Injury-hit Saints weigh up youngsters for AFL opener

Top draft pick Matteas Phillipou and pre-season bolter Anthony Caminiti are firmly in the mix for round-one AFL debuts as St Kilda scramble together a makeshift forward line.

Returned coach Ross Lyon has an injury-induced headache, with spearhead Max King (shoulder), Jack Hayes (foot) and Matthew Allison (foot) all sidelined.

Experienced target Tim Membrey remains in doubt after undergoing knee surgery last month.

But Phillipou and Caminiti buoyed the Saints' coaching staff with positive displays in attack during a 35-point win over Essendon on Friday in their final practice match.

Pick No.10 at last year's draft, 190cm prospect Phillipou kicked a clever goal and finished with 15 disposals, putting his hand up for selection in the season opener against Fremantle on March 19.

"He's going to be really close and his attitude's been first class," Saints assistant coach Robert Harvey said.

"Whether he plays or not, we'll see ... but what I'll say is he's been pretty good.

"For a young fella to come in and do what he's done has been pretty impressive.

"I know he's not satisfied and he's so hungry to get better but we're mighty impressed with how he's gone about it so far."

Caminiti, who was overlooked at the draft last year, was given a chance on the rookie list via the pre-season supplemental selection period.

The 19-year-old, who offers a 196cm target, had 11 disposals and four marks against the Bombers in his first pre-season appearance for the Saints.

"He's just banging the door down really to have a crack and obviously we're a bit light on (in attack)," Harvey said.

"He really competed well, I thought he was really good, and he earnt that position today.

"We'll see what happens but it was really good for him."

The hit-out with Essendon was a scrappy contest in blustery conditions at Moorabbin, but Harvey was impressed with the Saints' improved basics after a hiding from Melbourne the previous week.

"Our hit around the ball, our general pressure and ability to keep that ball in our front half were a lot better, so there were some positive signs there," Harvey said.

"We wanted to get a bit of energy in our game going into round one and we saw that.

"Was it perfect? Definitely not. There's stuff we've got to get better at, but there were some good signs there."

Young midfielder Marcus Windhager was due to have surgery on his broken hand on Saturday and is expected to play against Fremantle.

Saints speedster Brad Hill missed the Essendon clash because of personal reasons but is set to return as he and Lyon confront their former club in round one.

"He's fine," Harvey said.

"He had some stuff going on personally (but) he's really good and he's raring to go for round one."