True Sainters 2011 Player of the Year – Nick Dal Santo

Sublimely skilled midfielder Nick Dal Santo has won the 2011 True Sainters Player of the Year Award in convincing fashion, polling 32 votes to finish an astonishing 18 votes ahead of Leigh Montagna, with 22 year old ruckman Ben McEvoy a further vote adrift in third place.

True Sainters members voted Dal Santo best Saint afield for the first of seven times during 2011 in Round 3 against Essendon, a performance that moved him to five votes and the outright lead ahead of Lenny Hayes and David Armitage on three votes. After nine rounds Dal Santo led with 10 votes from Sam Fisher and David Armitage on seven and six votes respectively. From Round 10 to Round 20 Dal Santo played scintillating football week after week to feature in the votes in nine of St Kilda’s 10 games during this period in which St Kilda had eight wins and two losses to rise from 13th to sixth on the ladder.

In Round 8 against Hawthorn Nick Dal Santo became just the 23rd player to reach the 200 game milestone with the St Kilda Football Club. At the conclusion of the 2011 season he had increased his tally to 216 games and at just 27 years of age Nick is a strong possibility to reach 300 games, a feat that only four players have achieved in St Kilda’s history.

Against Fremantle in Round 10 Dal Santo spent considerable time across half-back, providing composure and quality ball-use during the Saints 46 point victory that got their 2011 season back on track. Dal Santo had a game-high eight clearances and led St Kilda in disposals, having 20 kicks and 10 handballs including 12 contested possessions.

In a critical match for St Kilda against North Melbourne in Round 15 Nick Dal Santo delivered the calibre of performance we came to expect from him during 2011, having 18 kicks and 13 handballs including 13 contested possessions and leading St Kilda in clearances and tackles with nine and six respectively. Due to winning so much contested ball Dal Santo was frequently under pressure from opposition players, but despite this he was able to retain his composure and use the ball superbly with a disposal efficiency of 84%.

Against Port Adelaide in Round 16 left-footer Dal Santo had 20 possessions in the first half on his way to finishing the match with 14 kicks and 22 handballs including 15 contested possessions, six more than the second ranked Saint.  As well as winning plenty of the football including the hardball Dal Santo also made a significant impact with the quality of his ball use, kicking two goals, having three goal assists and an 83% disposal efficiency.

Dal Santo gave a high quality consistent performance in the midfield against the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium in Round 19, having at least nine disposals in every quarter, the silky skilled midfielder had a disposal efficiency of 85%, 25 kicks, 14 handballs, 12 contested possessions and eight clearances to be voted St Kilda’s best player by True Sainters members for the seventh time this season. The brilliant performance took Dal Santo’s tally of votes during 2011 to 30, a lead of 19 over McEvoy to wrap up the 2011 True Sainters Player of the Year Award with five rounds still remaining.

During the 2011 home and away season Dal Santo played all 22 matches averaging 86% game time, 14.5 kicks, 11.9 handballs and 3.4 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 72.5%. Dal Santo was ranked in the top 22 of the AFL during the 2011 home and away season for total kicks, handballs, disposals, clearances, tackles and contested possessions. Highlighting Nick’s complete all-round game he was one of only three players along with Scott Pendlebury and Scott Thompson to be ranked in the top 22 of the AFL in all six categories. Dal Santo led St Kilda in five of these categories, the exception being tackles where he was ranked second behind Clinton Jones.

In the 2011 Elimination Final against Sydney at Etihad Stadium Dal Santo and Nick Riewoldt played their 17th final for St Kilda, equalling the club record held by Robert Harvey.

At 17 years of age Nick Dal Santo was drafted by St Kilda with the number 13 selection in the 2001 National Draft after the Saints had traded Barry Hall and draft pick 53 (used to select Daniel Hunt) to Sydney in exchange for the number 13 selection.

Injuries to several of St Kilda’s senior players resulted in Dal Santo making his AFL debut ahead of schedule in Round 4 2002 against Geelong at Skilled Stadium. Nick gained valuable experience playing 18 of St Kilda’s last 19 games of the 2002 season.

A nagging quad injury hampered Dal Santo during 2003, St Kilda took a conservative approach and eased him back with six games in the VFL before he returned to AFL level in Round 15. Upon his return Dal Santo was a revelation averaging 19 possessions a game playing predominantly on a wing and giving the football world an insight to the talent he possessed and the player he would develop into.

