St Kilda has proved one of the most impressive teams across the 2024 pre-season, with the Saints comfortably accounting for both Essendon and North Melbourne.

Young star Max King is fit and firing on all cylinders, captain Jack Steele looks to have found his best again and last year's pick 18 at the National Draft, Darcy Wilson, looks a serious player.

Mitch Owens is another who appears to have gone to a new level, putting on size and improving his contested and aerial work.

The 20-year-old had 19 disposals, two goals and seven marks and was St Kilda’s most dynamic player against North Melbourne at RSEA Park on Sunday.

It’s left Kane Cornes asking the question, why risk him in the ruck?

Owens has a spectacular vertical leap and rare agility for a player standing at 191cm and weighing 91kg, punching above his height and weight.

But Cornes believes Lyon pulled the wrong rein in throwing Owens in the ruck, especially in a Community Series game.

“Ross Lyon isn’t going to listen to me, but why the hell is Mitch Owens rucking? Why the hell would you ruck Mitch Owens?” he began on SEN Breakfast.

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“If you want to get your best young player injured, keep doing it. Keep putting him in the centre bounce and keep rucking him. It boggles my mind that Mitch Owens would be a ruck option for the Saints.

“(It’s like saying), ‘let’s take our best, most promising, exciting player and future captain and put him up against a guy like Tristan Xerri in the ruck and get a knee right in the guts… it’s ridiculous and stupid.”

Cornes added: “It’s like putting Toby Greene in the ruck, that’s what it’s akin to. How stupid is that… I hope that was just one off when Rowan Marshall went off with the blood rule and they couldn’t get anyone else.”

Owens attended 10 ruck contests for the day, the second most for St Kilda.

He finished with zero hitouts, while Marshall had 12 and 19 possessions. Anthony Caminiti and Dougal Howard both had a hitout each, the only other Saints to feature in that part of the stats sheet.

Owens broke out in 2023 to feature in 23 games, averaging 15 disposals and a goal a game as the Saints pushed into September. He's now got 30 AFL appearances to his name.

Lyon’s men have a week off during the inaugural Opening Round before making the trip down the highway to face Geelong in Round 1.

The Saints have been tipped to rise by the likes of David King and Nathan Buckley, with the former Collingwood coach previously saying: “I just can't see a way that they don't improve.”

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