Rhys Stanley: Roaming tall seeking permanent placement

Rhys Stanley doesn’t just want to make up numbers as a tall player who drifts in and out of St Kilda’s backline.

If he’s going to spend more time in defence, as he’s already started to this season, he wants to make sure he does it well.

Having trained with the backline for much of the summer, as well as working with defensive coach Danny Sexton and former Saints’ backman Max Hudghton, he’s got the basics down pat.

But he wants to be sure he can make a difference in a role he has not experienced before in his 17-odd years of playing football.

“I’m really happy I’ve been able to develop both parts of my game and I’ve just got to make sure I don’t just develop and can play [the role], but I can play it well,” Stanley told AFL.com.au.

“That’s what I’m doing now, trying to really hone in on it and learn the ins and outs of both positions.”

The other position he’s talking about is in the forward line, with the development of Ben McEvoy and the recruitment of Tom Hickey – who has just played the one game so far – meaning he expects to be used as a ruckman “more sparingly”.

He’s not sure where he’ll be used more – in attack or down back – but is happy to do either, admitting to the old cliché of, “as long as I’m on the park, I’m happy”.

With a wealth of experience at either end of the St Kilda line up, Stanley has a range of players he can learn from.

“I’m pretty lucky to have some really solid and great players at both ends of the ground that have played in those roles for a long time,” he said.

“At one end you’ve got ‘Roo’ and ‘Kosi’ and the other end Sam Fisher and Jason Blake and Sean Dempster.

“To be able to play alongside those guys and pick their brains and learn, it helps me be able to go from one end to the other.

“I enjoy being anywhere on the field. Playing in defence is new and exciting and I’m thoroughly enjoying it at the moment.”

Stanley has come a long way since he won the 2009 Grand Final half time sprint as an 18-year-old who was yet to make his AFL debut.

He’s played 24 games and has become more grounded, saying the influence of the club’s older players has helped him mature and find “direction”.

Stanley was suspended for six weeks and fined $5000, along with Jack Steven and former Saints Zac Dawson and Paul Cahill, for breaking team rules by consuming alcohol and using prescribed drugs on a New Zealand training camp in early 2011.

“I was just a kid then,” Stanley said, of when he burst onto the scene as a pacey tall at half time in the Geelong-St Kilda Grand Final.

“Everyone starts off as a bright eyed kid who’s not really sure what’s going on and I got some direction over the past few years from some of the senior players and it’s been really good for me.

“It’s sorted a lot of things out with the footy so I’m pretty happy with where things are at the moment and I’ve just got to keep developing and getting better each day.”

He’s also become more diligent with his body and believes he’s worked out how to avoid the hamstring issues that have plagued his career so far.

“As you develop as a player and get a little bit older and wiser, you start to know what your body is capable of and where your limitations are,” he said.

“I’m getting to know my body and we’re now at a stage where we can manage it.

“Once you mature you can start to realise when you’re going a bit hard or when you have to take it down a peg or two at training to get through.

“That’s where I’m at now.”

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