Shutting down one of the best forwards in the game – check.
Emerging Cat Sam De Koning’s reputation continues to grow, clamping Western Bulldogs star Aaron Naughton in Geelong’s 13-point win at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.
De Koning held Naughton to just one goal as the young defender claimed his biggest scalp yet a week after his career-best performance against the Crows where he earned the Rising Star nomination.
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The 12-gamer’s latest efforts crucially came in a game where Tom Stewart was subbed out in the second quarter with concussion to leave a Cats backline missing Jake Kolodjashnij and Jack Henry even more undermanned.
Speaking to foxfooty.com.au post-match, Geelong star Mitch Duncan, who was one of the best players on the ground himself with 29 touches, eight marks, 685 meters gained and one goal, was thrilled to see his young teammate thriving.
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“I kind of always knew it was coming. He’s always shown traits, but was probably never settled in one position through the early couple of years, “Duncan said of De Koning to foxfooty.com.au.
“To settle down in one position he’s able to learn his craft and we just tell him to back his instinct and back his talent, because it’s working for him.
“Obviously he plays the system well, he’s only really got to play on his direct opponent, but he loves coming off and taking marks and he just backs himself in the air. He’s great to play with, especially now being in the backline a bit more, you really do appreciate it. ”
At 202cm the dynamic De Koning really is a unique talent who can play both in the air and at ground level.
Geelong coach Chris Scott also marvelled at how much De Koning had developed this season to become a mainstay in the team’s back six as his confidence grows with each passing week.
“He had a really good pre-season and trained exclusively as a key back – which wasn’t the case 12 months before that. And it’s been a really difficult time for any AFL player who hasn’t been in the senior team every week because the lower levels have been decimated and it’s been hard to get some continuity, “he told post-match reporters.
“I think there’s an argument that he’s playing the way he is because he’s got some experience as a key forward (and) as a ruckman, but over the last six months, the specificity in what he’s been doing has really helped.
“But I didn’t expect that we were going to play him Round 1. We thought he showed really nice composure there and didn’t look out of his depth. He’s really accelerated from there.
“When most young key position players come into the AFL, they haven’t played against men before, so it’s a big step up. There was a little bit of a learning curve for him.
“Our development coaches, James Kelly is doing a lot of work with him, Matty Egan, Harry Taylor … but most of the credit should go to Sam, there’s no doubt about that.”
The win sees the Cats go into the bye at 8-4 and climb into the top four – if only momentarily.
And Duncan emphasized how knocking off a fellow top-eight side was crucial, particularly in holding off the Dogs’ fierce comeback.
“I think it was pretty important in the scheme of things, Duncan added.
“The way it panned out – we had ascendancy early then they definitely got on top of us in that second and third quarter. To be able to fight back and get the game back on our terms in the last quarter was quite pleasing.
“We were just trying to stick to our method, to be honest. Momentum in footy these days is so big, so you’ve just got to go back to doing what you do best in the style that we want to play.
“We just tried to get the game back on our terms by doing the right things that hold up in good stead for our game.”