‘A point of difference in the south’: How Saints hope to keep rivals at bay

St Kilda will prioritise players from the bayside corridor through to the Mornington Peninsula in the draft and closely monitor and target locals in hope of using their geographic edge in Melbourne’s south as a point of difference to attract players.

The Saints will try to utilise their bayside links to first target, then attract former local players in a way that Geelong have successfully been a destination club for players from the greater Geelong and western Victorian region.

The Saints will look to recruit local products such as early draft pick Finn Callaghan.Credit:Getty Images

Former local products such as early draft picks Finn Callaghan at Greater Western Sydney or a Josh Sinn at Port Adelaide will be actively monitored and pursued with the hope that the Saints can be the natural first choice for players from the southern bayside area wanting to return home to Victoria.

Recruiting ex-Carlton first-round pick Liam Stocker this off-season fitted that strategy of prioritising former local players.

The Sandringham Dragons under-18 team is based at St Kilda’s Moorabbin home in Linton Street. The Dragons had 12 players drafted in the last year alone.

“Certainly we are turning our mind to bayside as a point of difference. We have a $50 million facility bayside, we have the Sandy Dragons based here, we have the Sandy Zebras here. We have strong relationships with them,” St Kilda CEO Simon Lethlean said.

“If you are on the margins and trying to attract kids to your club or attract those returning to Victoria we want to utilise our point of difference for players from bayside right down through the peninsula. You look at Geelong and what they have been able to do.

“It’s not ‘all in’ and that’s all we are doing, it is one part of an overall strategy, but we think we have a point of difference in the south.

“You have the Sandy Dragons training here, you get to know the players they get to know us. It’s tag and release, you monitor them and hope one day you get them back. Liam Stocker fits the bill of that as a Sandy boy.

“North Melbourne, Carlton, Essendon, they are all on top of each another. We are not, we are bayside … no other club in Melbourne can do it, we have the whole corridor from here to Portsea.”

Geelong have long been a preferred destination for players originally from the surf coast, Bellarine Peninsula, western district and greater Geelong returning to Victoria, not only because of the location but the highly successful football program.

Jeremy Cameron and Patrick Dangerfield are two of the many players the Cats have lured back.Credit:Eddie Jim

Most recently first-round draft pick Tanner Bruhn was traded back from GWS to Geelong while star pair Jeremy Cameron and Patrick Dangerfield both chose the Cats when they came back to live in Victoria.

The Cats have had a fondness for local players. Last year they had 17 players originally from Geelong or western Victoria on their list, then chose Jhye Clark, an elite inside midfielder from the Geelong Falcons with pick seven in the draft, and traded for Bruhn and former local player Ollie Henry, brother of Jack, from Collingwood.

The Cats have also successfully utilised their local networks to identify talent. Most significantly they secured All-Australian premiership defender Tom Stewart, a former Geelong Falcon who was playing for Geelong’s VFL team, as a mature-aged recruit in the draft.

Non-Victorian clubs have long prioritised local players to help with player retention and target former locals when it comes to trades.

St Kilda recently announced Stephen Silvagni would return to the club as list manager, reuniting with veteran administrator Graeme Allan who is in talent identification with the club targeting trade targets.

General manager of football Geoff Walsh recently resigned due to family reasons, with his position being shared for the season with high-performance manager David Misson and Tessie McManus.

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