Geelong’s Tom Stewart has stated Melbourne’s finals debutants will be very nervous come Friday night.
The 2018 All Australian defender doesn’t make the point out of gamesmanship, rather an assessment based on his emotions from being in the same position only last year.
The Demons, who are back in finals after a long 12-year absence, will also have the feeling of sheer anticipation as they’re keen to show the competition they are flag contenders.
Stewart said at a Geelong press conference today he knows exactly how the finals debutants are feeling.
“Last year I put on a brave face and said I was embracing it and saying I wasn’t nervous when I was absolutely packing my dacks,” Stewart said.
“They’ll be excited. They’ve got a lot of blokes around a similar age bracket all to come through together.
“And there’s the fact the club hasn’t played finals for a long time.
“But they’ll be in a similar boat.
“They will put on a brave face and say they’re really excited, but there will be plenty of nerves in their camp as well.”
Stewart’s remarkable story of becoming an All Australian just two seasons in the AFL comes after a stellar 2018 season.
Last season, Stewart found himself being taken out of Geelong’s Football league club South Barwon and thrown into the deep end for the Cats, playing in the backline as a 24-year old.
Apart from a three-week absence due to an eye injury, Stewart played every game for the Cats in 2017, helping them finish second on the ladder.
The defender then go a real taste of what the AFL finals are really like, with Geelong losing their Qualifying Final against Richmond, where a rampaging Dusty Martin gave Stewart a huge lesson late in the third quarter.
Stewart’s response in 2018 to backup a solid 2017 season was incredible for a second year player, earning himself a place in the All Australian side.
The now 25-year-old was also named the AFL Coaches Association’s Best Young Player of the Year, only a day before receiving the nod for AA honours.
Although Stewart had an outstanding season, his club seems to have taken a backwards step, slipping to eighth position and must now fight for their life in an elimination final against the Dees.
Stewart said he cannot wait to embrace the opportunity and just scrapping into the eight doesn’t change Geelong’s finals ambitions.
“It’s nice to not have that comfort blanket there. To know you have to play your best football on the night,” Stewart said.
“I quite enjoy that … you shouldn’t be waiting for next week or the next game.
“We want to win the flag. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “There’s no point saying, ‘Oh, we finished eighth, if we scrape into a semi or a prelim that’s a win for us.
“That’s not why we play footy. We play to win premierships. Anything short of that will be disappointing.”