ST KILDA teammates will be looking to pick up their saintly souls off the ground – 13 days since arguably its harshest loss this year from last year’s finalists.
That is bar Tom Highmore, whose head remains almost floating in the clouds.
The Canberra product is literally on a high after coming extraordinarily close to breaking a glossed-over individual AFL record, just seven appearances into a debut season.
The encounter against Richmond on a Friday night at the MCG is as tough of an assignment the Saints are ever likely to face following the tragic six-point defeat last outing to Adelaide in Cairns after leading for the entire match until little more than a minute left on the clock.
The Cinderella story of the 2020 COVID-19 AFL season flopped in their eighth defeat that all but rules out coach Brett Ratten’s men from returning back to the final eight.
But Highmore has no reference to be looking low from St Kilda’s best season last year since reaching the 2010 AFL grand final when the 23-year-old wasn’t even a dangly teenager.
Club recruiting boss and list manager, James Gallagher, observed the 194cm Marist College graduate flying in front of packs while the South Australian drop past Highmore turning out for South Adelaide – and snapped up the rebounding defender in last season’s AFL draft.
It has been a perfect fit despite the downslide of the Saints.
“It was almost like I came in with no expectation,” Highmore referenced in the Sounds of the Saints podcast on Friday (June 25).
“That’s where Ratts and Gags were really good too – they basically said, ‘we just want to see what you’ve got’.
“It almost gave me a bit of a free licence to go for my marks, go for my kicks and not feel any pressure at all.
“I know when all these guys are fully fit, I’m back in the pecking order, but my opportunity is here now at the moment.
“So I just have to take it with both hands and cement a spot while you can because things change so quickly.”
And did Highmore do exactly all of that against the Crows.
In his most impactful game to date, the former Eastlake star not only got rid of a steadfast 22 possessions but cleaned up 15 intercepts, which eight were from his 13 marks.
Ratten called Highmore in the press conference, following the shock of leading by 36 points before the Crows had even scored, “the shining light” of a disappointing final performance.
The impressive 15 intercepts was just three short of the record set by All-Australian Darcy Moore’s best tally of 18 intercepts.
It broke a St Kilda record since Ben Long had 11 intercept involvements in the first round of the 2020 season.
Highmore charted almost half of his disposals and five grabs inside the opening half-hour of play to galvanise his side’s promising early form, but will be hoping to bring that dose of a good tonic ahead of tackling the Tigers tonight.
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Ian Meikle, editor