across the line, in what has been dubbed the worst 41 seconds in Aussie Rules Football (for Melbourne).
Steven signed a new 5-year contract with the Saints earlier this year and will be in All-Australian discussions at the seasons end.
Matthew Maguire (#21, 2001 ND), Stephen Powell (#1, 2002 PD), James Gwilt (#63, 2004 ND), Sam Gilbert (#33, 2005 ND), Clint Jones (#9, 2006 RD), Jarryn Geary (#58, 2006 RD), Ben McEvoy (#9, 2007 ND), Rhys Stanley (#47, 2008 ND), Jack Newnes (#37, 2011 ND), Seb Ross (#25, 2011 ND), Jimmy Webster (#42, 2011 ND) and Jack Billings (#3, 2013 ND).
Top five sours
1 – Xavier Clarke
This is a tough call, but ultimately it came down to the fact that Clarke, the pick 5 in the 2001 AFL Draft, played 106 career games and never fulfilled his potential.
He was drafted by St Kilda in the ‘super draft’ and played a respectable 105 games with the Saints. However, his tenure with the Saints was filled with struggles in form, and struggles with injury.
He was traded to Brisbane in 2009, where he played only one game due to injury, and retired in 2011. St Kilda received pick 60 in the trade, and drafted Jesse Smith, who also unfortunately fell under the injury curse and had a short lived career with the Saints.
Think about it: Scott Pendlebury and Lance Franklin are also former pick 5 selections in the AFL Draft. Would their careers get a tick mark if they finished up with 100 games?
2 – Raphael Clarke
Unfortunately for the Clarke brothers, and St Kilda, Raph’s AFL career was no brighter then Xavier’s. St Kilda drafted Raph with pick 8 in the 2003 AFL Draft, joining his brother Xavier, who was drafted to the Saints two years earlier.
For Raph, injuries, fluctuations in form and the whipping boy status ultimately led to the end of his AFL career, as he was delisted in 2012 after only 85 games.
3 – Tom Lynch
St Kilda drafted Tom Lynch in 2008, using the thirteenth selection on the key forward.
He made only six senior appearances in three years at the club, and asked to be traded to Adelaide in the 2011 offseason. Lynch was traded in a three-way deal and St Kilda received pick 37, which they used to draft Jack Newnes. The ending was sweet, but a pretty sour draft pick to begin with for the Saints.
The 2008 draft was filled with talent, and pick 13 was a wasted opportunity for the Saints.
4 – Jamie Cripps
In 2010, St Kilda used the 24th selection in the AFL draft to recruit Jamie Cripps to the club.
After only 16 games at Seaford, the exciting small forward asked to be traded to the West Coast Eagles, as he wanted to return home to Perth.
It was bitterly disappointing for the Saints who shelved out a first round draft pick to get him to the club.
Cripps is now at the Eagles and is absolutely flying. He’s played 62 games, has kicked 75 goals and is a part of one the best teams in the competition right now.
Josh Green, Alex Fasolo and Paul Puopolo were other small forwards still available in the draft, whilst St Kilda would be fuming that Luke Parker slipped to pick 40 in the same draft. What could have been...
5 – Matthew Ferguson
Pick 22 in 2002. He managed only 12 AFL games across five years with St Kilda.
Tom Lonergan went at pick 23. Kade Simpson went at pick 45. Nick Malceski at pick 64. Pretty sour...
(Not) Worth Mentions
Leigh Fisher (#46, 2002 ND), Andrew McQualter (#17, 2004 ND), Cain Ackland (#33, 2004 ND), Mark McGough (#49, 2004 ND), Brad Howard (#27, 2006 ND), Nicholas Heyne (#48, 2008 ND), Nicholas Winmar (#32, 2009 ND), Jesse Smith (#60, 2009 ND), Tom Ledger (#59, 2010 ND), Sam Crocker (#43, 2010 ND), Ryan Gamble (#90, 2010 ND) and Dean Polo (#103, 2010 ND).
Both sweet and sour: Luke Ball
Some AFL players fall under both the sweet and the sour tagline. So to the footy community, this one is completely up to you.
Luke Ball was drafted in the ‘super draft’ in 2001 with the second overall pick. Things were sweet for him at St Kilda – he played 142 games, was All-Australian and won their best and fairest in 2005 and captained the club in 2006 and 2007.
However, this is the part of the story where things get a little sour. In 2009, he requested a trade to Collingwood, seemingly ‘walking out’ on the Saints.
He ended up at Collingwood through the national draft and went on to play in 81 games and taste premiership glory with the Magpies.
Remember, he was pick 2 in the amazingly talented 2001 draft. Chris Judd went pick 3. Would you redraft him again? Sweet or sour?
It’s been a tough ride for St Kilda lately. Their drafting in 2008, 2009 and 2010 was really disappointing. They’ve lost two legends of the club via free agency, and they’ve been hovering around the bottom of the ladder for a couple years.
However, St Kilda has one of the best young lists in the AFL. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and St Kilda are making their way towards it.
Here’s a few names to use at your disposal. Billings, Dunston, Templeton, Weller, McCartin, Goddard, Lonie, Sinclair and the list goes on.
These are the players the Saints have added to their club in the past few drafts. It’s exciting. It’s raw. But it’s a start. And it’s a sweet start.
St Kilda’s drafting since 2001 hasn’t been ground breaking but it also kept them afloat during a fairly exciting period where they almost won a premiership.
There’s a lot of work to do to make up for the lost drafting years. But they’ve started, and it’s looking like there may be sweet times ahead.