Will Brad Hill and Jack Billings form the best wing duo in the competition in 2020? That’s what the Saints fans have to look forward to if they lure the Dockers’ big fish, and the club is growing increasingly confident they will.
ST KILDA can channel Brisbane’s remarkable resurgence with two elite wingmen next year as it grows increasingly confident it will land Fremantle star Brad Hill.
Hill’s significant pay packet of up to $900,000 a season is no impediment given the Saints have banked cap space and saved for years for their moment in the sun.
If you are going to splash the cash, Hill is the man to do it on.
And while clubs once paid out million-dollar sums for inside midfielders and key position stars, the Lions have shown how lethal a pair of elite wingmen can be in the modern game.
Their odd couple in Hugh McCluggage and Mitch Robinson have set the competition alight as they prepare to take on Richmond on Sunday.
They are the only wing pair both ranked elite in the competition, with Collingwood’s Steele Sidebottom (elite) and Tom Phillips (above average) the next-best.
McCluggage is the boundary-line specialist, surging past packs to break lines then sneaking forward to kick 21 goals so far in 2019.
Robinson averages 114 ranking points in his past month and is much more unpredictable.
But with 16 goals, 93 tackles and a host of key interventions with games in the balance, he has been no less spectacular in a career-best year.
Industry estimates vary on what St Kilda might have to give up for Hill — pick 7 might be about right if the Suns get a pre-draft priority pick — but no one doubts he is getting to Moorabbin.
Imagine the possibilities of the Saints, likely under Brett Ratten, with Hill, Dan Hannebery and Jack Billings as mix-and-match wingmen.
Billings has had himself an excellent year, averaging 26 touches and kicking 13 goals to go with three tackles a game.
Add Hill on the other wing and you have two hard-running, high-possession wingmen with exceptional kicking skills to the player on the lead.
If Hannebery gets his body right he gives Ratten options.
He can play as a pure mid, he can push Billings to half forward at times, he can play off half back, or he can kick goals (after three in two weeks).
St Kilda is one of several clubs in the market for GWS free agent Adam Tomlinson, who would ideally like to stay at the Giants but is aware the financial picture at the club might make that hard.
Having only just turned 26, he could get a four-year deal on excellent money that a role player of his talents will never get again given his free agency status.
If he does stay at GWS it will be through a financial sacrifice or because there is room created by Stephen Coniglio’s departure.
Across town at Sydney, Zak Jones plays his final game for the Swans this year with increasing chatter about his links to the Saints, who might need to use a future selection if he lands at the club.
While Tomlinson is a unique wingman at 194cm, Hill is the player who adds desperately needed spread and two-way run to a St Kilda midfield that is a touch dour if Jack Steven leaves.
St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt, a close friend of ex-Dockers coach Ross Lyon, has watched Hill closely recently and said he has rarely seen a player of such relentless running power.
Hill and Billings would have a ball hitting up Josh Bruce, Tim Membrey and hopefully Max King with lace-out accuracy.
St Kilda, currently ranked only 13th in the competition for retaining possession with kicks inside 50, would suddenly have a powerful advantage over most sides in the competition.