The St Kilda Saints have two young Kiwi International Scholarship holders on their books, and both are flourishing through AFL.
Joe Baker Thomas was signed during ANZAC Week last year, and Giovanni Mountain Silbery signed after impressing recruiters at the AFL New Zealand National Combine.
St Kilda development coach Paul Hudson couldn’t be happier with Joe Baker Thomas’s progression in a relatively short amount of time.
“Week by week Joe is progressing,”
“What’s really good about him is how diligent he is. He has had a football in hands at every opportunity which I think has really helped him become a better player.”
The Kiwi rookie, who was St Kilda’s first international recruit prior to US import Jason Holmes late last year, has played four games for Sandringham’s development squad, and further four in the TAC Cup for the Sandringham Dragons.
Each match is another chance for Baker-Thomas to learn the intricacies and subtleties of the craft , and it is in the backline that he’s spent the majority of his time across the first two months of the season.
“We’ve been playing him predominantly in defence because we want him to learn this aspect of the game,” Hudson said.
“In the second half of the year we will probably start to push him forward more so he can gain a greater understanding of AFL by playing some different roles.”
While he hasn’t starred, Baker-Thomas has invariably done a good job on one of the opposition’s most dangerous key forwards.
The 17-year-old is hard at work training for the upcoming South Pacific Under 16 championships that will be held in Brisbane next month.
St Kilda List Manager Ameet Bains said since Mountain-Silbery first played in the New Zealand Under 18 championships in April he has seen a steady improvement in the Aucklander’s game.
“The fact that Giovanni is improving and showing a strong desire and enthusiasm to learn the game is exciting,” Bains said.
“We’re looking forward to having him visit the club next month where he will witness first hand the rigours of AFL and the elite preparation players go through.”
Mountain-Silbery, who has been identified as a key forward and ruckman, will visit Linen House Centre in July to get a real taste of the AFL environment.
Since signing with the club in March he has been training with a coach one day a week to improve his skills.
Known for his speed, leap and power, Mountain-Silbery caught the eye of Saints recruiters at the AFLNZ National Combine in late January where he registered 2.97 seconds for a 20m sprint.
He still has a couple more years to develop his skills while he finishes school and is still expecting add to his 196cm frame.