The forgotten Saints man

Daniel Markworth3Daniel Markworth’s speed and agility are what got him drafted in 2011 and he’s widely regarded as the most explosive player on St Kilda’s list. It’s these attributes that will earn him a senior debut in 2014, he hopes.

But unlike 2012, when he was named as an emergency on three occasions, the 22-year-old is content to let outcome take care of itself – so long as he’s fully focussed on the process.

“My goal is to keep improving,” Markworth told in an exclusive interview this week.

“Whether or not that results in an AFL game in two weeks or a month or three months, I’m not too sure.

“Hopefully it comes, but from my end all I need to do is keep playing well and keep being a Saints man and just have faith that my time will come if I do these things.”

St Kilda players often refer to the “Saints man,” as their trademark. But what is it exactly?

“He’s mentally and physically tough and never gives up,” Markworth says.

“He’s a team oriented player who is selfless, and he does the right thing off the field with his preparation.”

In St Kilda’s meeting room at Linen House Centre, alongside the team of the century painting and countless other football specific yardsticks, a billboard has been set up highlighting the key components of the Saints man.

Yes, Markworth is hungry to play senior football, and yes he places high expectations on himself, but none of this is to the detriment of the team or the club. It’s this broad perspective which allows the boy from Macedon to candidly reflect on his progression as a footballer with great maturity.

“I hope I am well-rounded, or at least I like to think so,” Markworth says.

“I am stronger than I was before I did my knee – maybe not so much bigger, but just stronger through the core. I had a lot of time to get that right.”

12 months to get it right, in fact.
It was an icy winter’s day in Boulder, Colorado at the end of 2012. The club, on its first altitude training venture to the USA, was in the midst of an intense training program that tested the playing group physically and mentally.

Yet this session was a simple light training and it was held indoors – hardly a setting for a significant injury.

In a split second, Markworth’s 2013 campaign was finished. Just like that, any hope he had of building on his promising VFL campaign was dashed by a cruel twist of fate.

In the middle of his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, he was given a one-year extension on his contract. It gave him piece of mind, and allowed him to focus on rehabilitation rather than job security. It also gave him the chance to complete four units of his bio-medicine degree at Melbourne University.

For a player who places such a strong emphasis on being able to cover the ground, a knee injury was the worst thing imaginable.

“Yeah my running ability is my point of difference. It’s why I got drafted so I need to find a way to use it,” he says self-assuredly.

Though he has since rediscovered his pace and evasiveness, perhaps a bigger challenge was learning how physically impose himself on the contest. It was an area of his game that never came naturally to the smooth moving wingman.

Just one month ago development Paul Hudson told that Markworth struggled to adjust to a smaller ground because he couldn’t find any space to run nor the physicality approach required to compete consistently.

Yet following his 16-possession, four tackle performance on the weekend; Hudson highlighted Markworth’s considerable improvement.

“Now he’s starting to give good defensive efforts,” Hudson said in the VFL player breakdown.

“His attack on the ball has been excellent in the past two weeks. We’ve been focussing on him really body-lining the ball and trying to become more physical.”

In a sign that both coach and player are on the same wavelength, Markworth insisted that it was this aspect of his game he was most pleased with in the 58-point win over Casey on Sunday.

“What I was happy with on the weekend was my ability to stay over the footy and strike through the footy so I was happy with that.”
Three weeks ago, Markworth was dropped to the VFL development squad. His form hadn’t necessarily been bad for the Zebras, but a product of the alignment is that only a certain number of Saints-listed players can play for Sandringham on any given day.

Last year this wasn’t an issue with an unprecedented number of injuries affecting the playing list. But this season, Jason Holmes, Blake Acres, Spencer White and Markworth have all played for the development team.

Now he’s back in the Sandringham team, Markworth is loving the camaraderie and it’s clear these positive vibes are leading to some impressive football.

“The boys played really well. Obviously as a VFL team we haven’t lost yet – we’ve had a draw and three wins. I’ve played in all three wins so we are going pretty well down there,” he says.

“We have some good team chemistry and we had a good game.”

Although Markworth came close to a debut as a mid-sized forward, at 189cm and 84kgs, he’s capable of playing pretty much anywhere – as he demonstrated on Sunday.

“The majority of the time I’m playing on the wing but we have a few guys that can go through there so I actually played forward and finished off the game in defence.”

Markworth arrived to the club as a 19-year-old in the same draft as Seb Ross, Jack Newnes, Jimmy Webster, Jay Lever and Beau Maister.

Although Lever was delisted last year, the other four have earned regular games over the past two seasons.

If Markworth continues on his current path, it may not be long until he joins them in the red, white and black.

“I’ve watched my fellow draftees play senior football,” he said at this year’s Season Launch. “but I want to be out there with them. I see them do it and it makes me hungrier than ever.”