Luckless St Kilda veteran Sam Gilbert will make his long-awaited return to AFL football on Sunday after being named in the Saints’ squad to take on Melbourne.
After impressing in the VFL, the 28-year-old defender will play his first senior match since round 22 last season.
Speaking before the Saints’ main hit-out for the week on Thursday morning, coach Alan Richardson said Gilbert just needed to get through training to hear his name called at selection.
“He’s really close,” he said.
“Our backs have been pretty solid for us and they’re the decisions and the choices you have when you’re reasonably healthy.
“But he’s a good player and he makes us a better team and he’ll be really close.”
Gilbert’s recovery leaves another longstanding Saints defender, Sam Fisher, as the sole member of their injury list.
It’s a remarkable tally that makes St Kilda the envy of the league.
Richardson said the club was enjoying good karma after enduring a nightmare run with injuries in 2014.
“We had a shocker last year, it was the worst in the club’s history,” he said.
“After the bye when Fisher is a significant chance to play, they’re just about all available … it’s a good position to be in.
“The team has played some reasonable footy, some footy that suggests we’re heading in the right direction.
“We want to improve as quickly as we can and a healthy list means that there can be more competition for spots.”
The downside of the club’s fitness boom is that form rookie-listed players Adam Schneider and Jack Sinclair will be unavailable for the Demons’ clash.
Richardson said Sinclair would be a candidate for an upgrade after the bye.
“He’s our second highest goalkicker at the minute, he couldn’t have been more impressive,” he said.
No.1 draft pick Paddy McCartin will also return this week but in the VFL, after sitting out a week with a concussion.
On Sunday against Melbourne, St Kilda have two form lines that sit well in their favour.
The Saints have won the last 10 against Melbourne, while the Demons haven’t won in an astonishing 20 trips to Etihad dating back to 2007.
Richardson said the Demons’ Docklands hoodoo wasn’t his concern – but their continued improvement under Paul Ross was.
“All I worry about is the way we play on a particular ground,” he said.
“They were fantastic against the Bulldogs and four goals up against Port Adelaide.
“If not for Travis Cloke, they probably win (against Collingwood on Monday).
“They’re going to be a real challenge, there’s no doubt about that.”