K rock Football

Ageing list no concern: Stewart

Geelong players before the qualifying final loss to Port Adelaide. (AFL Photos Image/Sarah Reed)

NEWLY-crowned’ Carji’ Greeves medalist Tom Stewart has rejected external suggestions Geelong needs to make getting AFL games into the club’s younger players a priority.

The Cats fielded 11 players aged 30 or older in the preliminary final loss to Melbourne, with Lachie Henderson, who announced his retirement earlier this week, the only confirmed departure among those players.

It led to calls from some experts for Geelong to move away from its strategy of topping up with experienced players from rivals clubs.

However, Stewart is comfortable with the Cats continuing its recent approach.

“We were 60 minutes away from winning a flag last year, and then the whole narrative changes that we did it the right way and aren’t Geelong a fantastic football club,” he said.

“I think a lot of luck has to be involved, and we came up against a Richmond team that was at the peak of their powers of their dynasty,

“And a lot of people have said not many teams would have beaten Melbourne on their stretch, so a lot of luck has to come into it.

“We need to have a healthy list, and we lost a lot of good senior key players through our team for a lot of the year, but I don’t buy into the narrative that we need to play younger players because I think you play your best 22 every week.”

Stewart admits it has been tough for those on the fringe to press their claims over the past two seasons, with Geelong’s VFL team limited to just nine competitive matches.

“Obviously, it is difficult because the VFL boys haven’t really been able to show their wares and show what they can do in a combative setting, which makes it difficult for them to put their name up in lights, but I don’t buy into that narrative,” he said.

“We continue to play players that are going to perform and come in and play a role for the team.

“There are ways we can improve; we can probably play a bit faster at times, play with a bit more flair and take the game on a bit – that is just my personal opinion, not anything from the coaches or the footy club.”

Stewart is confident the Cats will again be in a position to challenge for the premiership in 2022.

If we didn’t think we could contend, I don’t think we’d continually say that we’re going to – we would go back, we would rebuild as teams have done,” he said.

“But, that’s not the way we as a footy club believe it’s supposed to be done. We play football to win; we play football to play finals and play in big finals.

“Yes, we’ve come up short, and that’s extremely disappointing because we have been so close.

“But there’s no point feeling sorry for ourselves and saying, “oh well, let’s just start again”.

“We want to play to win – we want to play to win finals. I think the best-and-fairest results tonight show we have another wave coming through.”

Twitter: @tom_king79