The returning Saint who’s all grown up


Clubs back to business0:36

AFL: The Christmas holidays are over for AFL footballers around the country. Most clubs are back in training with the pre-season competition now just 6 weeks away.

St Kilda’s Jake Carlisle is primed for a big 2017 season. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

Ben WaterworthFOX SPORTS

ST KILDA veteran Leigh Montagna believes key defender Jake Carlisle is a changed man and primed to reassert his influence on the AFL in his highly-anticipated return season.

Carlisle is set to make his long-awaited Saints debut after being sidelined for the entire 2016 season.

Following his trade from Essendon to St Kilda in October 2015, Carlisle was one of 34 past and present Bombers players hit with one-year doping bans for their involvement in the 2012 injection program. The bans came three months after Carlisle had also received a first strike under the AFL’s illicit drugs code.

However Montagna said Carlisle had grown up significantly during his year away from the Saints, in which he addressed knee and hip niggles, as well as took up part-time work with a construction company.

“I think I’ve noticed a bit of maturity in him over the last 12 months from when he came to pre-season a year ago,” Montagna told SEN.

“He’s really fitted in with the group really well this time round. He’s training well, he’s a hard worker and he’s just a big unit.”

Carlisle will add much-needed size and versatility to a backline that will be without Sam Fisher for the first time in 13 years.

Jake Carlisle was happy to show off what he’s made of at a recent St Kilda training session. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

Jake Carlisle was happy to show off what he’s made of at a recent St Kilda training session. Picture: Wayne LudbeySource:News Corp Australia

Montagna, who is set to play off half-back again this season, said Carlisle was well-prepared to push into the competition’s top echelon of key defenders.

“I’ve done some work with him in the back-half and he’s certainly going to be a great asset to us the way he goes about his footy,” Montagna said.

“He knows what he’s doing and he’s got his body in good shape, which is really important.”

The Saints have still yet to appoint a captain for the 2017 season following champion forward Nick Riewoldt’s decision to relinquish the role after 11 seasons.

Montagna revealed that he and the rest of his St Kilda teammates would submit their votes for the club’s leadership group in “the next week or two”, with a captain to then emerge from that team.

The veteran added that unheralded defender Jarryn Geary was “probably the front-runner at this stage” as he is highly regarded internally.

“We’ve got a lot of these younger guys who are ready to take the step … Jack Steven has come along in leaps and bounds and Mav Weller is a terrific leader and David Armitage,” Montagna said.

“We have a few options, but ‘Gears’ is probably the front-runner.

“Gears is really highly rated amongst the football club. (He’s) probably not as well known outside the footy club, but certainly internally we rate him really highly.”

Montagna said he was “fit and healthy” heading into his 16th season on St Kilda’s list, but added that recruit Jack Steele, who underwent foot surgery just before he was traded from the Giants, was progressing slowly.

“He did some drills with us (on Wednesday) and he’ll gradually build up over the next few weeks. But he’s a great kid, I really like him. He’s a hard worker,” Montagna said.

“Hopefully he can slot into the midfield and a bit more grunt.”


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