Geelong ponder shifting ace defender Stewart to middle

Tom Stewart (Supplied)

Geelong are toying with shifting five-time All-Australian defender Tom Stewart to the midfield in their bid to rebound from missing the AFL finals.

The Cats are bullish about the prospect of a successful Stewart move which is likely to be tested in pre-season games.

“I would love to see it,” Cats assistant coach James Kelly told reporters on Tuesday.

“I have spent a fair bit of time coaching the backline and it’s maybe a bit counter-intuitive for me to say that Tom shouldn’t be there.

“But I think it can only benefit the team.

“He’s big, he’s fit, he’s powerful.

“If you somehow could manufacture having him and (captain) Pat (Dangerfield) around the ball at the same time, it would be pretty hard to defend, I reckon.”

Stewart won his second club best-and-fairest award last year when Geelong fell flat. After winning the 2022 premiership, they slipped to 10th amid a spate of injuries.

Star on-baller Cam Guthrie was among the lengthy injured list, managing the first six games but then missing the rest of the season after foot surgery.

But the creative 31-year-old has impressed during Geelong’s pre-season.

“He looks really good – he’s unbelievably professional, unbelievably diligent,” Kelly said.

“He had some time away at the end of last year and has come back just a really happy person and ready to train.

“It was a really long year for him, he had a niggling injury that he couldn’t get over.

“There was a time there where he might have got back and that’s the sort of the worst time to be in as a player, when you’re in sort of flux.”

Guthrie was among a batch of Geelong players who have remedied ailments during the longer pre-season after missing the finals.

“Last year didn’t finish the way we wanted it to finish,” Kelly said.

“But the benefit of that is we have had a really long pre-season, longer than we’ve had for the previous four or five years.

“And we’ve had a lot of players that have come back fresh and got a lot of work in.

“You never want to say that, we have always wanted to bat that deep in finals, that’s always our aim.

“But in terms of how we can rebound into 2024, that’s the benefit for us.”

AAP Newsroom