The footy gods dabble in irony.
As part of Geelong’s whirlwind trade period success, the reigning premiers now hold pick No.7 heading into the draft – the club’s highest draft pick since 2006, when it selected Joel Selwood.
Selwood’s swan song came in the 2022 Grand Final as he capped a historic career, but making matters even more poetic is the possibility the Cats with that pick select Jhye Clark, who not only models himself on the premiership captain but has forged a bond with the retired superstar.
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“I was there for a week in the pre-season,” the Geelong Falcons midfielder told foxfooty.com.au.
“He helped us with centre-bounce work and stuff like that and then with leadership because (talent manager and former Cats star) Tom Lonergan at the Falcons he‘s obviously got a pretty good relationship with him and (TLA talent manager) Dylan Hodge.
“That’s how we kind of met up for a coffee and then just exchanged phone numbers and went from there.”
Selwood could well have been forgiven for thinking he had stumbled upon a time capsule containing his younger self.
Clark boasts a hard edge to his play onfield, with his toughness around the contest coupled with a desire to work both ways.
“I’m a pretty competitive player. I’m a pretty small midfielder for these days,” Clark said.
“I like to get in and under and get my own ball. At the same time, I’ve improved on my uncontested ball as well.
“I love to work back defensively and that’s something I pride myself on, that two-way running.”
Adding to the similarities is a considerable focus on leadership.
“Definitely leading by example on the field has come naturally,” he said, “but I‘ve had to work on the stuff off the field. Definitely this year it’s something that I’ve had a key focus on.”
Perhaps like Selwood, Clark’s early problems are perhaps going too hard, rather than not hard enough.
“It‘s more not trying to think about it too much going into it,” Clark said of feedback from coaches regarding his pre-game speeches.
“Just say what comes at the time. You don’t really want to think about it too much and let it overtake your game and then you get extra nervous.”
Clark is already forging a name for himself in his own right, having been selected as a rover in the NAB AFL National Championships U18 Boys All-Australian side.
Still, the Queenscliff local has much to learn and would’ve done so via priceless nuggets of wisdom from Selwood during their catch-up.
“It was more along the lines of what the likes of him and Patty Dangerfield do to get separation off their opponents and he positions they get to,” he said.
“I’ve always loved watching him and I think as much as people talk about him, he’s pretty underrated. I think he’s one of the best midfielders of all time, just how courageous and tough he is. I’ve definitely always admired how he plays.
“He’s one of the best players to have ever played for Geelong and the game of all time in terms of leadership. So yeah, if I end up anything like him, I’ll be very happy.”
Teething pains have become commonplace for Clark as he learns to combat the increased attention that comes with being a top-10 draft prospect.
Selwood, he said, had helped him navigate that attention.
“I probably didn’t have the best start to the year, so he just spoke through that,” he said.
“At the start of the year I got tagged in round one, so just how to go about that … He was just going through stuff like that and just attitude and how can I be the best teammate I can be whether I’m playing or not.
“During the year he was always sending good luck messages and stuff like that and same with me, I was always sending good luck in the big games or congratulating him on the things he did well.”
So far, Clark appears to be living up to expectations and then some, captaining the Falcons and then co-captaining Vic Country, where he was named the Most Valuable Player.
Those expectations have been a source of pressure at times for him, he admitted.
“I was probably feeling the pressure a little bit. I had to play well, my first few games weren‘t weren’t as good as I was hoping,” he recalled.
“That chat definitely was a turning point and just made me relax a little bit and not feel as much pressure.
“Being from a small town, everyone sort of knows what‘s happening. I just didn’t really want to want to let anyone down.
“So I think that’s where the pressure came from.”
Should his early days be anything to go by, pressure may in part have forged a hell of a diamond.
Story Credit: foxsports.com.au