Five All-Australians. Two Carji Greeves medals. Premiership Player. Vice-captain.
Yet Tom Stewart still has so much more he wants to accomplish after confirming he would see out his career at Geelong by signing a three-year contract extension.
The new deal will keep the 30-year-old veteran of 148 games in the Hoops until at least the end of 2027.
“To have four years ahead of me is something I’m really excited about,” Stewart told K rock Football.
“I still feel like I’m only scratching the surface of the things that I can achieve – not only on the field but also off the field.
“The impact I can have at this footy club is something I’m really excited about.
“It’s what gets me going in the morning to get in here and work with these unbelievable people and these kids that have got so much talent.
“It’s not only the output on the field, but it’s the impact I can have within the four walls (of the club) and in the community as well.
EYES ONLY FOR THE CATS
As a South Barwon product, it would have shocked all and sundry if Stewart had even considered offers from other suitors.
He says talks around extending his current deal (three years until the end of 2024) had been bubbling away for much of 2023.
“There was never any negotiating; it was just a pretty simple task of finding the right fit for myself and for the club, and the terms that came out of it were pretty straightforward,” Stewart said.
“There was never any inkling of seeking out any dialogue from another club because I was never interested in going anywhere else.”
As vice-captain, Stewart is the logical replacement for Patrick Dangerfield, who will likely retire when this contract extension ends.
However, he says it’s “humbling” to be part of the dialogue.
“Coming from where I came from, and the journey that I’ve had, to be considered a leader of an AFL club, and to have been vice-captain the last two years and the leadership group since my third year, is something I’ll always cherish to be seen in that light,” he said.
“I really didn’t see that within myself when I was a younger man; to be in that conversation is a privilege.
“To have worked with Tom Hawkins, Harry Taylor, Mark Blicavs, Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield, Cam Guthrie and the like, and to be in that respect, is something I’m really proud of.
“If the club believes I’m the man next year or the year after, I’ll take it with both hands and give it my absolute all.”
NON-PATHWAY POSTER BOY
Stewart featured at Talent League level with the Geelong Falcons but has been the first to admit he wasn’t ready for the expectations of AFL at the time.
However, after two premierships with Geelong League club South Barwon and an impressive apprenticeship in the Cats’ VFL, Stewart’s opportunity came.
It’s a chance the likes of Shaun Mannagh and Oli Wiltshire will be looking to take after being selected from Werribee and Barwon Heads, respectively.
“It puts a smile on my face – it really does,” Stewart said.
“There’s not many blokes that get missed anymore, which I think is fantastic,” Stewart.
“Shauny Mannagh’s been a fantastic VFL player for 6-7 years. It’s not like he’s one-and-done.
“You don’t have to think too far back, and Tom Atkins was the same.
“The impact he’s had on this club, why can’t Shaun Mannagh do that? Why can’t Oli Wiltshire do that?”
2023 AN ABBERATION?
After seven consecutive finals appearances, culminating in a dominant grand final win over Sydney in 2022, Geelong found itself on the outside looking in come September.
Not surprisingly, the Cats -and Stewart – are confident that their worst win-loss record since 2015 won’t be repeated.
“There are too many good people … and too many stubborn people that won’t allow us to go any further back,” he said.
“I’ve only ever known contending, so last year does feel like a bit of an aberration.
“We couldn’t quite get a stranglehold on how to fix it.
However, Stewart says the club’s leadership will ensure Geelong can come again in 2024.
“We’ve got arguably one of the greatest coaches of all time; some amazing old and new staff that won’t allow it to happen again.
“(With) ‘Hock’ (CEO Steve Hocking) at the helm, ‘Mack’ (football boss Andrew Mackie) in his new role, and (president) Craig Drummond’s an amazing administrator, we don’t believe in going back to the well and seeking fresh talent.
“The talent’s there. I’ve got no doubt about that.
“And these alternative route players that have come in, these higher-end players that we’ve got coming in, are something special.
“It’s going to take all 46 of us plus staff to get back where we need to, but we’ve started on the right foot.