After playing just four games in the first 15 rounds, St Kilda rebounding defender Shane Savage returned to the side in Round 16 and finished the year as well as anyone to build momentum into 2018.
Despite finding himself at Sandringham for a large chunk of the year, the Kiwi rediscovered his best form in the last eight games, averaging 24.6 disposals, 4.9 inside 50s and 532.2 metres gained – the fourth most of any player in the game during that period.
While 12 senior games is the lowest amount he has played since his first season at Hawthorn, Savage demonstrated in the back end of the year how valuable he can be across half back, particularly in the absence of the now retired Leigh Montagna.
After coming back into the side against Richmond in Round 16, the 26-year-old amassed 31 disposals – the second highest count of his career – in the big loss to Essendon the following week, in a game where he was one of the few Saints to stand up.
Savage continued to build form in Sydney the next week when Montagna injured his hamstring badly, before finishing the year with a full head of steam.
Performance of the year:
Round 17 v Essendon at Etihad Stadium: 31 disposals, 487.8 metres gained, eight marks and four inside 50s
Alan Richardson’s views:
“I get a lot of confidence out of the way ‘Sav’ finished the year,” Richardson said.
“There were moments early in the season where he was in and out of the team, and his performances were a bit up and down even within games.
“Sav’s quite an attacking defender but he actually lost a bit of his drive early in the year because he was focusing so much on his defence.
“To come back into the side and be able to defend his man, and also provide us with that drive, added real value to the team. He should get a lot of confidence in the way he finished the year and the balance he was able to find as a defender.
“Sav and his partner have just had their second child, so his life is going to go from busy to busier, but he’s a real pro so I’d expect him to have another really strong pre-season.”
435.5 metres gained
3.8 inside 50s
2.8 rebound 50s
Story – www.saints.com.au