'Axe' looking sharp in Cats' AFL midfield

·2-min read

More than two third of the ideas James Kelly and his fellow Geelong assistant coaches come up with will never see the light of day.

But then something like defender Tom Atkins being added to their midfield is acted on and they are geniuses.

Atkins has been one of the Cats' big successes this year as they defied predictions of impending doom to take out the AFL minor premiership.

He will be one of Geelong's key midfield weapons on Saturday when they play Collingwood in their blockbuster qualifying final at the MCG.

Midway through the season, the Cats felt they needed more grunt around the ball.

Atkins was playing in defence and Kelly, then his line coach, saw him as a potential option in the midfield.

"At the start, I thought it was probably going to be a couple of games, just until we fixed it up. But thankfully it clicked," Atkins said.

Kelly said senior coach Chris Scott has emphasised the need for the senior coaches to have freedom of thought.

But he chuckled when asked how many ideas don't go too far in their match committee meetings.

"Probably 70 per cent ideas that we toss up, don't make it through," Kelly said.

"A lot of the time you start a conversation somewhere and where it ends is completely different.

"You say it out loud in a group and it's 'you know what, that's not as good an idea as I thought it was when I woke up at midnight, thinking about footy'."

Kelly said a couple of Atkins' biggest attributes were crucial in the success of the change - his humility and his underrated all-round talent.

"All the credit really goes to Axe. You come across people who are just genuinely not about themselves - 'I will do anything that the team needs me to do'," Kelly said.

"All of that aside, he is a talented player. He's got some really good attributes and he's certainly changed the dynamic of the midfield.

"It's not like we just threw a crazy person into the midfield to see what they could do."

From Atkins' perspective, it has been a privilege to watch first-hand as legends such as Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield ply their craft.

Atkins was in the stoppage when Dangerfield burst from the first bounce and kicked a goal within 15 seconds to open their demolition of North Melbourne in round 16.

"It's nice when stuff like that happens," he said.

"But you definitely don't want to let them down. It makes you want to play to their level.

"It's a bit surreal at times and it is great when you see first-hand those guys going to work."

Atkins was asked if sometimes, his job is just to stay out of the way of someone like Dangerfield.

He laughed and replied: "That's at all times."