Roberton unscathed but young Saints defender hurts ankle

But most eyes were on Roberton, who collapsed during a game against Geelong at GMHBA Stadium in round four last year after his heart skipped a beat and he missed the rest of the year after spending the night in hospital in Geelong.

He was given the all clear to return for 2019 after having an electronic device inserted in his chest to monitor his heartbeat and apart from steering clear of caffeine he is back to where he was before the issue was identified.

Playing across half back Roberton showed he had lost none of his ability to read the play and take intercept marks with his absence in 2018 one of the many things that went wrong for the Saints last year.

«It was good fun to get out there and mix it with the boys and practise what we have been working on in the pre-season,» Roberton said.

«Our system is working well.»

Saints skipper Jarryn Geary told the crowd in an on-ground interview it was invaluable to have Roberton back alongside him in defence, reminding supporters the 27-year-old had made the All-Australian squad in 2017.

With Dan Hannebery sidelined through a hamstring injury and Jack Steven at a wedding the Saints were also missing Jade Gresham, Jack Billings and Tim Membrey, who played AFLX. Jimmy Webster was rested due to soreness and Jake Carlisle remains in doubt for round one with back soreness.

The Saints struggled to move the ball inside 50 with any fluency although they were taking more care of the ball moving out of defence and Richardson said he was pleased with what he saw.

St Kilda's Matt Parker.

St Kilda’s Matt Parker.Credit:Jason South

Former Demon Dean Kent looked dangerous up forward alongside Patrick McCartin who looked good in the second quarter when he moved up the ground on searching leads.

«Kent did enough today to suggest he is going to be a really strong addition for us,» Richardson said.

Hunter Clark, who is entering his second season, Luke Dunstan and veteran Seb Ross were the best performed midfielders and the ruck battle between Lewis Pierce and Rowan Marshall was even. Matthew Parker made a good start to the game too kicking two goals and showing speed on the wing.

But the game was dominated by defence with Josh Battle looking very comfortable while Irishman Darragh Joyce and youngster Clavarino showed good signs before he was injured. With Carlisle in doubt and Nathan Brown missing the first round through suspension the Saints will need to determine their line-up for round one.

Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.

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