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Burning questions for 2013: St Kilda

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How will the Saints cope without Brendon Goddard?

By far the biggest losers in the free agency period - at least in the short-term - St Kilda's biggest challenge will be covering for the loss of one of their A-grade players. The Saints still have plenty of quality in Nick Riewoldt, Nick Dal Santo, Leigh Montagna and Lenny Hayes, but Goddard was their Mr Fixit, able to play off half back, run through the midfield or move into the forward line and kick goals. There is no ready-made utility ready to switch between all three roles when needed, and the loss of Jason Gram robs them of at least one player capable of switching between the running half-back role and the midfield. Montagna will be able to spend time forward and in the midfield next season, but the simple fact is there is no easy way to replace player of Goddard's calibre. Sam Gilbert has had brief promising stints in the midfield, and can play forward and back as well, but he has been a long way from his 2010 form since the Kim Duthie scandal. Perhaps now that is in the distant past, he may be able to rediscover his mojo.

Are the Saints getting too old?

Rumour has it that the 32-year-old Lenny Hayes wanted to retire at the end of last season, but the club convinced him to stay for one more year because they felt he was still needed. Jason Blake, 31, was also convinced to go around for one more season, perhaps buoyed by getting his first Brownlow vote this year. Stephen Milne, 32, still showed he has what it takes and was signed to a one-year contract, but having three regular members of the team on the wrong side of 30 should be ringing some alarm bells. Just behind these three are Riewoldt, Sam Fisher and Justin Koschitzke, who are all 30. Ahmed Saad is being groomed to replace Milne in the long term, and if his debut season is anything to go by, he should be an adequate replacement. But it is in the midfield that the Saints lack quality younger players coming through. St Kilda's best young midfielders are Jack Steven and David Armitage, but they will need to unearth some new talent this season. Expect to see Sebastian Ross and Tom Ledger get more game time, especially if things start going pear-shaped early in the season.

Is Scott Watters safe?

Yes - as far as any AFL senior coach is safe. Watters shouldn't come under too much pressure this year. The Saints may have missed the finals in 2012, but they did finish with a 12-10 record and a healthy percentage, which would have been enough to get through in many past years. Even though the Saints have the aforementioned raft of A-graders nearing the end of their careers, most people can see that it is time for the club to start considering a rebuild. The task of developing the club's younger players will be made harder given the chronic neglect of the club's younger players during the Ross Lyon era and the fact that drafting has also been less than successful in recent years.

Watters is already putting his own imprint on the club, looking to stamp out the culture problems by acting swiftly and decisively to cut Gram after he was charged by police and also cutting Nick Winmar when he put in a less than impressive effort in a club time trial. He is already starting to bring across some successful Collingwood ideas as well. Taking the team to Colorado for high-altitude training in the off-season and making the club more open to the media and fans are just two examples.

Can Nick Riewoldt outperform his cousin?

The question of which was the better Riewoldt - Nick or Jack - started off as a joke when it was first being discussed, with Nick miles ahead.  As Jack improved, it became a serious question and now it might come full circle to joke status - but with a very different punchline. Richmond's Jack now has two Coleman Medals in his trophy cabinet at home to Nick's none, and worse still, Richmond will probably finish ahead of the Saints on the ladder next season for the first time since the pair started playing football at AFL level. If Nick can get through the season without any injury problems, he might be able to make a serious claim to family bragging rights, but it seems unlikely, given we haven't seen his very best football since 2009.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.

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