ST KILDA star Jack Billings is ready to kickstart his frustrating start to 2022 after being recalled to face Geelong at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
The 26-year-old has been hampered by hamstring issues across the early stages of the year, but is ready to go again after spending the past fortnight building his match fitness at Sandringham.
The Saints have made two changes to the 22 that lost to Melbourne by 38 points last Sunday, with mobile forward Cooper Sharman also returning after being the unused medi-sub against Fremantle in round two.
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First-round pick Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera has been managed after playing the first eight games, Marcus Windhager has been omitted and Dan Butler hasn't recovered in time after being troubled by Achilles soreness last weekend.
"Sometimes you have a year where it's not about the quantity of the games you play, it's the quality of the games. I think that's what we're looking for with Jack. We know what he can do," St Kilda coach Brett Ratten said on Friday.
"To play the two games (in the VFL), he looked sharp by the end of the game, which is great. He is ready to come back in.
"As a match committee, we thought with his experience and his quality, to get him back in whether he plays forward or up on the wing, through the midfield. He has the opportunity to grab a spot."
Former skipper Jarryn Geary is closing in on a return to senior football after being named as an emergency on Thursday night, along with Jarrod Lienert, Ryan Byrnes and Windhager.
The 33-year-old managed only three games last year due to a broken leg and shoulder reconstruction, but has been pressing his case at Sandringham over the past month.
"He is getting close. He won't be the medi-sub this week, but he is getting very close. We threw his name up and even match committee this morning we were still chucking it up. He is doing everything right but it won't be this week," Ratten said.
Ratten said Hunter Clark would need at least another game in the reserves before he is available for senior selection, after the 23-year-old collected 28 disposals in his return game from shoulder surgery.
"He got a bit of the ball but it wasn't to the level that we're after. He needs another game at VFL level and they've got a bye. It's hard to play when there is no game," he said.
"He didn't look as sharp as what he needs to be, that's from contest to contest and with the ball in hand. He was a bit rusty. Good players will find the ball at that level, so the numbers will always look good."
Luckless midfielder Dan Hannebery is currently in Munich working with world-renowned soft tissue expert Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt, the former Bayern Munich and German national team doctor.
Ratten remains hopeful the time abroad will help the three-time All-Australian in his latest bid to return from a spate of soft tissue injuries that threaten to end his career.
"He has just gone to get some extra work over there. We've tried a lot of things, so why not explore everything. That's what our medical group have done. We've got a little bit of time, so why not go over there and see if this can help," he said.
"The other thing is it's really good for him to get away from the game and get out of Australia, so mentally it will help too to have a break and a pause and come back. Hopefully it really ignites him."
St Kilda has lost the past six games against the Cats and has only won one game since the famous 2010 qualifying final win at the MCG.
Both sides are 5-3– along with Sydney – a game below fourth-placed Carlton after eight rounds.