AFL

St Kilda's Jack Billings shows he is back in the groove

Having learnt more about his craft in an unexpected capacity last season, emerging St Kilda small forward Jack Billings is ready to impress in his desired capacity this year.

Billings reinforced why he is one of the most talented youngsters in the game when he performed strongly in the Saints' intra-club clash on Friday.

Jack Billings of the Saints is congratulated by Nick Riewoldt after kicking a goal.
Jack Billings of the Saints is congratulated by Nick Riewoldt after kicking a goal. Photo: Getty Images

He did not play after round 10 last season because of a fracture in his left shin.

"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 on Friday.

"I have never missed that much footy before. I love footy and I am really passionate about it, so it was really tough.

"It is the most I have learned since I have been at the Saints, dealing with that [injury] and how I go about it I think it is going to make me stronger and hold me in good stead."

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That's just what the Saints want to hear, as they seek to improve on their 14th placing last season.

So highly is Billings regarded that coach Alan Richardson has said he could make the biggest difference to the side this year - should he remain fit.

The No.3 pick of the 2013 draft has worked particularly hard on improving his running strength over the pre-season, and is expected to log more time in the midfield.

Along with Billings, Jack Newnes was another to impress on Friday, while young forward Patrick McCartin lined up on Sam Fisher and showed the development in strength and nous he has made over summer.

Billings' development would allow Nick Riewoldt to spend more time outside of attacking 50, in the same manner Richmond was able to free up Matthew Richardson in his final years.

The Saints have yet to publicly reveal their leadership group but Riewoldt is expected to remain as skipper - a role he assumed outright in 2008.

"He's one of the best captains of our time. All the boys love him and he is so inspiring and the way he leads from the front each week is awesome," Billings said.