Geelong Cats defender Tom Stewart put in a stellar performance against the Western Bulldogs last Friday night in game 99. But now, as he prepares for game 100, Stewart admits he hasn’t reflected too much on the milestone itself.
“It’s been a really cool week,” Stewart told media outside Melbourne Airport ahead of a trip to Brisbane.
“My sons and my wife were able to come up with me as well which is pretty special so I haven’t reflected a whole heap. I think I’ll be getting through the game first and sort of share with my family and friends first.”
As the team prepares to fly to Brisbane ahead of their fixture on Thursday night, Stewart says his upcoming milestone game is a reflection on the club and its trust in him more than anything.
“Obviously the Geelong footy club was good to me in the way they sort of gave me an early indication that they were going to take me (in 2016) so I did everything in my power to stay in Geelong”, Stewart told.
“My family and my friends are here, I love the town. I was settled, I could stay in the town. Obviously, I’m lucky enough now to just [be] here to play the game.”
Stewart was picked up in the 2016 AFL Draft as a mature-age recruit with pick 40 and has since morphed into a respected leader at the club and All-Australian defender.
After missing selection in the national draft in 2011, Stewart went back to his home club, South Barwon in the Geelong Football League. It was here he played alongside Geelong legend and 284-gamer Matthew Scarlett, someone he could learn a lot from.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a poster boy, there were many guys before me. I’m very humbled I had the opportunity to just have a crack,” Stewart said.
“There was guys well before me who had the same pathway who probably didn’t get the recognition they deserve.
“I’m just a kicker from South Barwon who’s just trying to play his role.”
Stewart says that there are many people with who he could celebrate after the game, such as Scarlett, and look back at his career to date, but he still puts the game first.
“It’ll be a nice little occasion if we get the win and I’ve just to focus on that first and foremost, getting the win against Brisbane,” Stewart said.
“They’re a very, very good team and we got lucky last time when we played against them so we’ve got to beat them first.”
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The Cat grew up supporting Brisbane before playing at Geelong, his dad a Fitzroy fan. The support flowed to Stewart who was impressed with the likes of Nigel Lappin, Jason Akermanis, and Michael Voss.
It makes this weekend’s match-up more memorable given his barracking in his junior years but for Stewart, he knows this is a crucial game against a side where the Cats hung on for a one-point win in the corresponding fixture in Round 2.
“[Brisbane] really pride themselves on their contested game and they’ve got some absolute superstars who are really tough inside so we’ve got to match it there,” Stewart said.
“Every game for us feels like a big one at the moment. It almost feels like a final in that sense, the build-ups been really, really exciting and we’ve got to be on it for the full 120 (minutes).
“The last three weeks have been so massive for us. We know what we have to do to win the game and I’m sure they’ll have a game plan that they can beat us so we’ve just got to be on for as long as we can.”
Stewart’s game last weekend against the Bulldogs culminated in tying the record for most intercept marks in the last 20 years with 10, with15 intercept possessions in total. He also had 27 disposals and six score involvements.
The game from Stewart saw fellow defender Zach Tuohy label him “the best defender in the game”, although the Cat is just happy to feel like he can contribute.
“I’ve obviously been pleased with the way I’ve played the game but my role shifts from week to week,” Stewart said.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a peak performance, just pleased that we got the win and I contributed in a positive way.”
Overall, upon reflection, Stewart confessed he would often pinch himself that he was given a chance with the Cats in 2016. However, now, the dual All Australian defender says he’s quite settled as the mind shifts towards his contributions to the club.
“If you had’ve told me I’d play one game, I would’ve been stoked,” Stewart admitted.
“Very, very proud of myself and the people who have helped me along the way.”
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