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Backman hurts his ankle as young Saints flex their muscle

Jack Billings was one of many young Saints to impress on Friday - ${keywords}
Jack Billings was one of many young Saints to impress on Friday

ST KILDA defender Dylan Roberton suffered an ankle injury in the Saints' intra-club match on Friday afternoon, in the only hiccup of an otherwise encouraging hit-out ahead of the NAB Challenge. 

Roberton, who suffered a minor ankle injury late last season, left Trevor Barker Oval during the third quarter after rolling his left ankle, limping off the ground with the help of trainers and not returning.

It was the only concern for the club, which showcased its young talent in front of a big crowd in the club's bayside heartland.

Bulked up midfielders Seb Ross and Blake Acres were particularly impressive, stamping their credentials for regular midfield spots in 2016. 

Acres played seven games in 2015 and has been one of the most impressive Saints this pre-season.

Ross, meanwhile, managed 10 games and has been similarly strong on the track this summer.

There are hopes at Seaford the pair can be regulars in the Saints' onball rotation this season and they combined well in the centre square on Friday. 

Emerging young gun Jack Billings also stood out early, quashing any concerns over his fitness ahead of the NAB Challenge. 

His work up the ground, often starting on a wing, and deep kicking inside 50 was a highlight. 

"He's done a lot of that work through the pre-season, so for him to be on the wing and go through the midfield is good for us, and for him to learn as well," assistant coach Rohan Welsh said. 

Hugh Goddard and Paddy McCartin lined up on each other for periods in a battle of the club's two prized young key position talents, with the latter taking the points.

McCartin crashed packs, ran with the flight of the ball courageously and took strong lead-up marks, converting a set shot from 50m - the second of his two goals - during a purple patch.

He also set up teammates with clever play deep inside 50 and appears in good shape to attack the NAB Challenge and stake his claim to a regular senior berth in 2016. 

"Paddy's second year in now, he's managing himself better, he's more professional in his approach, so it's a combination of everything," Welsh said of McCartin's step up on Friday. 

"The positive signs were in his positioning and getting to the ball, which is all we want at this time of year." 

Captain Nick Riewoldt and senior midfielder David Armitage did not play, with the Saints fielding one side of its nominal best 18 and another made up of the remaining available players on its list. 

Sandringham players were also used to make up the numbers in the four-quarter match, which included two-minute breaks halfway through each period. 

Midfield draftee Jade Gresham moved onto the stronger of the two teams late in the match and got involved at stoppages, where he has fitted in easily over the summer.

Seb Ross impressed with his work in the midfield on Friday. Picture: AFL Media

Maverick Weller feels the heat from Jade Gresham. Picture: AFL Media

Josh Saunders manages to get the ball away despite Eli Templeton's tackle. Picture: AFL Media