In Round 20 2003 against Carlton, Dal Santo received three Brownlow Medal votes for a three goal, 26 possession game that St Kilda won by 91 points at Optus Oval, the young Saint backed it up the next week, receiving two votes for his performance in the 65 point win against the Western Bulldogs. At the same time that Dal Santo was blossoming so was the St Kilda team, having four successive wins by more than 10 goals from Round 18 to Round 21 2003.

Dal Santo has realised his early potential to develop into an elite midfielder, making the All-Australian team twice, in 2005 and 2009, throughout his career Dal Santo has featured prominently at the Brownlow Medal having polled at least 10 votes in five seasons for a career tally of 88 votes with a best finish of third in 2005 on 18 votes. Nick is the only current AFL player to have a top three finish in the Brownlow Medal but not a top three finish in a club best and fairest – for now, this omission from Dal Santo’s impressive resume is sure to be rectified on October 8 at the 2011 St Kilda Best and Fairest where he will start an overwhelming favourite to take the 2011 Trevor Barker Award home.

Since returning from injury in 2003 Dal Santo has been extremely durable, playing 198 out of 201 matches for the St Kilda Football Club and has consistently performed at a high standard to have six top five finishes in St Kilda’s best and fairest in the past seven years, the equal most of any Saint  along with 2010 True Sainters Player of the Year Lenny Hayes.

Nick Dal Santo’s awareness and composure to never appear to be under pressure, create space and to evade tackles is in the absolute elite of the AFL. When Nick is asked after games how he had the poise and peripheral vision to create time and space seemingly from nothing, he himself has trouble explaining it and says “If you think about it too much and try to create it, time passes you by and you miss the chance to get through a gap or give the ball off.”

From 2006 to 2011 Dal Santo has been ranked in the top two at St Kilda in hard-ball gets in five seasons out of six, an exceptional performance given the emphasis placed on winning the contested ball by the Saints and the quality of teammates he has played with during this time.

With Lenny Hayes suffering a season ending knee injury in Round 2 and the Saints having only one win after eight rounds St Kilda faced a sizeable challenge to make the finals in 2011.

During 2011 Dal Santo has excelled, predominantly playing in the midfield, but also spending periods across half-back and has been St Kilda’s standout performer to play an integral role in the Saints making the finals for the fourth consecutive year and the seventh time in eight seasons. With his  blend of exceptional balance, composure, awareness, silky skills and understated capacity to win the hard-ball, together with his ability to consistently deliver outstanding peformances this season Nick Dal Santo is a very worthy winner of the True Sainters 2011 Player of the Year Award.

True Sainters 2011 Player of the Year votes

32 – Nick Dal Santo
14 – Leigh Montagna
13 – Ben McEvoy
9 – Sam Fisher
8 – Jack Steven
8 – Clinton Jones
8 – Sean Dempster
7 – Brendon Goddard
6 – David Armitage
5 – Nick Riewoldt
4 – Stephen Milne
3 – Lenny Hayes
3 – Farren Ray
3 – Adam Schneider
3 – Raph Clarke
2 – Brett Peake
2 – Jason Gram
1 – Zac Dawson
1 – James Gwilt
1 – Justin Koschitzke

For a more detailed look at the outstanding career of Nick Dal Santo please click on the link below to the 2011 feature article published on the True Sainters WordPress after Nick’s superb Round 6 performance against Adelaide:

https://truesainters.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/the-skilful-and-durable-nick-dal-santo/

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One Comment on “True Sainters 2011 Player of the Year – Nick Dal Santo”

  1. deanandrews 26/09/2011 at 7:53 pm #

    In 2011 Nick Dal Santo made his third All-Australian team, being named on the interchange. Nick is the third current St Kilda player to make at least three All-Australian teams, joining Nick Riewoldt (4) and Lenny Hayes (3).

    With 28 votes at the 2011 Brownlow Medal Dal Santo polled the third most votes behind Dane Swan (34) and the ineligible Sam Mitchell (30). In the process Dal Santo became the seventh St Kilda player to poll over 100 Brownlow Medal votes during their career.

    St Kilda players who have polled over 100 Brownlow Medal votes:

    215 Robert Harvey
    139 Ian Stewart (94 St Kilda and 45 Richmond)
    126 Stewart Loewe
    116 Nick Dal Santo
    106 Harold Bray
    106 Tony Lockett (85 St Kilda and 21 Sydney)
    103 Lenny Hayes

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