Goal sneak Jack Lonie is confident a remodelled forward line can improve St Kilda’s scoring power as they seek to end a nine-year AFL finals drought under Brett Ratten this season.
The Saints ranked 14th for points scored last year and lost talented spearhead Josh Bruce during a busy trade period.
But Max King’s emergence, along with the arrival of trade recruits Dan Butler and Paddy Ryder, has given a whole new look to the Saints’ attack, which Lonie expects to fire against the Western Bulldogs in round two.
“In my time at the Saints, a lot of the time there have been two or three resting midfielders come down and play in that forward line, just because we’ve been stacked with midfield talent,” the 23-year-old Lonie said.
“But this year we’ve got six genuine forwards who are going to play that role and have played and worked together in the pre-season.
“We’ve gelled pretty well and know each other’s games and hopefully we can build that for the next four or five years.”
King, Ryder and vice-captain Tim Membrey all offer tall marking options, while Ben Long, Matthew Parker, Dean Kent and Nick Hind head the growing list of smaller forwards in a battle for spots with Butler and Lonie.
Lonie kicked 13.19 from 13 appearances last year – which was interrupted by a three-month knee injury – and has focused on “adding layers” to his game in 2020 by improving his conversion rate and taking his defensive pressure acts to a new level.
The out-of-contract left-footer hopes it will earn him a new deal in the months ahead but admits he is “a little bit nervous” as clubs face the prospect of AFL-imposed cuts to playing lists beyond this year.
“When it comes down to it, I just need to play some good footy and that will take care of itself,” Lonie said.
“But with all the talk about list sizes it’s probably not a good year to be out of contract.”
Rather than seeing 2017 flag-winning Tiger Butler’s arrival as a threat, Lonie has relished developing his game alongside his former Vic Country under-18s teammate.
“We struck a good relationship there and I’ve seen what he’s gone on to do at Richmond and I’m pretty jealous of him winning a premiership,” Lonie said.
“It’s been good to work with him, he’s a ripping fella and he’s brought a few things over from Richmond to teach us, which has been great.”