“I want to play some consistent footy and keep on improving my footy. I thought last year I played some consistent footy and I want to take another step this year, take my footy to another level. It has only been one game so far. Hopefully, I can keep it going through the year,” he said on Tuesday.
“Obviously, I am getting older and starting to mature a bit more. I feel like I am a lot stronger out there as well. With age, you start to understand the game a bit more and you see the game a bit better than when you were younger. I feel like I am getting to the peak of my career and, like I said before, I want to keep on playing consistent footy at the highest level as I can.”
Hill is relishing the leadership role and it’s one that he can’t escape from at home, for he lives with teammate Ben Long, who has flourished through the summer in a new role across half-back.
“I try and help out the young blokes as much as possible. Obviously, I spend a fair bit of time with Longy. But he has pretty much done that all on his own. He is loving the role down back,” Hill said.
“Just the way he plays the game, he is pretty explosive and takes the game on. That’s what we want him to do – back himself in and be a confident player.”
Hill will have a key role through the midfield and one man ready to benefit from his run and carry is forward Tim Membrey, who booted a team-high 44 goals last year and has often been the Saints’ primary focus inside attacking 50. That could change this year now Paddy Ryder, the former Bombers and Power big man, and the emerging Max King will spend time alongside him.
Membrey said it was likely he would have more time further afield, giving his fellow forwards space to work in.
“It’s probably going to be a one thing that is a week-to-week process. With Paddy coming in as well, we have some tall timber down there, so if that means, at times, I do get up the ground and play that way, that’s the way it will be,” he said.
“To do that for the whole game, it would be a lot of hard work. We are just going to mix and match and get Maxy up the ground as times because there is some tall timber up there to mark the footy.”
The Saints have not made the finals since 2011 but a change of coach and an off-season recruiting spree has many tipping they should at least be in the finals mix.
Club great Nick Riewoldt said it was too simplistic to declare this season a failure if the Saints were not alive come September, while Hill just wants the Saints’ good form through the pre-season to continue.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.