David Armitage and Tom Hickey during a St Kilda training session at Linen House
Snapshot: The centerpiece of the Saints' pre-season campaign was the two-week trip to Boulder, Colorado, for high-altitude training. The club has returned convinced the expense was worthwhile, with assistant coach Adam Kingsley reporting almost every player had made immediate improvements in 2km run times, even though the benefits are expected to be more long-term. In addition, players got to witness other elite sporting environments at Colorado University and the Denver Broncos, and learn from elite sportspeople including ironman champion Trevor Hendy and six-time Hawaiian ironman champion Dave Scott. "When you look at those guys, the individual athletes, they are the ultimate professionals. They need to be able to prepare themselves as well as anyone," Kingsley said. "For them to be able to give our guys some free lessons was a great opportunity."
Break: The Saints' last training session of 2012 was on December 22, with most players scheduled to return on January 3.
Draftee watch: Medium defenders Nathan Wright and Brodie Murdoch and midfielder Josh Saunders have all leapt straight into training. All have picked up the game-plan quickly and, with their mature bodies, Kingsley expects them to challenge for senior selection in 2013. Tall forward Spencer White arrived at the Saints in recovery from a broken wrist, and is yet to take part in full skills work. Lewis Pierce, a ruck prospect, is also on a modified program as his underdeveloped body is eased into the full-time workload.
Burning: Kingsley said St Kilda's experienced core of players had led a high standard of work on the training track, with Clinton Jones and Ben McEvoy standouts. Recruits Tom Hickey, Trent Dennis-Lane, Tom Lee and Dylan Roberton have slotted in nicely, and Kingsley expects to see "a lot" of all four during the Saints' 2013 campaign.
Medical room: Champion Lenny Hayes has made a full recovery from post-season heart surgery and is back in full training. Sam Gilbert was the only player on the list to miss the trip to Colorado after having post-season shoulder surgery, but Kingsley said he put in "a power of work" at home while his teammates were away, and had impressed coaches since being rejoined by the rest of the club back in Seaford. He's on track to start full contact work in the New Year. Youngster Daniel Markworth is the hard-luck story of the summer so far, having ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament during training in Colorado. He's likely to miss the whole of next season.
What they say: "Physically, the research says that we'll get up to five per cent increase in performance [from the altitude training in Colorado]. When you consider the closeness of the competition, that's quite significant. Mentally, it was a great opportunity for everyone to spend some time away together and strengthen their relationships. We had players rooming with someone who they hadn't spent a lot of time with in the past, so getting that closeness is a real advantage. Added to that, we were able to focus on football all day, every day, and the players learned a lot about how we want to play." – Assistant coach Adam Kingsley
NAB Cup schedule:
Round one: v Adelaide and Port Adelaide, AAMI Stadium, Sunday, February 17
Round two: v Sydney Swans, Etihad Stadium, Sunday, March 3
Round three: v Melbourne, Casey Fields, Saturday, March 9