K rock Football

Atkins, Cats hungry as ever

Geelong midfielder Tom Atkins in action on grand final day last year. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

AN AFL premiership defence can be brought crashing down by all manner of obstacles, but flag-winning midfielder Tom Atkins can’t see attitude being one of them for Geelong.

Nine days out from a round-one showdown with Collingwood, Atkins was quick to dismiss any suggestions the Cats’ hunger may have waned over a summer spent in the premiership glow.

“It’s something I want to experience again, and I know that feeling extends to the other players as well,” Atkins said.

“Then you’ve got guys who missed out and want to taste that.

“We understand it’s going to be a massive challenge.

“Teams are always improving, but we’re just looking forward to see how our game stacks up (against Collingwood).”

Atkins said sharing success with the likes of Max Holmes, Esava Ratugolea, and Sam Menegola – who all missed out on the grand-final thumping of Sydney last year – is a driving factor.

Holmes was the hard-luck story of grand final week as he fought to overcome a hamstring injury sustained during the preliminary final.

“You want them to experience it as well,” Atkins said.

“That’s the aim every season, you want to go out there and play as well as you can, and we were fortunate last year, but it resets this year.”

Atkins has been impressed by off-season acquisitions Tanner Bruhn, Jack Bowes and Ollie Henry, who have helped offset the loss of retired premiership captain Joel Selwood.

But the 355-game club legend’s absence from the playing group will be felt for some time yet.

“You notice for the first two weeks and think it’s a bit strange not having him around to soundboard and learn off, but you just get on with it,” Atkins said.

“It just becomes the norm not having him here … it’s sort of what happens in footy.

“You lose five or six of your mates, and you get another five or six.

“You just get on with it and adapt, but we do miss the man.”

Selwood has returned to Geelong in an off-field role as a club ambassador but won’t be involved with the playing group.

The 34-year-old, who was the longest-standing captain in AFL/VFL history, is also involved with NRL power club Melbourne Storm as a leadership coach.

(C) AAP 2023