Cats ready for the ‘real stuff’ as season opener looms

March 16, 2024 BY

Cats midfielder Tom Atkins (first from left) says Geelong's youngsters have put on good showings during the side's pre-season. Photo: MARCEL BERENS/SPORTS MEDIA IMAGES

GEELONG Cats midfielder Tom Atkins had some positive words for teammate Jhye Clark ahead of the side’s Round 1 home opener against St Kilda this evening (Saturday, March 16).

Atkins, who spoke with the media a week out from Round 1, listed Clark’s name first among the pool of youngsters attempting to earn selection in the first match of the season.

“I love Jhye, he’s a similar player to me, I guess,” Atkins said.

“He works really hard at his pressure, and he values the in-and-under stuff, so I’m looking forward to watching him play and I’ve already enjoyed playing with him so far this year.”

Atkins noted it will take more than one player to fill the Cam Guthrie-sized hole left after he injured his quad in the opening seconds of the match simulation against Carlton in February, but Clark has been touted a potential insertion into the midfield.

Clark, now 19 years old, has just one game of senior football under his belt from his rookie season, activated as a tactical sub in Round 9 against Richmond.

“I think Jhye has been impressive, I think Tanner [Bruhn] as well, not just in those couple of practice matches in the preseason, he’s been a standout,” Atkins said.

“Then you [have] got guys like Toby [Conway] who’s been playing well, then obviously Ollie Dempsey has played pretty well as well.

“The amount of young crew we have coming through, they’re just great people as well, and they have a great attitude to work, so, yeah, they’re pretty impressive.”

Above all else for Atkins is the urge to get out and play against a Saints side in search for a return to the Top 8.

Geelong has defeated St Kilda in seven of their past 10 meetings, but the Saints scored a 33-point win in Round 23 last year to end Geelong’s finals hopes.

“Everyone’s done with the prep and excited to get into the real stuff,” Atkins said.

“We’ve seen great showings from our young players over the couple of practice matches and the evidence of a longer pre-season is going to hold us in good stead.”

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