Stanley enjoying Cats’ early pre-season
AN EARLIER start to pre-season preparations has Geelong confident it can make a push for AFL finals in 2024, according to the side’s leading ruckman.
Rhys Stanley is enjoying a healthy and uninterrupted start to the season, as well as high availability from teammates with Round 1 drawing near for the Cats.
“There are a few of us in the same boat,” Stanley said.
“A silver lining from last year is we’ve had a bit more time. We obviously want to make finals every year, but it’s not always the way it falls.
“We try to find the silver lining in everything, so this year we’ve had a bit of time to get ready and I feel like we’re in a good space at the moment.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of work to do to get to Round 1 still, but at this stage we’re in good shape.
“Even for myself personally, not having surgery last year probably for the first time in a while – [there were] maybe three or four years where I’ve always finished the season with something, [so] to be able to have a long run-up to this season has been pleasing.”
The Cats’ pre-season numbers have been strong over the past fortnight, with an average of at least 40 players per session allowing the squad to conduct match simulations on a frequent basis ahead of the Round 1 clash with St Kilda.
Stanley had his shortest season since the COVID-affected 2020 season last year, playing in just 13 games. But, it didn’t stop the 33-year-old from averaging 28.3 hit outs per game.
The big man has also taken on a mentor role, spending time with Cats youngster Toby Conway.
Conway made his debut at the end of the 2023 season, but Stanley said the 20-year-old has impressed on the training track.
“Toby is another one that’s had good availability. He’s battled a little bit over the past couple of years with injury, so it’s been good to have him out there and see him flourish into what we know he’s going to be.
“When he came in we saw glimpses of what he can do and he’s a big boy, so rucking against him each session has been good.
“We get to work on certain strengths each of us has when trying to nullify the opposition. It’s been good working with him, working with Shannon [Neale]; it’s been a good block and hopefully we can continue being out there, continuity-wise.”
The Cats’ pre-season clash with Essendon is scheduled for GMHBA Stadium on March 1.