St.Kilda’s long serving and inspiring captain, Nick Riewoldt has decided to give away the captaincy after a near record breaking 220 games leading the club. First gaining the role in 2005, he took up the position full-time in 2007 and since then has become one of the skillful, determined, courageous and inspiring leaders the AFL has ever seen.
Now, ready to pass the mantle on, the question is now, who, out of the rising and supremely talented St.Kilda list will take over?
Closing the book the third under Alan Richardson, the Saints have steadily improved each year, amassing four, six and twelve wins in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons respectively.
Done in no small part due to the unfathomable longevity and consistent improvement of Nick Riewoldt. Aided by the contributions of a smattering of rising stars, the roles must now be reversed if they want to see the strides they’ve taken continue into next season. As the conversation begins, there are a few standouts to take the reins, but what if we look deeper?
Jack Steven: Seemingly the obvious choice, Steven has been a prolific ball winner and leader since his arrival at the club in 2007 as pick #42. Steven debuted in 2009, managing only one game, following up with 8 the following season. However, since then, he has been a mainstay in the slowly improving St. Kilda midfield. He’s played no less then 16 games in a season since 2011 and has an averaged 23.4 disposals in his career. 2016 was his most prolific season averaging 28 disposals through 22 games he became one of the most influential players in not just his own side, but in the AFL. At 26, he’s the logical choice take handle the pressure and lead the team forward.
Jarryn Geary: The dashing half-backman has been an ever-present figure for St. Kilda since he debuted in 2008. Drafted with pick #58 in 2006, Geary slotted into a St. Kilda side choc-full of talent and potential as they surged towards grand-finals. A good user of the ball who can play tall or small in defense as well as move through the middle of the park, he has made a name for himself performing the tasks that other’s wouldn’t want. Like Jack Steven, he’s hitting the peak of his footballing maturity, at 28, he would certainly be a feasible choice for the role for the net four or five years.
Jack Newnes: A member of the young crop of St. Kilda’s midfield who will bear the responsibility of taking them forward, he can lay claim to the role. Drafted in the second round of 2011, he debuted the following year, playing seven games. Since the 2013 season he has been a mainstay in the side, playing no less then 18 games. Averaging 19 touches, Newnes has elite running and foot-skills and for 23, he is a mature head on young shoulders, who, when surrounded by a crop of similar minds, he should flourish.
Luke Dunstan: Perhaps the biggest ‘gamble’ of the four, Dunstan is the least-experienced on this list. Pick #18 in 2013, Dunstan made an immediate impact on the side in Alan Richardson’s first year in charge. A big bodied midfielder with an appetite for a hard-ball get, he has drawn a likeness to Luke Parker and Dan Hannebery. Just 53 games into his career, it would certainly be a gamble to cast the weight of the captaincy on his young shoulders, but he is certainly on of the more level-headed youngster in the competition, and at 21, he isn’t much younger then what Riewoldt was when he first got a taste of the captaincy.
These four are a group of players which represent a rare blend of skill and leadership which could see them continue what Nick Riewoldt started and could carry St. Kilda along the path they are on, and see them return to the Grand Final’s which they were in with a shout of winning.