K rock Football

Young Cats set to step up

Irish rookie Stefan Okunbor made his VFL debut against Richmond before the bye. (krockfootball.com.au Image/Al Packer)

IRISH rookie Stefan Okunbor is among the inexperienced players Shane O’Bree expects to give Geelong a boost in the back half of the VFL season as it chases a finals berth.

The Cats sit 10th, just one win outside the top-eight with a healthy percentage, and host last-placed Frankston at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday.

Okunbor will line up for his second VFL appearance after overcoming a groin injury that kept him on the sidelines earlier in the season.

The 20-year-old, originally from County Kerry, will be looking to build on the exciting debut performance he delivered in the Cats’ narrow defeat to Richmond before the bye.

Okunbor thrilled fans at the Swinburne Centre (Punt Road Oval) with several strong tackles, and a huge leap over a pack on the outer wing, which almost led to him pulling down a contender for mark of the year.

“We didn’t get as many games into him as we would’ve liked in the first half of the year because of his injury, but he’s exciting, he’s athletic, and with his raw instincts he backs himself in,” O’Bree said.

“The more games he plays, the more confident he’ll get and we’ll start to see Stefan improve as the year goes on.”

VFLW: GARING AND ORR TO BOOST CATS

Along with Okunbor, O’Bree hoped fellow AFL squad members Nathan Kreuger, Ben Jarvis, Jacob Kennerley, Oscar Brownless and Jake Tarca would continue to progress.

All are vying to force their way into consideration for senior call-ups, however Kennerly, Brownless, Tarca and rookie Blake Schlensog won’t play against the Dolphins.

“They’re all developing players, but the good thing is they’re learning multiple roles,” O’Bree said.

“They’re learning on the fly a little bit and they’re not getting best-on-ground, but they’re developing as they should be as younger players.

“We’re envisaging those guys having better second halves of the year than first halves, and they’ll feel a lot more comfortable with level.”

O’Bree felt Geelong’s ladder position was a fair reflection of where the team sat in the scheme of the 2019 season to date but was optimistic the second half of the year would bring about more wins.

“There were probably a few games where we could’ve won, and there was probably a couple of games that we lost but could’ve won,” O’Bree said.

“We’ve still got a lot of areas to improve on and also the chemistry of the group because we have had a lot of changes and a lot of young players playing their first year of VFL.

“I think after the break we should start to click a bit more than we have been and finish our work off and hopefully get a bit more reward with the win-loss ratio, even though we are a developing team.”

Geelong won’t take its opponent lightly after Frankston thumped North Melbourne by 50 points last week.

It was the Dolphins’ first win of the season, snapping a run of eight consecutive defeats.

The Cats have lost versatile tall Darcy Foot after he was recalled to AFL ranks in place of injured forward Esava Ratugolea.

But they will welcome back VFL co-captain Aaron Black, who has overcome a hamstring injury. 

Black played three of the first four matches this season and has been sidelined since early May.

Experienced AFL defender Lachie Henderson will return from a foot injury through the VFL side, while tough midfielder Dean Gore will likely make his comeback from a serious finger injury in GFL ranks with St Mary’s.

Twitter: @shayne_hope

VFL ROUND 12

GEELONG (10th) vs. FRANKSTON (15th)

GMHBA Stadium

Saturday, June 22, 2:00pm