K rock Football

Stewart “itching” to return

WITH just 17 days remaining until the Cats resume their 2020 AFL campaign, Geelong held their first full group training session at GMHBA Stadium on Tuesday morning.

With the AFL releasing the first four-week block of fixturing on Monday, Geelong now knows their first foe will be Hawthorn at home on Friday, June 12 – it will be the first time the Hawks have made the trip down the highway since round 3, 2006.

“I’m not sure they know how to get down here the Hawks,” two-time All-Australian Tom Stewart said with a laugh.

“It’s exciting to play them in round one or two whatever it is, against Hawthorn it’s always a great match.”

A significant talking point in footy circles over the last 24 hours, Geelong will host three of the first four games on the resumption of play on home turf, with Stewart hoping the Cats will be able to capitalise in the early going.

“As everyone knows, it’s a small ground and different to every other ground in the AFL,” he said.

“We train here every session, so we know the little nuances with what happens here with the wind and everything like that.

“I don’t want to give away too many secrets. It’s just smaller, it’s skinnier, just not as
much width in terms of playing surface.”

The resumption of full group training coincided with the first contact drills since the players returned to the club, something the 27-year-old believes will be critical in the unprecedented build-up to Round 2.

“That contact conditioning, it’s quite important,” he said.

“I think every club is going to do it differently, but I’m backing our fitness staff and our coaches to get what they think we need out of it.

“I think it’s going to be a fine line between getting that contact conditioning and also being quite fresh.

“You can’t flog yourself too much over the two weeks before round two.”

Along with the fluid nature of the fixture beyond Round 5, the AFL has also left the door ajar for potential changes to the rules regarding interchange and rotations.

While the shorter 16-minute quarters from Round 1 will remain in place.

“It was quite interesting, I definitely felt fresher after the game,” Stewart said of the shortened game time.

“Just that extra couple minutes a quarter actually makes a massive difference. It was so long ago that it actually happened, so it’ll be all new and all different.

“I’m not sure what the AFL is going to do with any of the interchange or anything like that, but I do remember feeling a lot fresher after the game.”

A notable absentee from the main group was Jack Steven, who was all smiles with a Sherrin in hand as he walked laps while the session got underway.

“I caught him briefly on Sunday when we had our Covid-19 testing; he seems in good spirits,” Stewart said.

“It’s a very sensitive issue for him, but he’s smiling and happy to be back at the club which is all we can ask for.

“We’ve had some chats through our WhatsApp group, and he’s up and about, he just wants to be around the boys and get back into footy.

“As long as he’s smiling, I’m happy.”

As teams around the league scramble to prepare for the first bounce in just over a fortnight, the AFL enters unchartered waters, but footy is right around the corner, and that’s all that matters.

“Our group is just itching to get out there and have a crack,” he said.

“It’s going to be so different to anything anyone has experienced so you just have to do as well as you can and hope you are ready come the first bounce down.”

Twitter: @KanePitman