K rock Football

We still believe: Stewart

Geelong defender Tom Stewart (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

GEELONG defender Tom Stewart says his teammates’ belief in their premiership capabilities remains rock solid despite a disappointing performance in Friday night’s qualifying final defeat to Collingwood.

The Cats have been thrust into a cut-throat semi-final showdown with reigning premiers West Coast next week after blowing the chance to advance directly to a preliminary final with a 10-point loss to the Magpies.

The result extended a horror finals record, with Geelong now 3-10 in September since winning the premiership in 2011.

“We’ve built this year around playing finals footy and to not get the job done tonight is bitterly disappointing,” Stewart said.

“But, in saying that, we only lost by 10 points after playing pretty poorly in the first half.

“We gave ourselves opportunities, and we’ve just got to move on now. We can’t dwell on this game.

“We’ve got to review it harshly and be honest with ourselves, but we’ll move on to West Coast next week pretty quickly because we got ourselves in this position for a reason.”

Stewart conceded Geelong’s work around the contest wasn’t at the required level in the first quarter against Collingwood, who generated the first ten inside-50s and opened up a 20-point lead before the Cats could muster a score.

“In the contest, we weren’t great early,” Stewart said.

“We did fix that after quarter-time and we felt like we did give ourselves every chance to stay in the game, but they just took too many marks on us.

“Their kicking game was exceptional tonight, and that was, I think, where the game was won and lost.”

Stewart was pleased with Geelong’s defensive ability, having limited Collingwood to 9.7 (61) – the Magpies’ second-lowest score of the season.

He said Mark Blicavs’ move to the ruck after the late withdrawal of Rhys Stanley had no ill-effects on the backline.

“In terms of our defensive structure, I don’t think it hurt us at all,” Stewart said.

“Jack Henry played a ripper game and all the boys down there really contributed.

“I don’t think not having ‘Blitz’ there hurt us one bit. He’s a super player, and we love him around the ball, but I don’t think it hurt our defensive structure.”

Geelong will host West Coast next Friday night, almost certainly at the MCG.

Stewart is eyeing a shutdown role on one of the Eagles’ talented small forwards after Liam Ryan, Wille Rioli and Jamie Cripps tore Essendon apart in Thursday night’s elimination final.

“They’ve got some bloody good players, and I’ll probably play on Rioli or Ryan, so I’ll have my hands full there, but we’ll back our structures in and we’ll come ready to play,” Stewart said.

“We just have to now because there’s no second chances anymore. If we didn’t have full faith then we wouldn’t rock up next week.

“We’ve just got to come and compete, and they’re the running premiers, so they’re a pretty good team.”

Twitter: @shayne_hope