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Saints look to lock away much-improved Josh Bruce

Nick Bowen  February 12, 2016 7:00 AM

AFL 2015 Rd 21 - St Kilda v Geelong

St Kilda is keen to re-sign Josh Bruce as the pool of available key forwards thins

ST KILDA has opened negotiations to re-sign Josh Bruce after the former Giant's breakthrough 2015 season, with the Saints confident the key forward sees his long-term future at the club.

Bruce, who joined St Kilda in the 2013 trade period in exchange for pick No.48, is set to come out of contract at the end of this season.

The parties opened talks on a new contract late last year and AFL.com.au understands they have made progress in recent weeks.

However, it might be some time before the Saints and Bruce, 23, finalise a new deal, with the high demand for – and low supply of – quality key forwards likely to be a factor in their negotiations.

Nonetheless, the Saints – and opposition clubs – believe Bruce will ultimately stay at Seaford.

After playing predominantly as a defender in an up-and-down first season with the Saints in 2014, Bruce reinvented himself as a forward last year with impressive results.

Stationed alongside St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt in attack, the athletic tall did not miss a game and led the Saints' goalkicking with 50 majors.

Showcasing a spring-heeled leap and gut-busting work rate, Bruce finished eighth in St Kilda's best and fairest award.

WATCH: Josh Bruce's Mark of the Year contender

More importantly, his season bolstered the Saints' faith they were well placed to cope with life after Riewoldt with him and 2014's No.1 draft pick Paddy McCartin on their list.

Bruce shapes as a valuable commodity in this year's market, with the remaining free agency pool down to just two key forwards not in their football twilight: Jack Watts and Tyrone Vickery – or three if you include Essendon swingman Cale Hooker.

Out-of-contract Gold Coast spearhead Tom Lynch would have attracted massive offers from opposition clubs, but the Victorian seems all but certain to recommit to the Suns.

A product of the Eastlake Football Club in Canberra, Bruce joined Greater Western Sydney as a zone selection in late 2011, playing 14 games in two seasons at the Giants.

He played 10 games in his first season at St Kilda before emerging as one of 2015's most improved players.