HUGH Goddard seems to be a forgotten man at St Kilda.
For the Saints' round 11 clash against West Coast, first-choice backmen Jake Carlisle and Nathan Brown were unavailable through suspension and injury respectively.
Instead of Goddard being promoted for his first game in almost two years, Logan Austin was given the job of manning one key defensive post while Rowan Marshall, who had played six games, was brought in for an unfamiliar role in defence.
Even Category B rookie and fellow backman Darragh Joyce is closer to selection than Goddard, with the Irishman having been named as emergency twice in 2018, compared to Goddard's zero.
However, after two surgeries in the past two years, no one expected Goddard to come straight back into peak form. The focus for the 21-year-old through the first half of this season has been to find his feet and string games together.
He's been working into better form recently, with the Saints trying to add a more offensive side to his game. Goddard is averaging 9.7 disposals, four marks and 3.5 intercept possessions through his 10 matches for Sandringham this year.
Those numbers are up over his past four matches: 13.3 disposals, 5.5 marks and 4.5 intercept possessions.
That includes last week's match against Williamstown when the Zebras went goalless in torrential conditions.
Goddard has been thrown forward at times as injuries have left Sandringham with holes in attack, a role he filled in his underage years.
However, for the long-term, he is a defender, the position he showed his talent in before being drafted at No.21 in 2014.
The second cousin of former Saint and current Bomber Brendon played eight matches in his first season and another in his second, but that was when injury struck.
Brought in to face Adelaide, Goddard ruptured the Achilles tendon in his left leg in June 2016, and suffered turf toe a day short of a year later.
Those resulting operations both proved season-ending and robbed Goddard the chance of developing in those prime years early in his career.
He barely missed a session in the most recent pre-season as he prepared for the final year of his contract, shedding weight as he sought to regain the speed that saw him post an impressive 2.98 seconds in the 20m sprint when he attended the NAB AFL Draft Combine.
A return to the senior side has proven tough, though.
Carlisle, Brown and Austin have been brought in from other clubs and have moved above Goddard in the pecking order, while Oscar Clavarino is an intercepting tall who was drafted last year.
Goddard wants to stay at the Saints but if another contract isn't forthcoming, he will pursue his AFL career elsewhere.