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Saints oozing confidence ahead of season

By Roger Vaughan 03/02/2010 05:56:07 PM Comments (0)

St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt will make a rare intra-club match appearance next week as the AFL runners-up ooze confidence ahead of this season.

Riewoldt said on Wednesday he had enjoyed his best pre-season in several years, an encouraging sign for the club as they try to build on 2009's near-perfect performance.

While the Andrew Lovett saga dogs the Saints, they are extremely confident about how they will perform in the wake of the narrow grand final loss to Geelong last September.

"I haven't played intra-club for four or five years, but I will play next week and the week after, barring anything unforeseen," Riewoldt said.

"It's the best pre-season I've had in quite a few years."

Coach Ross Lyon said the Saints might be without only "two or three" players for the NAB Cup opener later this month against Collingwood.

Vice-captain Lenny Hayes had off-season elbow surgery, but he is now running.

Lyon, like Riewoldt, is encouraged by how well the team has gone through the pre-season.

They were talking on Wednesday at the start of the club's community camp, being held on the Mornington Peninsula.

"Certainly we've felt year on year, we've improved our footy, it's another wonderful opportunity for us to go ahead," Lyon said.

"(It's) just my view, I feel we'll play better football in (2010) than we did in '09.

"There's less apprehension about what we're doing going forward in 2010.

"Confidence comes out of actions, we've got a really strong confidence, as Geelong would and Hawthorn would, about their game styles."

Provided Luke Ball plays, one of the key features of the Saints-Collingwood NAB Cup game will be the midfielder turning out against his old club.

Riewoldt made some comments about him in the media this week, saying it was disappointing that Ball left St Kilda for the Magpies.

"I wouldn't say strong, I'd say honest words (and) I will stick by what he said - he had a contract and he didn't stay," Riewoldt said.

"We all know that, everyone in the club knows that.

"Does it mean we're not friends any more? Of course not - but they're the facts."

Lyon said there would be more flexibility in the way the team plays this year.

He noted that Collingwood plan to free up ruckman Josh Fraser this season and said St Kilda might do the same with Riewoldt.

"Maybe he and Fraser can play on the wing in the NAB Cup, that would be nice," Lyon said with a grin.

Another St Kilda player to watch in the pre-season will be strongly built Irish recruit Tom Walsh.

"If he was to play, he'd be that substitute player, but we're pretty keen to give him an opportunity - we know he'll crash and bash ... I hope he doesn't crash into our players," Lyon said.

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