Billings backs Hill to kick on at Saints

Jack Billings is backing Brad Hill (pic) to have an improved AFL season this year.
Jack Billings is backing Brad Hill (pic) to have an improved AFL season this year.

Brad Hill experienced an up-and-down first AFL season at St Kilda but teammate Jack Billings has backed the winger to kick on in 2021.

Hill joined the Saints from Fremantle on a lucrative long-term contract at the end of 2019 but struggled to find his best form in 2020, averaging just 15.4 disposals.

Billings expected the return to longer quarters to suit the hard-running Hill and help him get back to his best.

"Obviously he came in last year with a lot of expectations on him but I guess you can only speak about what's happening now and he's in really good shape and out there today he was moving well," Billings said on Wednesday.

"I think quarters going back to normal length this year is something that's gonna help him.

"Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time for new players to sort of fit in - just get used to how guys around them play and how we play as a team. Sometimes that takes longer for other guys.

"He's comfortable now, he's 12 months in - so I'm looking forward to what he can do for us this year."

The Saints snared Hill along with Dan Butler, Zak Jones, Paddy Ryder and Dougal Howard in a bumper 2019 trade period, with all five best 22 players in a team that reached a semi-final.

Billings expected all five players to continue to improve - especially off the back of the team's bonding in their Queensland hub.

"Because we had all these new players come in, it takes time to create relationships and get to know each other and it was fast-tracked just because we were up in Queensland for all that time," he said.

"We look at that as a real positive and benefit for our footy club.

"We've already noticed coming back here - the first few days back - everyone knows each other a lot better than, say, if we didn't (go in the hub)."

Billings was impressed by new recruits Brad Crouch and Jack Higgins, while he noted Dan Hannebery - plagued by soft-tissue injuries in his first two seasons at St Kilda - was "flying".

Meanwhile former Kangaroo Mason Wood is training with the Saints in the hope of securing an AFL lifeline and Billings said the athletic forward had made a good initial impression.

Australian Associated Press