Billy Slater making his mark at AFL club St Kilda
BILLY Slater's new role at St Kilda was perfect timing for veteran AFL defender Shane Savage.
The retired Melbourne Storm great joined the Saints last year in a leadership and development role.
Savage has been one of his first projects.
At 28 years of age and with 144 games under his belt, Savage is a veteran in the young St Kilda line-up.
A self-described introvert, Savage found leadership had not come naturally and so he picked Slater's brain about how to go about it.
Savage has enjoyed a solid start to the season and he will have a pivotal role in Sunday's match against Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium.
"He's had a massive impact - obviously he's come here to really drive those leadership standards," Savage said of Slater.
"Being a veteran, it's important for me to step up in leadership.
"He helped me with having the confidence to be a leader and come out of myself ... take a step up in that regard.
"I give Billy Slater a lot of credit for that."
The Saints have needed Savage to step up with leadership in defence, given Dylan Roberton and Jake Carlisle are out of action.
With Chad Wingard making an outstanding Hawks debut last week and Jarryd Roughead returning from injury, the Hawthorn attack is a formidable proposition.
But the Saints have made an encouraging start with two wins and a five-point loss to Fremantle in Perth.
It also remains unclear whether star Hawthorn midfielder Jaeger O'Meara will play as he manages a sore hip.
Sunday is a big day for the Saints, who are on a membership drive and on the verge of topping 40,000.
A strong performance against Hawthorn would be a huge validation for a team widely tipped in the preseason to finish in the bottom four.
"No doubt they're a really strong side, (but) we're not approaching it any different to what we do every other week from a mental point of view," Savage said.
"There are a few things we're tinkering with in terms of our game plan and how we attack the Hawks.
"No doubt, they're a top-four side again this year and we're going to have to play at our best to really challenge them."