24: What to make of the Saints. Been poor over the last few years, having promised so much. They sacked their coach, installing Brett Ratten who was only brought in as an assistant last season. There was a lot of talk around his presence being there as an insurance policy if Richardson failed again, which is what eventuated.

Few would begrudge Ratten another chance. He was unceremoniously dumped form Carlton, despite a sound record, after an injury plagued season where they struggled, to bring in Mick Malthouse. He then went and joined Hawthorn, where he was a key piece in the 3-peat, being an assistant in 2014& 2015. He was a loyal and valued assistant and highly rated inside the club.

The Saints have obviously decided the rebuild is done, having recruited aggressively by bringing in 5 established players from other clubs who cover a range of positions and age brackets. In Hill and Jones, you get pace, Ryder a quality second ruck and experience, Butler brings defensive nous and intel from one of the best clubs in the land, whilst in Howard they have a quality young swingman who looks an absolute steal. The supporters will be demanding finals this year, so the pressure is on the whole club

LIST CHANGES:
Ins: Dougal Howard (Port Adelaide), Paddy Ryder (Port Adelaide), Bradley Hill (Fremantle), Zak Jones (Sydney Swans), Dan Butler (Richmond), Ryan Byrnes, Leo Connolly (Draft), Jack Bell (Rookie Draft)

Outs: Jack Steven (Geelong Cats), Blake Acres (Fremantle), Josh Bruce (Western Bulldogs), David Armitage (retired), Billy Longer (delisted), Lewis Pierce (delisted), Sam Rowe (delisted), Bailey Rice (delisted), Robbie Young (delisted), Brandon White (delisted)

THE DRAW
Pretty solid, especially early when they get 5 games at Marvel, and only travel is to Geelong. In fact, they stay in Melbourne until Rd9. Overall, they play 14 games at Marvel which should suit their ins with the pace they have brought in. Finish the year with 3 of 4 at Marvel so if they are fighting for finals, they are in friendly surrounds

Their double-ups look great overall, they only cop one top side from last year in Geelong, they have Adelaide, Carlton and Fremantle who are likely to struggle and the Demons, who are going to be fighting with the Saints as the big improvers.

5 BIG QUESTIONS FOR THE SAINTS
1: How quickly can their new 5 settle?
This is the big question. Based on the preseason, Brad Hill has pretty much fitted in perfectly, playing scintillating footy so far. He’s an elite wingman Hill, quick, runs all day and is one of the best disposers by foot. Howard, Jones and Butler have looked ok, whilst Ryder hasn’t done much wrong either. However, little can really be garnered from preseason so we will be watching the opening round closely. If they can settle and gel early, then St Kilda are instantly better and have filled crucial gaps that they had. If they struggle early, then it puts pressure on the whole club. They need wins early, so here’s hoping they get off on the right foot, otherwise supporter unrest starts.

2: Why Ryder?
Of their recruits, this one makes the least sense. Firstly, in Marshall they have one of the most exciting young ruckman in the game, who had a breakout year last season. Secondly, Ryder was looking slow and was eventually dropped by Port who backed in Lycett to lead their midfield. Whilst he brings experience, and obvious talent, you wonder if his waning powers might hurt them if he takes Marshall away from developing further. Only positive I see is it allows Marshall to play more forward which they’ll need.

3: Can King deliver in his first season?
Max King, the guy given the No.12 by Nick Riewoldt and the guy Saints fans are expecting to be their next forward superstar. No pressure on the kid!!! He’s 202cm and 90kgs and moves gracefully for his size. Good hands, presents well and looks to be a solid kick for goal. What could possibly go wrong. Well firstly, he’s coming off a knee injury which ruined the end to his final TAC cup year and his debut AFL season. He’s going to be tested by the key backs and will have to try and be a key option for the Saints this season along with Membrey and the resting ruckman, it’s a big thing for a young guy to deal with. If he can succeed and shine, it will be huge for the Saints. If he gathers slowly, then all is not lost as the kid clearly has the talent. Tall guys take time, but Saints fans will be hoping that time will be short

4: Will we ever see the best of Dan Hannebery again?
Signed on big money by the Saints last year, he barely got going playing just 5 games due to fitness issues. It was these issues that should have been a red flag to Sydney, with Hannebery clearly laboring towards his end of time at Sydney. He was a superb player for a long period of time at Sydney, but looked cooked by the end. He’s a player that has put his body through a lot of punishment over the journey so whilst he’s only 29, there are a lot of miles on the clock. Personally, I can’t see him being the player he was, but if he can be better than he has been recently, then he can still serve a purpose for the Saints.

5: Can Ratten become their second premiership coach?
I can’t see it this year, but you never know. He’s got a winning record as a coach and has an incredible football brain. He’s had senior coach experience, then got to learn from the best in the game at the moment under Clarkson. The Saints are clearly going all in for the next couple of years with their recruiting, having got established talent in and burnt a lot of draft picks to do it. It’s not just about this year though so he’ll get time, and with the young talent they have sprinkled with experience they will be hoping to push for the flag sooner rather than later. There wouldn’t be many more worthy guys in footy than Ratten to get there.

LIKELY ROUND 1 TEAM
B: Jarryn Geary, Jake Carlisle, Callum Wilkie
HB: Dylan Roberton, Dougal Howard, Hunter Clark
C: Jack Billings, Seb Ross, Brad Hill
HF: Jade Gresham, Tim Membrey, Jack Lonie
F: Dan Butler, Max King, Paddy Ryder
Foll: Rowan Marshall, Jack Steele, Dan Hannebery
Int: Jack Sinclair, Zak Jones, Luke Dunstan, Jimmy Webster

‘THE VIEWS’ PREDICTION FOR 2020
Good recruiting, good development of the talent they have, and now a good coach to direct them. It all spells out finals footy for the Saints if you ask me.

Defensively they look good with Howard joining Carlisle and Wilkie as the key talls in defence. Carlisle is an elite mark of the footy, whilst Wilkie was rarely beaten in his debut year. Geary, and the returning Roberton offer leadership whilst Hunter Clark showed a lot when moved back last season with his quality ball use off half back.

Midfield has some strong runners in Billings, Hill and Jones now, whilst Steele and Ross add the grunt. Hannebery can be the class if he can get and stay fit. They have one of the most exciting new rucks in the game in Marshall, whilst Ryder will give him a chop out plus still has nice hands with his tap work. Not convinced it’s the deepest midfield in the game, but with Graham, Sinclair and Dunstan being able to go through there then it will give it good service

Up forward, they may regret the loss of Josh Bruce, unless Max King can develop quickly. For all the talk of Daniher and his trade price, Bruce’s stats were marginally better and he went far cheaper. Membrey has been a great get from Sydney and will present to the footy strongly and is a neat finisher in front of goal whilst they’ll be hoping that Marshall can blossom for them when he’s forward. Butler offers the defensive game, whilst Gresham and Lonie are the class around the goal front.

Overall, I like the Saints this year and think they have improved. I’m not worried about the new guys settling as I think they will hit the ground running. I’m thinking the Saints are going back to September!!

LIKELY FINISH: 7-10