RUCKMAN Rowan Marshall believes St Kilda's bleeding from centre bounces will improve with the return of "big brother" Paddy Ryder on Saturday.
Ryder will play his first game of 2021 since returning from personal leave earlier this month, stamping his recall with a starring performance for Sandringham in the VFL last weekend.
It will also bring the dangerous Marshall-Ryder combination together for the first time since the veteran injured his hamstring in the Saints' elimination final win over the Western Bulldogs last year.
Coach Brett Ratten was left to lament the Saints' midfield deficiencies in the 54-point loss against Port Adelaide on Sunday, losing centre clearances by 10 for the second week in a row.
Now with Marshall fully recovered from a snapped plantar fascia and able to play back-to-back games for the first time this season, the Saints will pair their best ruck duo against Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium.
"It has been pretty disappointing and one of the areas we've been poor in this year," Marshall said of the Saints' centre bounce work.
>> WATCH RYDER'S VFL HIGHLIGHTS IN THE PLAYER BELOW
"We know how important centre bounce is to the game today… we've already reviewed the last two weeks' centre bounces with (assistant) Brendon Lade and the other coaches and we'll train it pretty hard tomorrow.
"We saw last year how important he (Ryder) is especially with the centre bounce work and he's awesome around the stoppages giving first use to the mids. The stuff he's able to do with the ball is up there with the best ruckmen in the competition.
"You saw with his performance on the weekend in the VFL, he certainly hasn't lost any pace or explosiveness around the contest. It's going to be pretty exciting to see him back out there this weekend.
"It's a really important game for us this weekend, we've got to get our season up and going and we've got to bounce back after some pretty disappointing results."
Marshall enjoyed a breakout 2019 campaign before Ryder was added to the Saints' list. While many forecast Marshall's role shifting, it's only enhanced his standing as an emerging ruck-forward of the competition.
"He's almost been like a big brother in a way," Marshall declared.
"He's been a great mentor for me and when the Saints first threw up about getting him, I was all for it and I've loved having him at the club. He's not only great to learn from on the field, he's great to learn from off the field as well.
"He's respected, has great traits and is so caring… he really has that care for everyone on the list and everyone admires him for that.
"It was great the club was fully supportive of him to go away and reconnect with his family, 'Ratts' is a strong believer that family comes first and footy comes second. It's something the club has been working on pretty hard over the last couple of years, building that connection and stuff."
It comes after Ryder told AFL.com.au on the eve of the season that he was indebted to the care from football clubs following a 16-year career spanning Essendon, Port Adelaide and now St Kilda.
"Everyone has those tough sort of times along the way," Ryder said.
"For me, football clubs are so supportive and if you are going to go through some stuff, I think the best place to be is (at) an AFL club.
"There's so much support, there's so much love to be able to get through almost anything. I'm just grateful that all the hard times I've had, I've had so many people that have been loving and supportive over the journey and they've helped get me through."
Ryder tasted his first finals victory in his 257th game last year, leaving him hungry for more.
"I'm living out my childhood dream, as a young fella, that's all I ever wanted to do was to make the AFL," he said.
"I love footy and enjoy so much about football clubs, all the mateship that comes with it as well.
"I haven't tasted much success in terms of finals and that still drives me. As I've got older in my career, I've become more passionate about my footy. I think passion drives me a lot and I'm still really competitive."