Carlton Career : 2006 - 2008
Debut : Round 3, 2006 vs Sydney, aged 26 years, 194 days
Carlton Player No. 1092
Games : 162 (20 at Carlton)
Goals : 47 (6 at Carlton)
Last Game : Round 20, 2008 vs Port Adelaide, aged 28 years, 299 days
Guernsey No. 9
Height : 193 cm (6 ft. 4 in.)
Weight : 93 kg (14 stone, 9 lbs.)
DOB: 23 October, 1979
Originally from Mitcham, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, Jason Saddington was recruited from the Eastern Ranges Under-18s by the Sydney Swans at number 11 in the 1997 National Draft. A tall and versatile centre half-back, he went on to play 142 games in red and white, and won a Rising Star nomination in 1998. By 2004 he had played in three finals campaigns for the Swans, but a serious knee injury in round 10 of that year derailed his career, and in 2005 he was traded to Carlton.
By then Sydney and the Blues were at opposite ends of the AFL spectrum, having finished first and last respectively in the 16-team competition. Carlton desperately needed height and experience in defence, so Saddington’s recruitment – in exchange for National Draft pick number 51 – seemed a wise decision. However, it was later alleged that Sydney had concealed the severity of “Saddo’s” injury from all concerned, in order to gain the best trade possible. If that was the case, then the tactic misfired, because although Jason may have managed only another 20 senior games in navy blue, the player Sydney chose in the draft – Matthew Laidlaw – coincidentally wrecked his knee on debut and never appeared at senior level again.
Wearing guernsey number 9, Saddington played his first senior match for Carlton against his former team on a Saturday evening in round 3, 2006 at Docklands Stadium. Beginning the game in a back pocket alongside Bret Thornton and Cory McGrath, Jason enjoyed the thrill of kicking his first goal for Carlton, but spent much of the game on the interchange bench as Sydney edged out the Blues by 7 points. He had added another five consecutive games to his tally by round 8, when persistent pain in his knee became too much and surgery was required.
Saddington’s fortunes improved somewhat in 2007 as Carlton narrowly avoided another wooden spoon. Returning to the side in round 7 as a late replacement for Thornton (who had succumbed to a shin injury) Jason worked tirelessly deep in defence, and took 12 marks, even as Collingwood came out on top by 24 points. A week later, Saddington celebrated his 150th career game against the Kangaroos at Carrara, and seemed to be enjoying his football again as a loose man in defence under his new coach Brett Ratten. Overall, he played 12 games for the season, and by round 18 was the oldest member of the team.
Carlton embarked on a youth policy in 2008, when Saddington’s absence from the senior line-up for much of the season seemed to indicate that his time at Carlton was up. Nevertheless, his professional attitude and leadership in the VFL set a fine example, and his rock-solid consistency at centre half-back won him the Laurie Hill Trophy as the Bullants’ Best and Fairest.
On the way to that honour however, Jason was recalled to Carlton’s senior side for the Blues’ round 19 66-point victory over reigning Grand Finalists Port Adelaide at Docklands, and he justified his inclusion by keeping the Power’s promising young forward Justin Westhoff almost kickless. The following week, in his last AFL match, he partnered a young Michael Jamison on the full-back line on a Sunday afternoon at Docklands, when North Melbourne hammered the Blues by 51 points.
Saddington’s contract with Carlton wasn’t renewed for 2009, so he signed on for one more season with the Bullants. In his dual role of assistant coach and on-field leader, he was highly-influential in the ‘Ants march to the Grand Final, where they were defeated by North Ballarat.
In 2010, Saddington headed north to join the Balmain Dockers in the Sydney AFL competition as he continued his transition into coaching. Four years later, he took charge of the NSW/ACT Rams in the National Under-18 Championship, and was named coach of the All Australian Team. Then in October 2014, Saddington won one of the most exciting posts in the game, when was appointed as the first Academy Coach at the GWS Giants.
Saddington's cousin Danielle Hardiman played with the Carlton AFLW team.