When Geelong hoisted the AFL premiership cup in 2009 nobody could have foreseen that the key ingredient to winning another would be a 28-year-old full-forward who’d been running around in the VFL for a decade.
In December that year Geelong drafted James Podsiadly as a mature rookie in a move more motivated by the staffing needs of the fitness and conditioning department than adding another foot soldier to its impressive cavalry.
Two years later, Podsiadly has become one of the most crucial cogs in the undefeated Geelong machine and one whose form will go a long way in determining the club’s premiership prospects this season.
To quote The Age’s Greg Baum ‘a man either knows how to play full-forward or he doesn’t’. And in a position increasingly hard to define and one quickly losing its romance, Podsiadly’s one player who operates as something as a throwback to a time long past.
Unlike many, Podsiadly was able to craft his ancient trade for a decade in a competition not nearly as scrutinised as the AFL and in an environment where his style was allowed to flourish.
The problem was it took ten years for an AFL club to see that his talents were transferable to the big league.
Podsiadly runs straight and kicks straight. He’s a no-nonsense type forward who understands his role perfectly. He contests the ball at its highest point and by virtue of a combination of his pace and brain is adept at creating space for Geelong’s many and varied swoopers.
In Podsiadly’s short AFL career that’s spanned just 29 matches, he’s kicked 72 goals and 46 behinds at a remarkable accuracy of 61%. In the 13 games Podsiadly has kicked 3 or more goals the Cats have prevailed each time and by an incredible average of 65 points.
In short, when Podsiadly’s on his game the Cats are near enough to being unstoppable. When it’s down and his goal output is less than 3, the Cats have tended to struggle boasting a 10-6 record with an average winning margin that slips to 25.
As the season develops Podsiadly’s role will be increasingly important to the Cats as will his dead-eye accuracy which in close matches like Saturday nights’ game often represents the difference between winning and losing.
Geelong can rest assured it made the right move in giving Podsiadly the chance when it did and when no one else would.
Without him Geelong’s predicted slide would have surely arrived by now.