Cats look to their own backyard

Updated: February 18, 2016
Grovedale junior James Tsitas has joined Geelong's VFL squad after two years at North Ballarat. Picture: AL PACKER
Grovedale junior James Tsitas has joined Geelong's VFL squad after two years at North Ballarat. Picture: AL PACKER

Grovedale junior James Tsitas has joined Geelong’s VFL squad after two years at North Ballarat. Picture: AL PACKER

GEELONG’s focus on developing ‘quality home-grown’ talent through its VFL program has seen the Cats secure four highly-rated youngsters.

Geelong Falcons pair Will Sexton and Harrison Kol have joined the Cats in 2016, while James Tsitas and Alex Hickey will also head to Simonds Stadium after spending the past two seasons playing at North Ballarat and Essendon respectively.

Tsitas and Hickey are both former co-captains of the Falcons. Hickey won the Falcons best and fairest in 2013 while Kol claimed the same award in 2015.

VFL manager Troy Selwood is delighted that the quartet see their best chances of showcasing their talents are with the Cats under new coach Shane O’Bree.

“We’ve obviously seen James and Alex play senior VFL footy the last couple of years and think they’ve developed well,” Selwood told K rock

“They’re both coming from respected VFL programs, so have been taught the right way, and hopefully we can benefit from that.

“They’re not only terrific players but good, young leaders in own right.

“We thought the time was right to bring some young, emerging leaders into our squad and both James and Alex have been fantastic since they’ve joined our program.”

Tsitas played 29 games for the Roosters, while Hickey made 12 appearances for the Bombers and was a member of St Joseph’s drought-breaking Geelong Football League premiership side in 2015.

19-year-old Kol will get the opportunity to wear the same jumper his father Michael, the 1989 Gardiner medalist, did in 63 VFL/AFL games in the 1980’s, and uncle Nigel.

“It’s great to continue that family tradition at the club,” Selwood said.

“We want to help him take the next step in his footy career and he’s really coachable and driven to improve.”

The Cats have also re-signed 11 players from their 2015 squad, who will join Hickey, Tsitas, Kol, Sexton and ex-Carlton forward Jake Edwards on their list.

Returning is Ben Raidme, Ryan Williams, Sandy Robinson, Kieren Paliouras, Simon Close, Matthew Farrelly, Cameron Tudor, Brant Haintz, Tom Atkins, Brenton Rees and Paul Burchell.

“We wanted to re-sign guys who showed great attitudes and professionalism to our program and these boys demonstrated that last year,” Selwood said of the returning group.

“A lot of that group played a lot of VFL footy last year and we think they can still take their footy to another level. So we’re excited about them re-signing.”

Selwood said their list would be finalised after the Cats play a couple of practice matches.

“There’s another seven or eight spots left to fill and there’s plenty of competition for spots – but we feel competition is pretty healthy,” Selwood said.

“We’re specifically looking at players from the AFL Barwon and Hampden regions because there’s a great talent pool already there and we want to reward those players and their clubs that have got themselves in that position to take step to VFL footy now.”

The Cats first practice match is against Essendon’s VFL squad at the Bombers’ Tullamarine training base on Saturday, March 12.

They also have practice games scheduled against Richmond (March 18), North Ballarat (March 26) and Collingwood (April 2), as well as playing against the AFL Academy on April 9 after being given the bye to open the VFL season.

Twitter: @GreenBradley

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