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Saints 'optimistic' star can play again in 2019

Jack Steven hasn't played since round six this season - AFL,St Kilda Saints,Alan Richardson,Jack Steven
Jack Steven hasn't played since round six this season

ST KILDA has upgraded its expectations of seeing four-time best and fairest Jack Steven return to football, with coach Alan Richardson "optimistic" the star onballer can play again in 2019.

FULL INJURY LIST Who's ruled out and who's a test?

The Saints have struggled amid a glut of injuries. Steven has managed four games this season after battling mental illness, while Jake Carlisle (back), Dan Hannebery (hamstrings/calves) and Dylan Roberton (heart) headline the list of big names who have been missing.

Jack Steven has played in three of the Saints' six wins this season. Picture: AFL Photos

After a promising start and being in contention for finals, they sit 6-9 in fourth-last, ahead of a clash with ladder-leaders Geelong on Saturday night at GMHBA Stadium.

Richardson needs to win a final to guarantee his job for next year, and with that prospect looking highly unlikely with the Saints two games out of the eight, an ugly loss against the Cats could prove fatal for his coaching tenure.

It's not all doom and gloom though, as Richardson explained when speaking about Steven at RSEA Park on Friday morning.

"His training the past few weeks is the training of a fella that's loving his footy again, really enjoying being around his teammates and really enjoying being at the footy club," Richardson said.

"I've become optimistic that we are a chance to see Jack. Hopefully it's soon. It might not be, but we'll just have to wait and see."

Meanwhile, Richardson shed light on the absence of defender Jimmy Webster. The left-footer has been recovering from surgery on a broken right hand, sustained in the round seven loss to Greater Western Sydney.

The operation was to take a plate out after a previous broken hand.

At the time, the 26-year-old was expected to miss just two games, but it's another issue that has seen his absence string out for much longer than expected.

"Jimmy's a frustrating one. Jimmy broke his hand again, had the plate removed, was going well, and then he's been having some issues with his lower back," Richardson said.

"It's a frustrating one for Jimmy. It's frustrating for us … but we think that he's had a good week in terms of responding to some treatment.

"A couple of weeks of training and we might see him again."

I've become optimistic that we are a chance to see Jack ... we'll just have to wait and see - Alan Richardson on Jack Steven

Hannebery was ruled out of facing the Cats, his second straight week on the sidelines, as he battles hamstring soreness.

Since trading for the former Swan and signing him on a four-year contract with a trigger for a fifth, the club has spent plenty of time rebuilding his body so the 28-year-old can endure the rigours of the elite level.

"He actually doesn't have an injury. He's just pulled up really sore after a couple of weeks of AFL footy and it just made sense. It was a smart decision to give him a break," Richardson said.

"We were hopeful it would only be the one week, but he's still just been a little bit sore and a little bit 'DOMSy' (delayed onset muscle soreness). We're really confident that he'll be right to go next week."

Richardson revealed a couple of match-ups to expect against the Cats, with a pair of early draftees to line up on some of the competition's elite.

"What is exciting in a week like this is (Nick) Coffield will play on (Patrick) Dangerfield a bit when he's forward. Hunter Clark's going to have to play on (Gary) Ablett, and we'll expect them to do their role," Richardson said.

 

Another early draftee, Paddy McCartin, has spent time in Chicago to uncover more information about his eighth concussion since 2014, the year he was recruited with the No.1 selection.

"That's been productive. I won't go into detail. It's private, obviously, but there's been a bit of light shed there that's been good for Paddy," McCartin said.

"Clearly he's not going to play again this year. We're hopeful that he'll play again, and he's feeling better. He's back at the footy club, he's not doing any training, but that's going to take a while."

McCartin, 23, is experiencing fewer concussion-related symptoms than he has, but is still experiencing the ebbs and flows of the long-term injury.

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