Rhys Stanley marks - he's on the attack in 2014. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Having endured a rugged season as a defender in 2013, St Kilda's Rhys Stanley says he is ready to return as a key forward and play his ''natural game''.
Under former coach Scott Watters, the Saints attempted to morph the athletic Stanley into a defender because of their injury problems, but it was debatable how successful this move was.
Stanley was the No.1 spoiler at the club but posted the worst free-kick differential of any player in the AFL. He also struggled in one-on-one contests.
His season ended when he broke his collarbone against the Brisbane Lions in round 19.
Having taken two months to recuperate, Stanley is refreshed and is buoyed by a shift forward, where he is also set to help Billy Longer and Tom Hickey in the ruck.
''This pre-season I have spent a lot of time with [(ruck coach] Darren Jolly doing a lot of ruck stuff and spending a fair bit of time forward as well with Aaron Hamill, the new forwards' coach. I am really excited about the year ahead,'' Stanley said.
''My natural game would be to play forward and have a run around down there. Playing back was a little bit unnatural for me. But it's what we needed as a club and the role I needed to play, so I played to the best of my ability.''
The Saints will hope the 23-year-old can improve this season, as they seek avenues to goal other than through indefatigable skipper Nick Riewoldt. They had been the second-highest scoring team in 2012 but averaged the third-fewest points last season.
Stanley has only 16 goals in 21 matches as a forward but hopes to have a greater impact now he has added a couple of kilograms over summer to a frame listed at 96 kilograms.
While many in the football industry are predicting a rugged season for the Saints as they go about a rebuild, Stanley, who joined teammates at a community camp on the Mornington Peninsula, said ''anything could happen'' if the team can find a consistently high standard.
''Obviously we are a young group, and that's where that consistency can step in,'' he said. [It's about] putting the work in on the track and giving ourselves the confidence to know that we can run out games and be competitive with the bigger bodies.''