Shane Savage reaches the 100-game milestone this weekend as a player on the rise, a player who has gone from strength to strength across the last year to become a critical component of St Kilda’s ball movement chain. But it wasn’t always like this for the former Hawk.
The 24-year-old with the deadly right-foot landed at Linen House Centre at the end of 2013, along with pick No. 17, which was used to acquire Luke Dunstan in exchange for ruckman Ben McEvoy.
His first season at St Kilda didn’t quite pan out the way he would have envisaged when he crossed from that year’s premiers, but a move to half-back last year, orchestrated by Alan Richardson, led to a breakout year for the Dandenong Stingrays product.
From there, Savage has flourished in defence, providing the Saints with penetrating ball use and plenty of drive between the arcs. His numbers have spiked in the first half of 2016, rising from 17.3 possessions last year to 23.6 this year, 2.3 rebound 50s to 3.6 and accumulating 451.9 metres per week (2nd most at St Kilda). Oh, and by the way, he is using the ball at 84.3 per cent by foot, cutting opposition presses apart in the process.
On the eve of his hundredth AFL appearance, Savage praised Richardson’s career altering decision to shift him from a role at half-forward and on a wing to a back flank, and revealed how a more balanced approach to his role has led to a leap in his form this season.
“Richo identified that probably half-forward wasn’t working for me at the time. I made the move to half-back and I’ve been able to develop my game there and I think I’ve been able to consolidate my role there which has been good,” Savage told saints.com.au.
“My balance has been really good this year. I worked hard on my defence over the summer. I thought my offence is always there. But if I wanted to the next step I needed to defend my man first and then go from there. So I think that balance is something that has propelled my game to another level.”
At Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Savage will run through the banner with his son Jett bundled in his arms. A moment the rebounding defender is set to cherish.
“It’s obviously pretty special. It’s been a pretty hard slog to get here. 100 games and being able to run out with my son is a pretty proud moment for me. It will be up there with the proudest moment of my career; to have him in my arms it will be pretty special. I’m looking forward to it,” Savage said.
The permanent move of star midfielder Leigh Montagna to a half-back flank has coincided with Savage’s sustained patch of form. And it’s a switch the New Zealander says has been highly beneficial for his development this season.
“Obviously we play very similar roles. Joeys been really good in terms of my development, especially this pre-season. His move down back has really helped me find the ball a little bit more and get into the right positions. Joey’s been really beneficial in my role at half-back,” Savage said.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5agUyN8fEE]
Story – saints.com.au