Saints' Billings rejects AFL free agency

St Kilda free agent Jack Billings has committed his future to the AFL club for another four years while ruckman Paddy Ryder has signed on for another season.

JACK BILLINGS.
JACK BILLINGS. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

St Kilda's Jack Billings is the latest AFL star to reject free agency, signing a four-year deal that will probably make him a one-team player.

Paddy Ryder has also re-committed to the Saints, the veteran ruckman returning for another season.

Billings, 26, was a restricted free agent but his new contract will keep the utility at Moorabbin until 2025.

The No.3 pick in the 2013 draft has played 144 games for the Saints and joined their leadership group last season.

Carlton co-captain Patrick Cripps, Western Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli, Essendon midfielder Zach Merrett and GWS on-baller Josh Kelly are other big names this year who have shunned free agency.

There had been speculation about Billings' future with the Saints but coach Brett Ratten said on Tuesday morning that they always wanted to keep him.

"With his age and where we can go, he's going to be an important part," Ratten told SEN.

Ryder took personal leave from the Saints in March but returned in round seven and played 12 games in 2021.

The All-Australian has played 26 games in two seasons at St Kilda after 170 at Essendon and 73 for Port Adelaide.

An achilles tendon injury ended Ryder's season prematurely, however, Ratten has been rapt with the 33-year-old's form.

"He's a bit like a bottle of red, isn't he? He's just improving as he gets older," the coach said.

One of the factors in the Saints' fall out of the top eight this season was Ryder and fellow ruckman Rowan Marshall only being able to play together seven times.

"The ruck combination ... it really gives us advantage around the ball and that's something we missed ... we couldn't get those boys on the park together," Ratten said.

Ratten said St Kilda would be more likely to focus on the draft rather than the trade period this off-season.