WE'RE accustomed to seeing key position players capable of excelling at both ends of the ground, but it's a rare type who are able to also go for a run on the wing.
There's one such player set to emerge at Moorabbin, with new St Kilda coach Brett Ratten labelling Josh Battle his club's "ultimate swingman".
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The 21-year-old was drafted as a forward but was forced back in 2019 with a series of injuries to teammates, picking up a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in the process after a series of composed performances.
But the recruiting of former Port Adelaide defender Dougal Howard, combined with Battle's natural endurance (he has finished third and fourth in the Saints' time trials this pre-season) could see him play yet another role in 2020.
High energy + feeling good.— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) January 15, 2020
We've hit the ground running in 2020. pic.twitter.com/HffvJhBmdx
"Getting Howard in and (Jake) Carlisle fit and healthy, we played him back last year for a big chunk and he has the ability to play forward as we know, [but] with that running power, could he play on the wing or through the midfield as well," Ratten told SEN.
"Maybe he could go through the three lines and give us the versatility to throw someone somewhere else. He could go on the ball or flip from one end to the other and really surprise an opposition team."
The appointment of new coach Ratten, the recruiting of six established players and the impending debut of top-10 draft pick Max King is giving long-suffering St Kilda fans some hope this summer.
Key forward King, who was taken with pick No.4 in the 2018 NAB AFL Draft, was unable to play an AFL game in 2019, recuperating from a knee reconstruction before injuring his ankle mid-year in the VFL.
"Max is progressing really well. He's done probably around 75 per cent of the work before Chrstimas, but now after the Christmas break he'd be closer to 90-95 per cent," Ratten said.
"With his knee and that, things like (Wednesday's training) on the hard court (indoors), we just take him off, he doesn't have to do that on the basketball courts, but most of the things he's in, he's doing well.
"He's still a young man, still learning and developing his craft. He hasn't played football for a long time, but we know he's got enormous talent and we'll try to get as many games into him as we can."
Pre-season generally follows a fairly predictable pattern across all AFL clubs, with a heavy load of running done before Christmas, before gradually increasing match simulation and ball drills in the new year.
With such a turnover of players, the Saints decided to do things a little differently for pre-season 2019-20, to assist with the integration of established AFL recruits Bradley Hill, Zak Jones, Paddy Ryder, Dan Butler, Ryan Abbott and Howard.
"It takes a little bit of time, but we've tried to upscale our game play and our game simulation play a little bit earlier, just to see if we can get that cohesiveness through Dougal Howard, Zak Jones and all the new players," Ratten said.
"I think it'll benefit us to try and understand each other a bit quicker. Now, I couldn't tell you if it's going to click round one or a little bit later, but these players are pretty experienced and have been in the system for a while.
"We did a little bit of a get-together and a bit of a bonding session down in Barwon Heads before Christmas, just to know them all personally, and I think that's been really beneficial for our group."