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Saad hits the front in Saints' rookie race

Stadium stoush, Cotch returns and more Nat Edwards with a comprehensive update
Ahmed Saad poses for a photograph during the St Kilda Saints 2015 team photo day at the Linen House Centre, Seaford on February 23, 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Ahmed Saad is on target for elevation from the rookie list

AHMED Saad could restart his AFL career as early as round one, with the forward the frontrunner for rookie elevation at St Kilda.

In December last year Saad, 25, was rookie listed by the Saints, for whom he played 29 games in 2012-13 before he served an 18-month ban for testing positive to a banned substance on match day.

He has played in all of the Saints' NAB Challenge games and will run out again on Thursday night against Hawthorn.

With the club in a position to elevate multiple players with Seb Ross, Farren Ray, Arryn Siposs and Daniel Markworth out for an extended period, coach Alan Richardson said they "had some decisions to make".

"Ahmed has been pretty impressive, not only in the way he's played his role but the way he's embraced all the training we've asked of him," Richardson said on Thursday.

"He gives us a bit of speed, he's obviously quite creative and he'll play a little bit on the wing tonight [against Hawthorn] … he'll push up.

"There was a bit of noise about the times he needed to get prior to coming back to our club, so he's certainly worked on that and has had some really good results with his endurance."

First-year rookie Jack Sinclair will play his second game on Thursday night while veteran Adam Schneider will run out for his first after increasing his training load in a Sandringham practice match last week.

Ruckman Jason Holmes has also played the past two games and presents as an option if the Saints want to bolster their big man stocks.

Richardson said Saad's potential elevation would give them another new forward line twist after a raft of off-season changes.

"It's a pretty new-look front half if Ahmed was to play, with Tim Membrey coming to our club, 'Brucey' (Josh Bruce) is playing a good role, obviously Paddy McCartin," he said.

"I wouldn't have said Jack Lonie a month ago, but he couldn't have been more impressive in his last two games.

"We'll make that call closer to round one."

However, it appears that McCartin has a bit of work to do if he's to line up against Greater Western Sydney on April 5, despite having played against Essendon and the Brisbane Lions.

"He hasn't set the world on fire, he's a young forward that's coming to speed with AFL footy," Richardson said.

"He's played some dominant footy at the level below at the TAC Cup, but that is often the way with key position players.

"We've liked the way he's gone about his footy, he's given us good contest, his movement means others have been able to get opportunity – it's not always about how many marks and goals he kicks.

"He's played his role but he's no certainty to play round one … but he's absolutely in the mix."

Richardson said captain Nick Riewoldt was expected to face the Giants after returning to the club in the last two weeks following the death of his younger sister Madeleine.

The Saints have also announced employment marketplace SEEK as their new elite partner for 2015.

It follows on from the club securing Dare Iced Coffee as its principal partner for 2015-16 with an option for a third year.

Ahmed Saad is a $180,000 forward in NAB AFL Fantasy this year. Set up a live draft and take on your mates in Fantasy Elite now.