With the Cats looking to swing defender Harry Taylor up forward to play alongside Tom Hawkins in 2017, Chris Scott may be reluctant to make the change without an adequate replacement for Taylor, but Geelong may have just found their man.
Defender Tom Stewart has performed strongly in each of his JLT Community Series appearances, and is now pushing for a round one selection in order to let Taylor roam free in the forward line.
Stewart – who arrived at Geelong as a mature-aged recruit from the Cats’ VFL side – will look to fight it out with Jackson Thurlow, Tom Ruggles and new recruit Timm House for a spot in the backline should Scott decide Taylor moves forward for their season opener against Fremantle on March 26.
“We think that while those guys haven’t played a lot of AFL footy, what we’ve seen over the pre-season gives us a reason to have optimism that they could contribute to filling pretty big holes,” Scott told AFL.com.au.
“We’re not committed to Harry playing forward absolutely, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play there more than he has.
“This may come back to my defensive bias but if you have one of the best key defenders in the game, you are giving up something to get something.”
The move to swing Taylor forward is one that Scott has been contemplating for some time, as the Cats continually look for a suitable sidekick to Hawkins up forward.
The problem was most evident against Sydney in last season’s preliminary final, as the Cats had 72 inside 50s to Sydney’s 40, but still went on to lose the game by 37 points.
Scott says he would happily give up some of those forward entries for more efficient ones, but admits they need to find the right balance in 2017.
“It’s not the worst problem to have but it is a problem,” the coach said.
“We did have games – and the last game stands out the most – where we slaughtered the opposition in inside 50s and lost convincingly.
“It speaks to effectiveness with the ball going inside and it speaks to the distribution of those players inside 50.
“We do have a big powerful key forward who attracts the ball and the opposition, but it needs to be directed to him with better quality … and if a couple of other guys can attract their fair share of the ball as well then we might be a little bit harder to defend.”