Changing Saints look to fill Goddard void
St Kilda looks at how it will fill the void left by Brendon Goddard
ST KILDA'S elder statesmen are hoping that the extra fitness gained during the club's high-altitude camp in Colorado will help lift the Saints back into the top eight.
The club travelled to the United States for the first time in late November, with the players put through a number of challenging exercises while based at the University of Colorado.
"It was a really good camp; we were away for two and a half weeks and got some really good work done," Dal Santo said.
"It's hard to measure when you come back, but I'm hoping, similar to other clubs, that we'll feel some benefits throughout the year."
Some of St Kilda's middle-tier and emerging players were among the standout performers in the USA.
"Jack Steven has been really good this pre-season," Dal Santo said.
"From the younger brigade, probably Jack Newnes has been standing out. He's been running really well and is fit."
Steven, who is entering his sixth AFL season, is now regarded as somewhat of a veteran at the Saints.
This demonstrates how much the club's list has changed in the past two years.
"It feels different, there's no doubt about that," said Dal Santo, who turns 29 next month.
"When you look around the locker room and there's not many guys older than you, you realise that things change really quickly.
"That's the footy environment, unfortunately. You lose mates along the way, but it's a good place to be.
"There's a lot of young kids and that brings some excitement as well."
Sam Gilbert is among the players who have been on modified programs during the pre-season to date.
Gilbert missed Colorado trip due to shoulder surgery.
"He looks good," Dal Santo said. "I obviously didn't see him much prior to Chrissy, but the operation went fantastic and he's running well and joining in training now.
"So from all reports he's going very well."
But Gilbert is not yet doing full-contract drills at training.
"I think you need to be a little bit cautious with shoulders, particularly at this time of year," Dal Santo explained.
"You don't need to be fighting each other on the training track. But I think he'll be right to go for round one."
It was a big summer off the field for a number of the Saints' veterans, with Dal Santo and Nick Riewoldt both getting married.
When it comes to on-field matters, Riewoldt's teammates are confident that the big forward will make a big impact in 2013, despite his lingering knee problems.
"He's had a really good pre-season," Dal Santo said.
"It's been a little bit modified because of previous injuries and managing his load, but he seems fit and keen and eager.
"I think the whole group is this pre-season. We're a lot more settled and a lot more focussed and we've shown that over the last three months."
Another big man, recruit Tom Hickey, who joined St Kilda from Gold Coast, has also been an impressive performer on the track.
"His skill-level and his fitness have really improved since he got here," Dal Santo said.
With the Saints mulling over whether to take two ruckmen into some games this season, Hickey is a chance to make his debut for the club as soon as round one.