Tipped as big improvers for season 2017 of the AFL season, St Kilda’s fortunes rest with a talented group of emerging stars.
That emergence is something rebounding defender Shane Savage knows all about, having been with Hawthorn from 2009-2013, when they were launching towards their three successive premierships.
Speaking to NITV ahead of his appearance on The Marngrook Footy Show on Thursday evening, Savage said while St Kilda aren’t getting ahead of themselves, the signs are certainly positive.
“We’re not putting too much expectation on ourselves, [but] we’re definitely optimistic about this season,” Savage told NITV.
“Obviously we’ve got some new recruits to fill some critical holes in Jake Carlisle and Nathan Brown coming down back and Jacky Steele who looked good on the weekend.
“The young guys as well have got some really valuable experience, almost 50 games now for [Jack] Billings and [Luke] Dunstan.
“We’re at the stage now where we can start pushing for finals and start to get back into the eight.”
Having been a part of Hawthorn’s squad during their rise towards a period of AFL dominance, Savage likes what he sees at St Kilda.
“It’s very exciting. Obviously I’ve been around a successful club so I know what it’s like to play finals and be close to the top, so to be at a club that’s on the way is very exciting and sort of rejuvenating me.
“The young boys have gotten two, three years into them now, so the club’s in a really good position to push for finals.”
Season 2017 didn’t start the way the Saints wanted, as they were beaten by another up-and-coming side, Melbourne, by 30 points.
But as is the way in football, there’s always next week, and for Savage and St Kilda that means a trip to Perth to take on the high-flying Eagles.
“It was a disappointing result on the weekend and things obviously didn’t go our way after quarter time, but we’re looking forward to this week and the challenge against West Coast,” Savage said.
“We haven’t won there for a while so we’ll be going over there with a positive mindset and looking forward to the challenge.”
If things do go the way Savage and his teammates are hoping, the 26-year-old will be one of the league’s busiest men during this year’s finals series, as his partner Sarah is expecting their second child.
“In September, some time, so it’s a bit of an awkward time,” Savage said of the impending arrival.
“Hopefully it is [awkward timing]. Yeah, definitely [want to be playing in] the finals.”
Family plays a big part in Savage’s life and he’s excited for his two-year-old son Jett to have a sister.
Hailing from New Zealand, the Auckland-born Savage says one of the special things about the AFL is the ever-increasing diversity within the league.
“I think it’s crucial, obviously the game is very diverse and we want all people to enjoy the game, no matter what gender you are, no matter where you come from – we want everyone to come together and enjoy this one game,” he said.
“Indigenous players are so exciting as well and they’re from remote communities. There are some absolute stars out there.
“The AFL’s connection to those sorts of communities in [places such as] Katherine, Alice Springs, are so important because there are some stars out there and it’s good that the AFL still has that connection to try and find them.
I grew up in a very rugby-orientated background. My parents and grandparents sort of had no idea what footy was but my dad was pretty supportive in that regards.
“I grew up in a very rugby-orientated background. My parents and grandparents sort of had no idea what footy was but my dad was pretty supportive in that regards.
“My grandparents and aunties and uncles are still over there. I try to get back there as much as I can to see them, every now and then. St Kilda have a bit of a relationship with Auckland as well so it’s good to have that sort of connection as well.”
Hear more from Shane Savage on Thursday as he joins hosts Grant Hansen, Gilbert McAdam and the rest of an all-star guest list for The Marngrook Footy Show, live on NITV from 7.30pm AEDT.