SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 05: Tom Stewart of the Cats is tackled during the round 16 AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Geelong Cats at Sydney Cricket Ground on July 5, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Star Geelong defender Tom Stewart faces a delayed recovery from his ongoing groin issue after his post-season honeymoon to Europe prolonged his rehab.

It has ultimately ruled him out of the State of Origin bushfire relief game.

Stewart has returned to the Cats’ rehab group and has commenced running over the last month, and is hopeful he will be able to play come round one.

It will be a race against the clock for Stewart to potentially be ready for either of the Cats’ pre-season matches against Gold Coast and Essendon, but Stewart’s priorities lay clearly with playing in round one.

“I think (I’m) more so focusing on round one, that’s the important stuff,” Stewart told 

“If I’m healthy and I’m ready to go in the Marsh Series I’ll definitely want to get some game time in. My plan’s fixed and firmly looking at round one.

“I was just a little bit sore after the season. I wasn’t fully sure of the extent of it and then got married and went on a honeymoon and probably wasn’t quite getting the healthy physio treatment that I should’ve been.”

In recent weeks, Stewart has been joined by captain Joel Selwood, Mitch Duncan, Jake Kolodjashnij and Nathan Kreuger in the rehab group as all make returns from injuries.

Stewart debuted for the Cats in 2017 and has amassed a reliable 68 games out of a possible 73 in that time.

His consistency and reliability within the team has many Geelong figures believing he could become a future captain of the club.