St Kilda coach Scott Watters leaves the ground after their defeat during the 2013 AFL round 04 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Essendon Bombers at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on April 20, 2013. (Photo: Greg Ford/AFL Media)
ST KILDA faces the difficult task of replacing its ageing stars in the not-too-distant future, but coach Scott Watters refuses to gift games to his young players.
With players such as Nick Riewoldt, Lenny Hayes and Leigh Montagna – who were all in the best against the Sydney Swans on Anzac Day – in the twilight of their careers, the Saints are looking to the next generation.
They've already used 33 players this season with Nathan Wright, Tom Lee, Brodie Murdoch and Josh Saunders making their debuts and Seb Ross, Tom Simpkin and Jack Newnes gaining time at senior level.
Watters there was a need for regeneration, given recent unfruitful recruiting when the club was contesting deep into the finals, but games would not simply be handed out to the next level of players.
"I think every list needs to evolve and grow. If we're not looking for the next players, knowing there is a gap on our list … from 2008 to 2010, 23 players were recruited. Five of those players remain on our list," Watters told Fox Footy's On the Couch.
"There's a disconnect there. We need to push players through at the right time to make sure we have the depth to compete going forward.
"[But] we're not going to gift games to any young player. They've got to earn it and come in at the right time."
Watters said the club now had a list management team in place that would ensure better recruiting.
He maintained there was no internal talk about "rebuilding" as senior players came to the end of their careers - "I've never mentioned the word rebuild, once … ever" – and was glad experienced heads were still playing quality football.
Arryn Siposs and Tom Hickey travelled to Wellington with the team last week but weren't picked to play against the Swans.
Watters said Siposs knew what he had to work on to earn a recall while Hickey was returning from an injury and would play once his form warranted it.
"[Siposs] played a lot of footy in the second half of last year, he played a lot of footy in the NAB Cup, we trialled him down back; there's still some areas of Arryn's game that we're working really strongly with," he said.
"You can be seduced by the kick and we think he's got a really big role to play for us moving forward and we've got to work with him to get him back in the side.
"But he needs to work on some elements of his game that are going to make him a rounded player, and that doesn't mean that you play at AFL level every week.
"He's working really hard on that and he played well again on the weekend and he's in contention this week – he'll come back in [at some stage].
"Sometimes you have to go back to go forward."
He said Stephen Milne was "in strong consideration" for Friday night's clash with Collingwood after serving a one-match suspension, despite last week saying there were no guarantees he would earn his spot back straight away.
He also said forward Tom Lee, who had five disposals against the Swans, was "a work in progress".
"There's areas of his game that he needs to work on," he said.
"His power is probably 12 to 18 months away from where I think it needs to be.
"He's a 21, 22-year-old but he's probably 18 or 19 physically with his maturity.
"We'll work him through that; he's got great hands, a good footy head. Like a lot of young players, they take a bit of work."
Jennifer Phelan is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow her on Twitter @AFL_JenPhelan.