AFL Free Agency: Is Tyson Stengle the missing piece for Geelong?

Tyson Stengle Geelong
Tyson Stengle is joining his third AFL club in Geelong. Photo: Adelaide Crows

Geelong has added another recruit in its continual push for an elusive premiership, with former Crow Tyson Stengle electing to sign with the Cats for the 2022 season.

The 22-year-old was released by Adelaide in 2021 after various off-field incidents, but the livewire small forward has since lit up the SANFL with Woodville-West Torrens.

Where does Stengle fit in?

It’s hard to place what Geelong have planned for Stengle, who will be reunited with former Crows teammate Eddie Betts, enters a development role down at GMHBA Stadium.

Tyson Stengle will get another chance with Geelong after kicking three goals in the 2021 SANFL Grand Final (Photo – Dani Brown).

Despite never truly making a consistent name for himself at Adelaide, Stengle’s talents lend exactly to what Geelong id missing – a quality small forward.

Having already nabbed Jeremy Cameron to partner Tom Hawkins in last year’s trade period, the Cats struggled with viable small forward options to crumb the tall pair throughout all of 2021, with the likes of Gryan Miers and Luke Dahlhaus never breaking out in the position.

What we do know through Stengle’s time at Adelaide and in the SANFL is that he is a class small forward with the ability to kick mercurial goals and make a living at the feet of tall targets. If he can produce just a sliver of his exhilarating form that saw him enter the mid-season draft radar this season than he should get game time under Chris Scott as the Cats search for answers to go further in 2022.

Stengle offers something unique to Geelong that not too many on the list possess – pace and X-factor. The only other real speedy forward in their line-up is Gary Rohan, who has notoriously been inconsistent in crunch games. With another fast and skilful crumber in the forward line, the pressure gets taken off the likes of Rohan and Myers to capitalise on Hawkins and Cameron’s hard work, as Stengle is a natural small forward who has the ability to consistently snag bags of goals.

What role does the Betts factor play?

Having struggled at times both on and off field with the Crows, Stengle was often earmarked as the future heir to the versatile small forward throne crafted by the likes of former teammates Eddie Betts and Charlie Cameron at Adelaide. Unfortunately, when the pair both left in the years after the infamous post-2017 fall-out, Stengle could never quite break through to make his own name heard.

His best footy came as a young man when under the tutelage of Betts, with the champion small forward teaching him the ropes and exacting some quality football at the highest level out of Stengle. When Betts vacated to Carlton, Stengle could never quite shoulder the load by himself.

But this time around it’s different. It’s likely that Betts’ presence at Geelong is a massive reason behind Stengle is electing to join the Cats, as he can re-commence his partnership with the star crumber to produce more exciting highlights in the AFL.

Stengle has already had plenty of experience, having played for both Richmond and Adelaide in his fledgling career, but Betts’ addition to Geelong is definitely a major factor behind the Cats offering Stengle a lifeline. Now back under the wing of Betts, it’ll be exciting to see what rewards the partnership can reap.

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There’s no sidestepping around it – Stengle’s career at Adelaide was brought into disrepute by his antics off-field. It was the main reason listed by the club when they released him in 2021, with the young forward going back to the SANFL and producing a remarkable body of work to get himself back into AFL list contention yet again.

It’s a new direction from Geelong, who have famously targeted older, more seasoned players in their off-season recruiting drives to round out their list for premiership contention. Last trade period Jeremy Cameron was joined by Isaac Smith and Shaun Higgins. Previously, former Crow Josh Jenkins was a target. The Cats don’t usually go young in their recruiting, so the selection of the 22-year-old Stengle stands out.

Much of it certainly has to do with Betts, with the Cats strong in their belief that they have the facilities on offer to nurture Stengle and ensure he doesn’t stray in his off-field behaviour. But it also shapes as a sign that the Cats are open to trying a new tactic, perhaps foregoing their mantra of targeting mature-aged recruits with a wealth of AFL experience behind them. Stengle may not be a fresh 18-year-old draft pick, but he’s still a young, relatively unknown option who has plenty of upside if given the right conditions to excel.

Though it’s only a small piece of the 2021 off-season trade period, Stengle’s selection by Geelong could have massive ramifications for both the crafty forward and the Cats going forward.

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