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Absence makes heart grow fonder for Saint

Jack 'fits the bill' for 2016 Highlights of St Kilda's match simulation on Friday
I have never missed that much footy before. I love footy and I am really passionate about it, so it was really tough
Jack Billings on his 2015 injury woes

ST KILDA youngster Jack Billings says his enforced absence in 2015 because of a shin injury has made him more appreciative of every minute at the club.

The 20-year-old did not play after round 10 and said he found being on the sidelines extremely frustrating.

But it taught him to take nothing for granted as he works his way back into playing games, participating in his first match simulation for the season at training on Friday.

"I have never missed that much footy before. I love footy and I am really passionate about it, so it was really tough," Billings said.

He said the lessons he learned during the recovery process should improve his football. 

"It is the most I have learned since I have been at the Saints, dealing with that [injury] and how I go about it I think it is going to make me stronger and hold me in good stead," Billings said.

It has given him some empathy for his new teammate Nathan Freeman, who has been dogged by hamstring injuries since Collingwood drafted him two seasons ago.

Yet to play a game, the former Magpie crossed to the Saints in the trading period.

He is being managed carefully at St Kilda as they try to make his hamstring 'bullet-proof', but Billings said Freeman's attitude had impressed him.

"It's just amazed me how positive he has been the whole time. He is very resilient and I am sure that is going to hold him in good stead," Billings said.

"It's matter of time before he is going to play in the Saints' colours."

Billings took part in the match simulation at the Linen House Centre in Seaford and said he was 'rapt' to get the game under his belt.

He said he had put more emphasis on strengthening his legs this pre-season and he hoped to spend more time in the midfield in his third season.

St Kilda's Cameron Shenton and Jack Newnes were two of the standouts in the hitouts, while young forward Patrick McCartin showed his competitiveness against experienced defender Sam Fisher.

McCartin is progressing well with the Saints continuing to put the work into him.

His mentor, St Kilda skipper Nick Riewoldt, is spending time up the ground during the pre-season, giving the Saints coaches a look at the forward line without the champion inside 50 and also giving Riewoldt a fresh perspective as he heads into his 16th season.

The Saints are expected to announce their leadership group next week, with Riewoldt favourite to retain the captaincy.

Billings endorsed the 33-year-old as the right man for the job.

"He's one of the best captains of our time. All the boys love him and he is so inspiring and the way he leads from the front each week is awesome," Billings said.