Can Lyon unravel the great Saints jigsaw puzzle?

    ST KILDACoach: Ross LyonCaptain: Jack Steele (TBC)What happened in 2022?St Kilda started off the season in a blaze of wins, claiming some good scalps and appeared on track to play finals footy at the mid-year point of the season. At that stage, the Saints were 8-3, having claimed Richmond (33 points in round 3) and eventual premiers Geelong (10 points in round 9). Then something went drastically wrong. The Saints won only three games in the back half of the year, albeit one of them was against Carlton by 15 points in round 15. Losses to top teams Geelong, Sydney and Brisbane saw the Saints miss out on the finals by a game and percentage, an outcome that cost Brett Ratten his job.Where do they finish in 2023?St Kilda is arguably the hardest club to assess going into next year for a number of reasons. They have a new coach who will take some time to implement a new system and get a handle on the playing group. He has a new group of assistants including club favourites Lenny Hayes, Robert Harvey and Brendon Goddard. Given the Saints just missed the eight last season, their aim must be to play finals footy in 2023. It won’t be easy, but Lyon has a knack of getting a team to quickly gel, so anything is possible. Realistically, though, expect the Saints to finish in the middle tier of the ladder — anywhere from 7th to 13th.Biggest improver in 2022Marcus Windhager took some of the biggest names in AFL football in shutdown roles in 2022. It showed he feels more than at home at the level, with his standout role on Lachie Neale raising eyebrows as he kept the Lions superstar to a season-low 16 disposals. Saints insiders believe shutdown roles are only the tip of the iceberg for Windhager, who is expected to take his game to a new level in 2023. He will be putting serious pressure on some of the Saints’ midfield mainstays. Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera can also take the next step next season. Mitch Owens might not start in the Saints’ best side of 2023, but we suspect it won’t be long before he is in there for good.X-factorCould Brad Hill’s permanent return to the wing under his old coach be the move that reignites his career, and gives the Saints extra speed through the middle of the ground they so desperately need? St Kilda needs to get more out of the three-time premiership player who is on more than $850,000 a season. This move could benefit the player but also the club who has been looking for something different in the midfield mix. And don’t discount first-year Saint Mattaes Phillipou making a big X-factor impression in his debut year. Coach statusSt Kilda’s quest to become a more ruthlessly efficient club was the reason behind the decision to chase Ross Lyon as Brett Ratten’s replacement. Lyon has a four-year deal to guide the Saints back into the premiership window after a decade effectively treading water. He has already suggested he might be a little more mellow this time around, but we suspect that could all change when the real stuff starts.St Kilda best 23 Who is in last year of contract?Daniel McKenzie, Hunter Clark, Jack Bytel, Jack Peris, Jade Gresham, Jimmy Webster, Leo Connolly, Mason Wood, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Oscar Adams, Ryan Byrnes, Seb Ross, Tom Campbell, Tom Highmore, Nick Coffield, Zak Jones, Jack Higgins.Outs from 2022Paddy Ryder, Dan Hannebery, Jarryn Geary, Josiah Kyle, Dean Kent, Darragh Joyce, Ben Long, Jarrod LienertIns for 2023Zaine Cordy, Mattaes Phillipou, James Van Es, Olli Hotton, Isaac KeelerSt Kilda 2023 first six fixture Watch every match of every round of the 2023 Toyota AFL Premiership Season LIVE on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

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