St Kilda are looking to turn their encouraging AFL form into premiership points when they host Greater Western Sydney on Sunday at Etihad Stadium.
A poor outing against the Western Bulldogs aside, the Saints have been highly competitive this season but only have one win – a courageous 29-point victory against Collingwood – to show for it.
It took some late heroics from Hawthorn last week to see off a spirited St Kilda challenge by three points.
The Giants have been similarly impressive in patches for their two wins, making the clash between two of the competition’s up-and-coming teams a tantalising prospect.
“A lot of our young guys coming through are extremely talented just like the Giants’ young players,” St Kilda swingman Sam Gilbert told AAP.
“I think a lot of those boys are all starting to find their feet, which is great.
“For us as a young group to match it with Hawthorn for so long … I think that will give us a lot of confidence going into this week.”
The GWS attack has been bolstered by the returns of Jeremy Cameron and Devon Smith.
Cameron will play his first game of the year after serving a four-match ban for a high hit on Brisbane’s Rhys Mathieson in a spiteful pre-season cup clash, while Smith is back from a leg injury.
The Saints regain Luke Dunstan and Jimmy Webster from injury at the expense of Eli Templeton and Blake Acres, who have both been dropped.
Dunstan and Webster were both influential in key moments of St Kilda’s win over the Pies.
The Saints continue to be well served by fellow veterans Nick Riewoldt, Leigh Montagna, Sam Fisher and Sean Dempster this season, but Gilbert is encouraged by the increasingly important input from the club’s bevy of young talent as their extensive rebuild starts to bear fruit.
“When I came to the club, the team was pretty good already so, for me, it was really the first time I’d been though that,” Gilbert said of the lean years as the club remodelled their playing list.
“But from where we’d been (playing in grand finals), to see the way the club put a plan in place to redevelop just made me love it even more.
“You certainly don’t take anything for granted when you go through those times when you’re not winning then to see where we are now, getting so close to the reigning premiers, and how much more we can improve … it’s really exciting.”