AS far as debut seasons as a mature-age rookie go, Tom Atkins’ 2019 would rank as one of the best.
Finally getting his chance at AFL level after impressing with Geelong’s VFL team in the three previous years, Atkins took his opportunity with both hands, featuring in 23 of a possible 25 matches, including all three of the Cats’ finals appearances.
The 24-year-old, who signed a one-year contract extension earlier this month, impressed as a pressure forward, finishing second to only Luke Dahlhaus (who played one more game) for tackles at Geelong.
However, Atkins is well aware that what he achieved in 2019 doesn’t mean anything in 2020.
“I don’t feel like I’m guaranteed a spot at all next season,” he said.
“We’ve drafted some great players, and everyone’s a year older; we’ve got quite a good young core.
“There’ll be a lot of us pushing for a couple of spots come Round 1.”
The departure of Tim Kelly to West Coast has opened up a spot in the Geelong midfield.
And while Atkins did spend some time at the coalface in 2019, he isn’t expecting his role to change too much next year.
“There’s a hole in the midfield with Tim leaving, but we’ve got some great players coming in, like Jack Steven,” he said.
“And Charlie Constable and ‘Narks’ (Quinton Narkle) are an extra year older, so I’d expect them to come in and fill TK’s role before me.”
As a result, Atkins is working hard to ensure he can further contribute to Geelong’s quality attack.
“I still definitely haven’t perfected forward craft; I didn’t kick many goals last year,” he said.
“While that’s not my role in the team, I think it’s something I probably need to improve.
“And just keep getting better at what I bring to the team. I think the strengths that I have that I can help the team with – if I can continue to be elite in that area, then will help me fulfil my role more than anything.
“I don’t want to try and do too much because that’s when you step outside your role.”