K rock Football

Atkins backs Cats to thrive

Geelong defender Tom Atkins. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

DEFENDER Tom Atkins has backed Geelong to thrive on returning to hub life during the AFL finals series.

The Cats, who have departed for Adelaide ahead of Friday night’s qualifying final clash with Port Adelaide, could spend up to five weeks on the road if it was to win through to another grand final.

Geelong will head for two weeks quarantine in Perth following the meeting with the Power, where it will be allowed to train in preparation for either a semi-final or preliminary final.

“Hopefully, we’ll be away for the full five weeks,” Atkins told krockfootball.com.au.

“I’m looking forward to getting back in that environment. We had a great environment last year.

“We all came together as a group and made the grand final. So, we’re looking to replicate that again.

“I’m a bit excited. I’ll definitely miss my family and my partner, but I’m definitely excited to get back and spend some quality time with the group of blokes that we’ve got.”

Atkins was arguably the hard-luck story of Geelong’s 2020 campaign.

After fighting his way back into the team after a mid-season injury, Atkins, who played his first two seasons at the club as a pressure forward, was dropped following the qualifying final loss to Port Adelaide.

However, a move into defence has proved to be a winner, with the 25-year-old earning a two-year contract extension in June.

One of the success stories of Geelong’s season, averaging 17.8 disposals a game, Atkins modestly says he’s “still adapting” to his new role.

“We all support each other and help each other set up really well, and it’s been a seamless transition,” he said. “I’ve gone where I’ve been told for most of the year.

There’s been a lot of things I’ve needed to work on, and I’m still working on.

“I’ve just been happy I’ve been able to contribute in some way to the team’s success this year so far.

“And, hopefully, I can keep doing my bit for the next month-and-a-bit.”

Atkins was sidelined from rounds 20-22 with a back issue before returning to the team for last Saturday’s loss to Melbourne.

“It was referral pain coming through the hamstring,” he said.

“It was just in the background for the Richmond game. And then I copped a bit of a hit in that game, and it came to the point where I couldn’t really play with it anymore.

“I had a good three weeks off, and it settled down nicely.

“It was nice to be back out there playing. It’s certainly not a great feeling watching the boys play when you could be out there.”

Atkins’ return was a timely one, with the Geelong defence losing All-Australian squad member Tom Stewart to what is expected to be a season-ending foot injury.

“He’s obviously a massive loss,” Atkins said. “He’s probably our best defender, so it’s always going to hurt losing someone like that, especially when they’re a great communicator like Stewy.

“He helps us set-up a lot, and he’s got a great knowledge of the game.

“He’ll leave a big hole, but I think everyone understands no one player needs to cover for him.

“It’s just all of us need to step up that little bit, and if we patch it up together, we should be alright.”

Twitter: @tom_king79