ST KILDA won't hesitate to rest second-season sensation Max King during the run to the finals if it's in the young forward's best interests.
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After spending the bulk of his first year at the Saints recovering from a knee reconstruction, King has played all 13 games this season, booting 18 goals and earning a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in round 12.
Despite King's growing importance to the side, Saints coach Brett Ratten said he would take a long-term view with any decision to give the 20-year-old a break.
"With our wellbeing program, we monitor all our players with their sleep, their recovery, and he hasn't red-flagged yet but then you've got the flip side of he's a first-year player and how far do we want to push him in one year?" Ratten said on Friday.
"The players we've left out have all been red-flagged. Their markers have told us they're maybe on the verge of getting injured and with the season compressed, we can't be having players missing two weeks - it could be three games of footy… we need to play it pretty smart there.
"Max hasn't hit those indicators yet but that's going to be a constant conversation, whether it's this week, next week or when the season's getting to the end."
Ratten said the discussion might change slightly ahead of the last round of the home and away season and in the finals, but he reiterated that King's importance to the club's future dictated a cautious approach.
"He's had knees and syndesmosis and a few things in the last 12 months so we've got to really look after him and make sure we get him through," Ratten said.
"If it comes up that he's got any signs there, we'll pull him out for sure and that's for anyone.
"We've got a four-dayer coming up against West Coast in a few weeks. It depends on what the markers show (as to) how we're going to manage our list."
Improving midfielder Hunter Clark is one of those Saints to have been rested and he will return to the side to take on Melbourne in Alice Springs on Saturday night.
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The Demons will welcome back their star ruckman and captain, Max Gawn, and Ratten backed his ruck duo of Rowan Marshall and Paddy Ryder to nullify the three-time Virgin Australia AFL All Australian's influence on the contest.
Saturday night's clash pits the sixth-placed Saints (8-5) against the 10th-ranked Demons (6-6), with the victor set to earn a huge boost to their finals hopes.