Nick Dal Santo (born 22 February 1984) is a retired Australian rules footballer who played for St Kilda and North Melbourne in the Australian Football League (AFL).
Dal Santo was drafted by St Kilda with the thirteenth selection in the 2001 AFL Draft, which was obtained by St Kilda as part of the trade deal which sent Barry Hall to Sydney. He played his first game in St Kilda's win over Melbourne at Colonial Stadium in the 2002 Wizard Home Loans Cup. He made his AFL debut that season against the Geelong Football Club and managed 18 matches in 2002 in what was a poor season for the club.
Dal Santo could not break into an improving St Kilda side in early 2003, but when he did in Round 15 he did not look back, playing every match for the rest of the season and establishing himself as a skillful and creative young midfielder.
Dal Santo played in St Kilda’s 2004 Wizard Home Loans Cup winning side – St Kilda's second AFL Cup win.
In that same year, former Hawthorn champion Gary Ayres said this of Dal Santo in an interview: "He's got a high skill level on both sides of his body. He's a good reader of the play, he's got football smarts which are very hard to teach and the thing he does very well is he's got that ability to be composed when he uses the ball. He doesn't seem to get too flustered or rushes it, and that's a pretty special quality to be able to have when you play elite football because a lot of players can get the ball but do they make the right decision?"
Dal Santo came of age as a footballer during the 2004 season, playing every match and kicking 11 goals in a St Kilda side that made a Preliminary Final. In 2005 he took his game to a new level, racking up over 500 disposals for the year and finishing a close third in the 2005 Brownlow Medal, behind eventual winner Ben Cousins.
Dal Santo was recognised for his excellent season with selection in the 2005 All-Australian Team as a midfield player, his first career All-Australian Team award.
Early in the 2006 season St Kilda lost star midfielder Lenny Hayes to a knee ligament problem and the captain, Luke Ball, was also struggling with injury. In Hayes' absence Dal Santo began to cop a heavy tag from opposition teams each week and this lessened his impact on the game. He still performed strongly for the year, however, and continued to be one of St Kilda's best players.
In 2007, under new coach Ross Lyon, Dal Santo played some match-winning football, notching up 16 Brownlow votes for the year. He also played his 100th consecutive game in Round 20 of 2007, which meant that he had not missed a game since mid-2003. He finished the year with a fourth-place finish in the club's best and fairest, the Trevor Barker Award.
Dal Santo played in St Kilda's 2008 NAB Cup winning side, the club's third pre-season cup win.
Dal Santo was dropped in Round 13 of the 2008 season due to lack of form. The temporary demotion spurred Dal Santo on to a good finish to the season – picking up 530 possessions (including 335 kicks), 12 goals and 75 tackles. Although his form was down on that of previous seasons, he picked up Brownlow Medal votes in two games and also played a major part in St Kilda's semifinal victory over Collingwood, with 32 possessions, five tackles and one goal.
Dal Santo was a member of St Kilda's leadership group in 2009 and was contracted to the club until the end of the 2010 season. He was awarded All-Australian selection for the second time in his career in 2009, a recognition of his strong season.
Dal Santo played in 21 of 22 matches in the 2009 AFL Season home and away rounds in which St Kilda qualified in first position for the 2009 AFL Finals Series, winning the club’s third minor premiership.
Dal Santo was recognised for his excellent season with selection in the 2009 All-Australian Team as an interchange player, his second career All-Australian Team award.
St Kilda qualified for the 2009 AFL Grand Final after qualifying and preliminary finals wins. Dal Santo played in the grand final in which St Kilda were defeated by 12 points.
Dal Santo played 25 games in 2010, including four final matches, and averaged 25.6 possessions.
In the 2011 season Dal Santo came second for the Brownlow Medal with a poll of 28 votes, after averaging 26.5 disposals per round during the premiership season. He was again included in the All Australian Team on the interchange bench. He also came a close second in St Kilda's best and fairest award which recognised his consistency and leadership in the absence of Lenny Hayes.
As of the end of the 2011 season, Dal Santo had played in 17 finals matches, including three grand finals (2009, 2010 drawn and 2010 replay).
In the 2013 season St Kilda won just five games and as he qualified as a free agent at the end of the season, Dal Santo was regularly questioned about his playing future after 2013.
In October 2013, Dal Santo left the Saints for North Melbourne as a restricted free agent after St Kilda declined to match North's three year deal. Dal Santo had an immediate effect in his first year at North Melbourne, playing every game of the season, including three finals matches. During the semi final against Geelong, he collected 35 disposals and gained 603 metres. He was named as the 'recruit of the year' by AFL Media. In August 2016, North Melbourne announced they would not renew his contract for the 2017 season. After expressing interest in joining another club, he subsequently retired in November.
Dal Santo's younger cousin is Marcus Bontempelli from the Western Bulldogs
|Season||Team||No.||Games||Totals||Averages (per game)|
Honours and achievements
|Brownlow Medal votes|
- McClelland Trophy (St Kilda): 2009
- Pre-Season Cup (St Kilda): 2004, 2008
- All-Australian: 2005, 2009, 2011
- Ian Stewart Medal: 2005
- Australian Representative Honours in International Rules Football: 2004