HE SPENT the better part of 15 seasons in the AFL as one of the competition’s premier midfielders.
And now former St Kilda and North Melbourne star Nick Dal Santo is getting a different look at the game from the Fox Footy commentary booth.
He’s liking what he sees.
The former Bendigo Pioneers star was back on home soil on Wednesday at Kangaroo Flat’s Dower Park for the AFL Central Victoria launch of the NAB AFL Auskick program for 2018.
Dal Santo, who retired at the end of 2017 after a stellar 322 game with the Saints and Kangaroos, was also here as part of Foxtel Full-On Footy Tour alongside colleagues Garry Lyon and Dermott Brereton.
The three-time All-Australian’s relatively short time behind the microphone as part of a revamped Fox Footy line-up has led him to a few straight-forward conclusions.
Never has the national competition been so even and even the most pessimistic of club supporters could find some cause for encouragement following an abbreviated JLT pre-season series.
“I think everybody deserves to have some form of optimism – one thing I have learned from the JLT is that every team showed something,” he said.
“There was a young player or senior playing still showing good signs, a passage of play that all club supporters would have liked.
“Melbourne supporters would be happy with what they have seen so far – I thought they probably should have played finals last year, but missed out.
“I think if you are Richmond you are pretty happy, but I liked Sydney, GWS, I like the Bulldogs and I liked Collingwood’s last three quarters last week.
“I think a lot of sides are going to have time this year where they look like they could win the flag.
“There’s also going to be times when they will think ‘oh my God, we’re in the bottom four.’
“That’s just a sign of how even this competition is.
“That’s a credit to the AFL with some of its equalisation – everything from the club spend to fixturing and interchange.”
Dal Santo played 260 of his games with St Kilda and returned to the club late last season as the coach of its Next Generation Academy coach.
He admitted a brief flirtation with joining a third AFL club once notified by the Kangaroos late last season that his contract would not be renewed, but quickly moved on.
“There was a phone call once I finished up at North Melbourne. How serious that was? I don’t think it was very serious,” he said.
“It was just thrown out there and seeing what came back, but for me I was done as well.
“It had been a long time, 15 years of senior footy. It’s exhausting. Your body goes through a lot, mentally and physically.
“So I was happy even though North Melbourne were going in a different direction.”
More than 300 children from St Monica’s, Kangaroo Flat, Marong. Lockwood, Lockwood South and Big Hill primary schools participated in Wednesday’s mega-clinic.
Dal Santo, who was drafted to St Kilda from the Pioneers with pick 13 in the 2001 AFL National Draft, was hard-pressed to remember the last time he had stepped foot on Dower Park.
The 34-year-old had vague recollections of representing Sandhurst in the seniors against Kangaroo Flat as a teenager, but was more certain he had played in a winning inter-league game on the oval as a 10-year-old.
Dal Santo can be seen on Fox Footy’s new The Thursday Lowdown show.