St Kilda are seeing the rewards of their hard work, AFL midfielder Leigh Montagna says.
St Kilda’s senior players have led the way in the Saints’ 3-2 start to the AFL season and Leigh Montagna is puzzled why people are so surprised.
Key forward Nick Riewoldt is firming in Brownlow Medal betting markets and fellow veteran Lenny Hayes is firing in midfield at 34.
“A lot of us have played relatively good footy for a long time together so I don’t think it’s anything new or any surprise,” Montagna told reporters on Wednesday in New Zealand.
“We’re just focusing on trying to lead by example for the younger kids.
“It’s all just based around our effort and how we want to play.”
The ninth-placed Saints will start as favourites in Friday’s Anzac Day clash with bottom side Brisbane in Wellington, following St Kilda’s breakthrough win over Essendon by 16 points last weekend.
Two-time All-Australian Montagna is enjoying his mentoring role with No.3 draft pick Jack Billings, who booted two goals against the Bombers in his second AFL game.
“If we’re going to talk to them about what it takes to play AFL football and play consistently well, we need to be setting the tone,” Montagna said.
Youngsters including No.18 draft pick Luke Dunstan, 19, and 18-year-old Billings have added midfield grunt and flair to the side, Montagna said.
“The older guys are setting the example, but the younger guys are really buying in and playing some terrific football,” Montagna said.
“I’ve been working with Jack Billings. It was really exciting to see a bit of a glimpse of what he’ll be able to produce on a regular basis.
“He’s one guy that I’ve spent a bit of time with behind the scenes and I was really proud to see him so excited when he kicked that goal in the last quarter.
“It is exciting to see and it’s probably more the third-year and fourth-year guys, Jimmy Webster, Tom Curren, to see Rhys Stanley take 13 marks. They’re probably more the guys we were hoping would take that step up.
“And they’re the ones who have made more of a difference this year, rather than the first-year guys.”
Montagna said the win over Essendon had boosted the players’ self-belief about being capable of beating good sides.
“While we continue to give great effort, we’ll continue to be in games,” he said.