Joel Selwood a perfect AFL fit for Geelong
RIGHT from the beginning, the Geelong-Joel Selwood combination made sense.
That the hardnosed midfielder should break the Cats‘ games record and go down as one of the 162-year-old club’s greatest and most important players seems fitting.
Selwood’s draft year was ruined by knee issues that scared clubs off.
If he was fit, the Bendigo boy was a potential No.1 draft pick, but recruiters can go cold on teenagers undergoing significant surgery.
Selwood played just three TAC Cup (now called the NAB League) games in 2006 – a year in which Geelong had high hopes for a breakthrough premiership but ended in coach Mark Thompson almost losing his job following an underwhelming 10th-placed finish.
As disappointing and chaotic as the Cats‘ season was, it allowed the club to pull off one of the all-time great draft steals.
Concern around Selwood’s knee problems allowed him to fall into Geelong’s lap at pick seven.
For all of the focus on Selwood’s body as a junior, his AFL career has been as durable as any player of the modern era.
Discounting the shortened 2020 COVID-19 affected campaign, Selwood has played more than 20 games in all other 14 seasons at the top level.
“I feel pretty lucky,” Selwood said this week.
“It was a bit of a dodgy start but it’s a ride I would love to do all over again and experience the highs that I have.”
Selwood’s resilience is even more remarkable when you consider he has played a demanding, battering ram role in a midfield that has played in 14 of the past 15 finals series.
There have been periods when it seemed every second week the six-time All-Australian had blood flowing from his head and needed to be bandaged up.
But in Friday night’s semi-final against GWS in Perth, the 33-year-old will overtake great mate Corey Enright’s mark of 332 games played for Geelong.
A chat with Enright before the three-time premiership defender retired in 2016 set Selwood towards breaking the record.
“When Corey Enright was finishing up, he actually pulled me aside a couple of days after the season and we sat downstairs where I lived at that stage and we were having a drink and he told me he was going to finish up,” Selwood said.
“I told him to take a bit more time because I still thought he had some run in the legs and wanted him to keep playing on.
“(The record is) one of those things that has come up and I am sure someone will break it (after me).”
Few teenagers are able to make an immediate impact at a club, not just on the field, but off it, too.
But Selwood was an exception.
He debuted in round one of 2007, gathered a total of 404 possessions for the season to be a unanimous pick for the Rising Star award and played in Geelong’s 119-point smashing of Port Adelaide to finally end a 44-year flag drought.
The arrival of Selwood at Geelong saw the club embark on an incredible period of success, winning more premierships in 2009 and 2011, and losing another grand final in 2008.
Cats hierarchy had already seen enough in five seasons to appoint Selwood as captain ahead of the 2012 season, aged just 23.
His record-breaking game against the Giants will also be Selwood’s 223rd match as Geelong skipper.
It will put him behind only former Carlton great Stephen Kernahan (226) and Essendon’s Dick Reynolds (224) for most games as captain of any VFL/AFL club.
Praise has come flooding in from all corners for Selwood this week, with Zach Tuohy blown away by his skipper after arriving from Carlton.
“He’s a legend of the club. He’s an icon of the club,” Tuohy said.
“He’s one of those guys that I was fully aware of how good he was before I arrived (at Geelong), but until you see it live, I’m not sure if you can fully appreciate just what he actually does.
“He’s an amazing leader on-field and takes that off-field as well, but however good you think Joel Selwood is, I can assure you he’s considerably better than that.”
GEELONG’S GAMES RECORD LIST
Corey Enright – 332
Joel Selwood* – 332
Ian Nankervis – 325
Jimmy Bartel – 305
John ‘Sam’ Newman – 300
Tom Hawkins* – 300.