Exciting St Kilda youngster Jack Billings says his injury-enforced layoff has taught him to savour every moment of his promising AFL career.
The 20-year-old’s 2015 season was wrecked by a stress fracture to his shin, unable to play again after round 10 following an impressive start to the year.
He had his first real hit-out as he builds towards round one, taking part in St Kilda’s match simulation at Seaford on Friday.
He said he struggled being a spectator and it had taught him to be more appreciative of his opportunity.
“I love footy and I am really passionate about it, so it was really tough,” Billings said.
“It is the most I have learned since I have been at the Saints just dealing with that (injury) and how I go about it I think it is going to make me stronger,” Billings said.
“This summer I’ve come in every day appreciating it and not taking anything for granted because things fell off the cliff pretty quickly for me last year so you never know what can happen.”
Billings is expecting to play in the Saints’ intra-club match next week with an eye on their opening NAB Challenge clash with North Melbourne on Feb 20.
While Billings was up and about his new teammate, Nathan Freeman, was still restricted to running laps.
Billings said the Saints were doing all they could to make Freeman’s troublesome hamstring “bullet-proof”.
With the aim to spend more time in the midfield in his third season, Billings said he felt good in his first match simulation.
“I was pretty rapt to be out there running around and getting a few kicks and I’m starting to get a lot of confidence in the body,” Billings said.
Other players to impress in the four quarters were Cameron Shenton, Josh Bruce, Sam Gilbert and Jack Newnes, while veteran Sam Fisher had his hands full with young forward Patrick McCartin.
The Saints are expecting to name their leadership group next week with Billings plumping for long-time skipper Nick Riewoldt to continue in the role as he heads into his 16th season.
“He’s one of the best captains of our time,” Billings said of the 33-year-old.
“All the boys love him and he is so inspiring and the way he leads from the front each week is awesome.”