Saints buoyed as Baker and Ball return - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Saints buoyed as Baker and Ball return

By Robert Grant 17/11/2008 05:07:19 PM Comments (0)

St Kilda's pre-season training has been lifted by the return of a key group of players whose absence weakened the AFL side this year.

Tagger Steven Baker, midfield star Luke Ball and defender Matt Maguire, who has missed the best part of two years, all trained in the main group on Monday.

Maguire, who has battled to return following a severely broken leg in 2006 and a broken foot early this year, gave some hope he might at last be ready to resume playing.

His recovery from the leg injury was hampered by the onset of compartment syndrome, which required a lengthy spell in hospital.

Last year, stress fractures in his left foot restricted him to ten games, before he injured the same foot this year, after just four matches.

Saints skipper Nick Riewoldt said Maguire had given some cause for optimism about a return to bolster the backline.

"To see Goose (Maguire) out there, obviously he's been through a pretty tumultuous year, it's positive signs early," he said.

"He's got a long way to go but it's great for the group and morale."

Baker missed all but two games the past season with a knee injury while Ball missed the club's last seven games of the year with a serious hamstring injury.

"I think for Bally it's the first time he's been able to start the pre-season and join in with the main group," Riewoldt said.

"And we've picked up Farren Ray (from the Western Bulldogs) so we're all excited about him being at the club and what he can offer us."

Riewoldt said St Kilda would be more competitive with the AFL's best in 2009, having reached a preliminary final this year but losing heavily to both grand finalists Geelong and Hawthorn during the finals series.

"I think we're in as good a position as anyone," he said. "That being said from fourth to 11th last year there were three games separating all those teams.

"There is a big group of teams there that are all quite even.

"Obviously the top two sides and the Bulldogs as well were clearly the best three sides for the year so we've still got a lot of work to do."

Meanwhile, former Geelong and North Melbourne player Leigh Tudor has joined the Saints as an assistant coach, a year after guiding Geelong to a VFL Premiership.

Tudor played 68 career games including grand finals in 1994 and 1995 with the Cats.

St Kilda football manager Greg Hutchison said Tudor's coaching experience at Geelong was important as they had been the benchmark team of the AFL for the last two years.

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