As Joel Selwood prepares to lead Geelong into the 2021 season – his tenth as the Cats’ captain and his 15th AFL campaign overall, all with Geelong – the 32-year-old midfielder appears to have faced down all challenges any player could hope for.
Except for two of them.
One, is to win a fourth AFL premiership – which would be his first as captain.
The other would be to challenge and perhaps overtake Carlton’s Stephen Kernahan as the all-time VFL/AFL leader as the most games played as a club’s captain, where “Sticks” skippered the Old Dark Navy Blues 226 times.
Ten years have passed since Selwood has tasted premiership glory – ironically, a spell which began when he took over the Cats’ captaincy from Cameron Ling after the 2011 flag conquest, which was Geelong’s third in its five-year golden generation.
The “we got so close” refrain would certainly affect any player who has had a sniff of the title aroma. However, it would serve as a driving force for Selwood towards further successes.
Ling introduced the Cats’ leadership group at a dedicated season launch function last week, where there were no changes to the top trio of Selwood as captain and Mark Bliclavs and Patrick Dangerfield as vice-captains.
At the function, Selwood spoke about the challenges of the season ahead, but also how times have changed and how his role as captain has evolved over the last decade.
“I’ve changed a lot. It’s gone from one leadership group to the next, and I’ve built up this one [with Bliclavs and Dangerfield] into a very good one, and you can see how close we got last year,” Selwood said.
One thing that hasn’t changed, in addition to the Cats’ winning culture and tradition over his 15 years at Kardinia Park, is the manner in which Selwood has approached the game, and his style of play.
Taken by Geelong with the seventh overall selection in the 2006 national draft, despite missing much of the season with a serious knee injury while participating in the TAC Cup with the Bendigo Pioneers, Selwood made his AFL debut a year later.
Despite being in a losing side in 2007’s Round 1 match against the Western Bulldogs in his league debut, the wins have far outnumbered the losses ever since.
Overall, Selwood has played in 310 AFL games – far outweighing the league experience of his three brothers Scott, a recent ex-Cats teammate, Adam, formerly with the West Coast Eagles, and Troy, who played 75 games with Brisbane.
Of those 310 games, Selwood has been in a Geelong winning side 226 times with one drawn game, for a winning clip of 73.06 percent.
That winning knack is just one lasting mark defining Selwood’s legacies statistically:
NAB AFL Rising Star, 2007
200 games as Geelong’s captain, most in club history
3 times club Best & Fairest (2010, 2013, 2014)
6 times All Australian (2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)
3 times All Australian captain (2013, 2014, 2016)
162 goals, 140 behinds
Selwood’s toughness has served him well to his teammates and to Geelong’s general cause, even if it has made him a divisive figure among opposition supporters – the one-eyed ones and otherwise – who claim he stages for free kicks.
Truth is, having a near-two-to-one ratio of free kicks for to free kicks against over the course of his career – 795 to 400 – as well as a habit of going all out for the one-percenters sets a very good example for Geelong’s style of going in hard at the contested footy.
Which is not to say that Selwood hasn’t had his share of knocks and injuries over the journey.
He was limited to 15 games last season due to hamstring and finger ailments, and although he has averaged a durable mark of 22 games per season, including finals, one cannot overlook the serious nature of some of his injuries.
Perhaps due to the take-no-prisoners courageous style in which he plays, Selwood has suffered concussions on three occasions – after which he has opted to take the following week off, mandated or otherwise.
The additions of Jeremy Cameron, Isaac Smith and Shaun Higgins into the Cats fold for 2021, and coach Chris Scott’s disclosure that young speedster Jordan Clark will be named to play away to Adelaide in Round 1, Geelong may opt for a quicker, more fleet-footed approach to play than in years past.
But whatever the annual new challenges and whatever the style of play, the changing list with the club from year to year keeps inspiring Selwood in his leadership endeavours.
“We understand that the kids do love it here and we give them the best chance to come through when they are ready. And they have a good understanding of that, too. We can’t wait for them to steal our spots – even though we aren’t ready to give them up yet!” Selwood proclaims.
Moreover, Scott hasn’t been drawn into a discussion as to who may potentially replace Selwood as captain someday, because Selwood has been at it for so long and with such a high level of success.
“Internally, our list management group have spoken about it a bit without really coming up with any answers,” Scott told SEN radio in Melbourne last week.
“The obvious reason that we haven’t come up with an answer is that he (Selwood) has been there for so long and has been so good.
“It’s hard to get your head around what it’s going to be like post-Joel, but the other thing is I think over time that person tends to identify themselves,” Scott added.
And Scott and the rest of the Cats’ hierarchy hope it’s a decision they won’t have to make for a couple of years – at least not until Selwood captains the club to an elusive premiership.
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