HERE is the news St Kilda supporters have wanted to read. Lenny Hayes' preparation for the impending AFL campaign is progressing superbly.
Hayes had post-season surgery for a leaky heart valve, a condition it was discovered had been with him through his life but one in which he only realised was there through a club health check after Christmas 2011.
It didn't stop him from returning from a knee reconstruction and claiming the Saints' best and fairest last season, and is unlikely to prevent him from resuming in next month's NAB Cup.
''Lenny has had a very normal, solid pre-season preparation and he will be fully fit and available for the NAB Cup program,'' St Kilda coach Scott Watters told Fairfax Media on Monday.
The Saints open their NAB Cup campaign with round-robin matches against Adelaide and Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on February 17.
Just who will captain the club has yet to be disclosed, at least publicly, with Nick Riewoldt declaring he will relinquish the role if required.
''There is no immediate urgency for a captaincy decision,'' Watters said. ''We'll go through our normal leadership selection process and we'll announce our captain to our members some time during the next month.''
Watters revealed one of his key hopes was to develop versatile young big man Rhys Stanley. Stanley has played only 21 matches, including a best return of 12 last season in a campaign marred by a hamstring injury, since he was taken in the 2008 national draft.
He will play alongside veteran Justin Koschitzke when up forward.
''We believe Kosi's best football is still played as a forward and one of our most important goals with Rhys Stanley is to get him fit and healthy to complete a full season,'' Watters said.
''He does have great versatility with the capacity to play at both ends of the ground and in the ruck.''
The Saints became a more attacking team in Watters' rookie season but they slipped from fourth (76.1 points) to eighth (86.5) in terms of points conceded per match. They also slipped from second to eighth in terms of percentage of opposition scores per inside 50, revealing they were no longer the shutdown kings.
Watters is open to playing Sam Fisher in his customary role as a rebounding defender or more as a key defender, a role he performed well late last season.
''Sam's capacity to play both as a lockdown key defender and as a more creative running defender will both be explored throughout the season,'' Watters said.
He also praised Fisher, arguably the Saints' most important player, for his diligence in training and in adhering to his leadership responsibilities after a report in November questioning his off-field lifestyle.
The Saints were two games shy of the top eight last season and are again expected to be embroiled in a mid-table logjam for September action.
Watters understands his club is still rebuilding, although he insists he will not use development as an excuse.
''We have 26 players on our list who are under 23 years of age who are hungry for selection opportunities,'' he said. ''Our players on our list are continuing to develop.''