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Gilbert for St Kilda midfield

By Kim Hagdorn
11 February 2013 11:14AM EST

ST KILDA coach Scott Watters could be grooming regular defender Sam Gilbert to assume increased midfield duties left open with the departure of renowned Saints on-ball enforcer Brendon Goddard.

Gilbert, 26, was a noticeable more permanent midfielder from a wing with occasional presence in centre-square re-starts during an intense Saints four-quarter practice match at Linen House on Saturday.

Gilbert’s accustomed role of sweeping across half-back was noticeably filled by Fremantle Dockers recruit Dylan Roberton, who slotted into a likely redefined Saints defensive division with regular back-liners Sam Fisher, Jarryn Geary, Tom Simpkin, James Gwilt and Arryn Sipos.

Fisher, 30, has a restricted summer campaign with lengthy stints in rehabilitation but made it through the full practice game in his customary key defensive roles. 

Veteran big all-rounder Jason Blake operated in a key defensive role in what appeared more like a Saints “possible” combination.

Goddard's controversial departure to Essendon over summer has opened way for Watters to search for adequate replacement to the experienced midfielder's talents around the ball and congestion.

And Watters also appeared to expose prospects of loading up his scoring options with forward firepower to assist proven ace Nick Riewoldt.

Riewoldt sat out Saturday’s 80-minute scratch game but recruited sharp-shooter Tom Lee from WAFL ranks, Beau Maister (formerly Wilkes) and powerhouse Justin Koschitzke formed an imposing forward marking and goal-scoring pack with crumbing veteran Stephen Milne lurking for any spillage.

Milne, 33 in March, bagged four goals in support of what looks certain to be a distinct tactic from Watters to camp big marking and leading targets around Saints goal.

Koschitzke had occasional on-ball stints, but the ruck battle generally raged between imported Brisbane big man Tom Hickey and established lead ruck force Ben McEvoy.

Another on-ball and tall forward marking and scoring option as well as part time ruck candidate Rhys Stanley sat out as he completes a rehabilitation schedule after late season hamstring dramas last year.

Stanley was joined on the sidelines by champion on-baller Lenny Hayes as well as other veterans Sean Dempster and Adam Schneider.

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