JACK Steele by name seems not by nature after the new captain had to admit his nerves of steel will be sorely tested tonight leading St Kilda out against Carlton.
The calm resolve the former Canberran has carried for most of his 97 consistent AFL games almost resonates perfectly with his own personal aptronym.
Steele first led the Saints a week earlier onto Arden Street in front of a couple of hundred spectators, who had unobtrusively snuck into the unsanctioned practice match.
But preparing to run out ahead of the AAMI Community Series for a Docklands sellout, the club’s biggest crowd since 2019 of a capped capacity of 28,961 and also the first in Victoria after COVID-19 restrictions were introduced has given the 25-year-old a few sweaty palms.
“I was a little bit nervous last week, no doubt, but without the fans there, the cameras and that sort of stuff, it wasn’t too big of a deal, but tonight leading the boys out will definitely be a lot more pressure on me,” Steele said on Thursday (March 4).
“At the end of the day, I realise it’s only a preseason game and what’s going to happen is going to happen. So it’s not the end of the world either.”
Steele was one of two skippers appointed for this year with veteran Jarryn Geary, who has stood out the front of the Saints since 2017.
The sidelined co-captain, who is out for a further month, will roam around the dressing rooms and onto the bench to give teammates advice for the first AFL preseason clash.
That has allowed the Belconnen junior to indulge with Geary over an in-depth conversation on developing his own captaincy style while in charge alone.
“He was saying that it’s better that you’re in this position now than later in the year when things might be heading into finals, and you haven’t had too many issues to deal with, and have been thrown into the deep end,” Steele said.
“It will help me learn a bit of resilience and to learn my way. Though it will also be tough in the first couple of weeks of the year, it is also a great learning opportunity for me.”
The Saints, without a number of their talented stars, are coming off a clinical 91-point win against North Melbourne that has only heightened expectations more after the team rose from finishing 16th and 14th in consecutive seasons to sixth last year.
Steele, who began his career briefly at the GWS Giants for 17 appearances across the 2015 and 2016 seasons, wants to lead St Kilda forward to the promise land off the back of the club’s first finals appearance in nine seasons.
“We’ve got a lot of people watching on all across the country and supporters at the game that it is now our time to sort of show the competition and Australia of the game we want to play. We’re going to go out there and have a real crack,” he said.