After a rocky start to his life at St Kilda, Jake Carlisle has earned the respect of his teammates, says fellow defender Nathan Brown.
Having crossed to Seaford from Essendon in the 2015 trade period, Carlisle, 25, finally played his first game for his new club as St Kilda edged Port Adelaide by one point in a scrappy JLT Community series clash at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night.
Carlisle was suspended along with 33 other current and former Bombers for all of last season over supplements regime at Essendon in 2012.
That itself had come only after social media footage emerged of Carlisle snorting a white powder in the off-season of 2015, for which the versatile tall was sanctioned financially and suspended for two games by his new club, a penalty St Kilda ultimately decided he would serve concurrently with the longer doping ban. Carlisle also had hip surgery last year, from which he has recovered.
But Brown – an even newer Saints acquisition – said Carlisle had achieved that. “To go through what he’s gone through the last 18 months, and then to focus and earn respect from the guys, he’s been fantastic. And he’ll only get better for every game he plays,” Brown said.
A premiership player with Collingwood in 2010, Brown joined the Saints as a free agent at the end of last season after a decade at the Magpies. His signature, along with Carlisle’s long-awaited availability, means St Kilda have considerably more height in defence than they did in 2016.
Brown’s disposals were typically infrequent, but he kept Port spearhead Charlie Dixon to just one kick and no score, while Carlisle had 11 disposals and took six marks in restricted game time, showing poise with his intercept marking.
Saints assistant coach Adam Kingsley said he expected Brown to regularly play on the opposition’s biggest key forward, which would free up Carlisle to provide drive. “Nathan’s made a career out of playing on those big guys and he’s certainly a big guy himself so he’s well-suited to that role,” Kingsley said.
“Jake’s a really versatile player, he can play tall, small; he can lock down on someone; he’s a terrific intercept mark and he uses the ball really well; I thought we saw all aspects of that tonight.”
Brown added that he was enjoying combining with Carlisle. “We’re loving our time together and hopefully we can form a bit of a partnership together with the other guys in the back line,” Brown said.
While they finished outside the top eight on percentage, the Saints still conceded the sixth-most points in last year’s home-and-away season, but Kingsley said he was optimistic that St Kilda were getting better in that area. “The defence was our big opportunity to improve and I thought tonight we defended really strongly, particularly when the ball was through the midfield and at our end,” Kingsley said.
“We’ve still got a bit of work to do when the ball is in our defensive 50. I think they had 10 shots through either stoppage or turnover through that area of the ground. We can definitely fix that but I don’t think that’s going to be a significant issue for us.”
The Saints are set to play a weakened side next weekend against Carlton before picking close to a full-strength team for their final JLT series match against Sydney.