Leigh Montagna predicts Melbourne and Essendon to rise in 2018

SPECIAL GUESTS: Former St Kilda players Leigh Montagna (right) and Adam Schneider at Wagga Country Club on Friday. Picture: Les Smith
SPECIAL GUESTS: Former St Kilda players Leigh Montagna (right) and Adam Schneider at Wagga Country Club on Friday. Picture: Les Smith

Retired St Kilda star Leigh Montagna believes Melbourne and Essendon will be the big movers in next year’s AFL competition.

The St Kilda great enjoyed his first trip to Wagga on Friday as he joined former teammate Adam Schneider at The George Maher and Hamish Howard Remembrance Golf Day.

The annual event attracts some of the biggest names in Australian sport to raise funds for the Pillars of Strength charity.

Montagna, who retired at the end of this season after 287 games for the Saints, believes the Bombers, Demons and Port Adelaide were the big winners out of AFL’s Trade Period.

“I’m enjoying the way it is now with teams really having a crack at it,” Montagna said.

“Obviously Essendon, Port Adelaide, and I reckon even Melbourne, have done really well because they've improved their list. 

“Teams that are in that bottom half of the eight, or just outside the eight are really pushing up to go top four so I think those three teams have been clearly the big winners.”

Western Bulldogs and Richmond’s premiership success over the past two seasons have showed the rest of the competition that it is possible, in the modern game, to make big space in 12 months.

Montagna believes it is great for the competition.

“No doubt they’ve given teams that belief that you can do it in one season. For a period there, unless you were Sydney, Geelong, Hawthorn, or teams like that that are up the top it might be hard,” he said.

“Everyone thought GWS would probably win five in a row so I think Richmond and the Bulldogs have certainly given everyone hope that if you can get it right, and you get this intangible belief and this wave of momentum, that anything’s possible. 

“It’s great for the competition. Now you look at trying to work out your top eight and it’s impossible so that’s great for the competition.”

Montagna believes Adelaide will be the team to beat in 2018.

“I still think Adelaide. I think Adelaide will bounce back and be up there again,” he said.

“You still expect GWS and the Swans are going to be around the mark but as I said I think the big improvers for me looking at it, I think Melbourne will be a big improver. I think they will really shoot up the ladder and so will Essendon. 

“It's going to be pretty competitive and tight at the top.”

Montagna is enjoying his time off post AFL but will stay in football next year.

He believes the future is bright for Saints fans.

“The Saints are tracking in the right direction,” he said.

“As I just said though, it’s so competitive and teams are really trying to make big gains. I think we’re on the improve, it's going to be interesting to see how much we improve. 

“It’s a pretty competitive competition. I’m looking forward to watching the boys, I think we're on the right track with a stable coaching staff, football department with the playing group maturing I’m hopeful they can continue to improve.”