Lyon reveals first positional change as Saints debate game plan

In today’s AFL briefing, your wrap of football news:

  • Lyon reveals first positional change, as Saints debate game plan
  • And in case you missed it, Chris Langford took aim at the Hawthorn board over poor governance and its handling of the cultural safety review.

Check back for more updates throughout the day.

Lyon reveals first positional change as Saints debate game plan

Jon Pierik

Returned St Kilda coach Ross Lyon has revealed his first major positional change, declaring often-maligned playmaker Brad Hill will return to his “pet position” on the wing.

Hill’s 2022 campaign was a microcosm of the Saints’. He began the season in superb touch through an 8-3 win-loss record, before slipping after the mid-season bye as the Saints went 3-8 and missed the finals.

The former premiership Hawk and Docker, who won a best and fairest under Lyon with Fremantle, has played his best football on a wing, but last year spent time at half-back and half-forward, and was often a source of frustration for Saints supporters.

Brad Hill spent considerable time at half back last season, but will be redeployed to his customary spot on the wing under Ross Lyon.Credit:AFL Photos

On Monday, the 29-year-old opted to join younger teammates on the first day of official training for first to fourth-year players and Lyon said Hill – who had considered leaving Moorabbin through the trade period – had returned in the best shape of his 11-year career.

“He looked bubbly, he is running really well. I know even last year there was a bit of noise [about his form], but I know he was second in our best and fairest halfway through the year,” Lyon said.

“It was a pretty good performance. I think he still finished seventh – I mean there would be a lot of players who take seventh as a bad year. He sets such a high standard.

“He performed for [Alastair] Clarkson, he performed for me, he has performed here, we are pretty hard taskmasters. He knows what is expected. He will probably play less half back I would think, get him back to his pet position on the wing a little bit, just free him up a little to run.

“But he has got to do his bit. He has had his best pre-season off-season, he said to me, at his best he will bring real pop to the group and real enthusiasm.”

Hill is contracted until the end of 2025, having signed with the Saints in 2019 on a deal industry sources say is worth about $900,000 per season.

Lyon, still “pinching himself” about returning to the club he led into grand finals in 2009 and 2010, also looks forward to working with Max King.

The star young forward is arguably the centrepiece of Lyon’s premiership blueprint, but King must improve his radar in front of goal. He had the yips, again, at times last season, finishing with 52 goals but 41 points.

The Saints hope Max King can fine-tune his kicking radar.Credit:Getty Images

Just how to fine tune his consistency has been a source of internal and public debate.

“I think there is a lot of noise about goalkicking. I have seen him kick five straight and 1.5. But, look, it’s an incredibly important stat,” Lyon said.

“Andrew Ireland, who is a good friend and mentor, said it’s the most underrated stat in AFL footy, goalkicking accuracy. All you can do is do the work and give yourself the best possible chance.”

Lyon said assistant coaches, including Robert Harvey and Corey Enright, were finalising a game plan that would be presented to Lyon before a final decision was made. At his introductory press conference, Lyon had said the Saints were a strong running team ready to play bold football.

“I said we could run, I didn’t actually use the term leg speed. But we have got really good endurance athletes here. It talks that you can play a bit more [of a] continuous game. Hopefully an up-tempo game,” he said.

Tagger Marcus Windhager won the time trial, as the Saints continued to move on after the emotional sacking of former coach Brett Ratten. Lyon addressed the playing group as a whole on Monday.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge context and not just pretend there has been no tumultuous period here because there has, but my job is to pick us and get us moving as a club,” he said.

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