‘This Jack is an ace in Lyon’s pack’: The rise and rise of Jack Sinclair

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This Saint is more than a jack of all trades. Some might say he’s mastered two. He has become St Kilda’s new man of steel. His name is Jack. Jack Sinclair.

For a few years, Jack Steele has been regarded as the best player at Moorabbin. If Sinclair has not taken over, he’s at least drawn level, even if Max King and Rowan Marshall might be structurally their most important.

Jack Sinclair can now lay claim to being St Kilda’s best player.Credit: AFL Photos

The man they call “Pins” (it’s to do with his calves, which have their own Facebook page) is one of the reasons why the Saints, under Ross Lyon, have made the leap into the eight.

Of general defenders, only Brownlow Medal favourite Nick Daicos has averaged more than Sinclair’s near 29 disposals a game. So well has he played this year, he has bettered his career-best 2022.

As with many of the top-liners, Sinclair’s contribution cannot be measured in numbers alone.

This Jack has become an ace in Lyon’s pack. Most coaches have a go-to move when their side is in trouble. For Lyon this year, when the midfield needs added oomph he turns to Sinclair, an All-Australian half-back.

Jack Sinclair celebrates after kicking a goal against Greater Western Sydney last weekend.Credit: Getty Images

Against Carlton, Sinclair was asked to provide the spark out of the middle so Steele could go to work on a rampant Patrick Cripps. It flipped the game.

The mid-game positional switch is the brainchild of backs coach Corey Enright, club great and now midfield coach Lenny Hayes said. Ben McGlynn, who Hayes replaced in the role, had wanted more of Sinclair last year but Enright wanted him too.

“I tried to inject him in there as much as I could when we were under the pump because he does make a difference but Corey Enright was pretty reluctant to give him up off half-back,” McGlynn said without ill feeling.

“Good players can impact the game wherever they are on the field. Jack’s definitely that. He’s taken his game to another level in regards to his All-Australian last year.”

What sets Sinclair, studying a business degree at Monash University, apart from many others in the game is his football IQ.

Players who can troubleshoot in games are like gold dust for coaches as they allow problems to be resolved on the field without having to wait until the end of a quarter when several goals may have been conceded – and with them the match. Callum Wilkie also has a smart football mind, which helps explain why the Saints’ defence is so well organised.

Hayes ranks Sinclair’s game sense up there with two of the finest on-field football minds of the past 20 years.

“He’s one of those players, whether it be a Sam Mitchell or Luke Hodge – he sees it out there, knows what to do at breaks and sums it up well,” Hayes said.

“He’s really footy smart. He’s probably almost too smart to become a coach, but if he ever wanted to go down that path I think he’d be a natural coach and leader. When you couple that with his talent and work rate, you have a special player.”

It was not always thus for Sinclair, overlooked in two national drafts before being picked up in the rookie draft in 2014. He was out of the team as recently as 2020. Tried as a forward then a wing, it was not until 2021 when moved into defence that Sinclair’s career took off.

Runner-up in the Saints’ best and fairest that year, he went one better last year, ending Steele’s run of two Trevor Barker Awards, and earning his first All-Australian selection. A second green blazer and best and fairest awaits this year, though selectors may have issues deciding on a position.

The traits that make Sinclair an elite half-back can also set him up to be a high-class midfielder, McGlynn said.

“He could easily run around and be one of the premier midfielders in the competition,” McGlynn said. “You see what he’s doing off half-back, he can implement that in the midfield because of his poise, how composed he is with foot, how he understands the game, knows what to do in certain situations.”

Saints insiders credit Sinclair’s increased leadership responsibilities as a key factor in his continued rise. This is the first year Sinclair, 28, has been part of the club’s leadership group.

“He’s a real driver of the culture of the football club,” Hayes said. “He’s got a real understanding of what a good game looks like for him and how he can play his role best for the team. He’s an incredibly selfless player who buys into what the team is about.

“It’s a natural progression, but he puts a lot of time and effort into his footy and recovery. He’s a real pro. It’s not a surprise to those within the football club that he’s playing consistent, good football.”

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