JACK Newnes has shown he's physically prepared to answer Alan Richardson's challenge to St Kilda's young midfielders to step up in 2015 by blitzing the field in a time trial on Wednesday.
Shortly after Richardson told reporters he expected the Saints' improvement to be driven by their middle-tier players, Newnes streaked home in a 2km time trial at Casey Fields.
The 21-year-old beat Josh Saunders and recent draftee Daniel McKenzie home, ahead of Nathan Wright, Eli Templeton, Tom Curren and Seb Ross.
Richardson felt the team would naturally improve from its struggles second half of this season but was buoyed by what he had seen already since they resumed training.
"The players are embracing everything we're throwing at them," Richardson said on Wednesday.
"We had some pretty strong footy early in the year when we had our most experienced team at on the park, and we had some misfortune in terms of those blokes staying out there.
"We'll be in better shape from that point of view.
"We'll certainly need guys in the midfield to step up in the absence of Lenny Hayes but David Armitage couldn't be in better shape, Jack Steven didn't have a great run with his body, and when you consider he was our best and fairest the year before, we'd expect him to get back to that sort of form.
"[The improvement] will really come from our third, fourth, fifth-year players – Newnes, Ross, Curren.
"That's where our significant improvement will come from."
Top draft selection Paddy McCartin – who will wear No.32 next season – didn't run as part of his management program and boxed with Luke Delaney (hip), Tom Hickey (knee) and Josh Bruce (shin).
Nick Riewoldt, Sean Dempster, David Armitage and Jack Billings also stood out of the time trial with the players' loads being individually managed.
Richardson said most players would be embarking on full training programs when they returned after the Christmas break.
"We've been conservative with some but we're pretty confident we're getting a lot of load through those guys ... [they haven't] necessarily been training and doing the high-grade stuff, high-grade agility with the rest of the group," he said.
"We're really confident we're getting the work into them and they'll join straight after Christmas.
"Given the pre-season period after Christmas is a bit more extended given the later start to the season, we're confident they'll be in really good shape."
Richardson has already revealed his optimism regarding defender Sam Gilbert's chances of playing in round one after more surgery on his left foot in September.
He also said it would be a bonus to have the likes of Gilbert, Geary and Sam Fisher – who ran well and looked fit on Wednesday – ready for a full season.
"We didn't have a lot of continuity with those guys [this season]," he said.
"It's really important because it's one area we have a bit experience in, in our back six.
"If we can get those guys out on the ground more often than not, we're going to be in much better shape."