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Tom Atkins interview after Geelong Cats defeat Port Adelaide Power, stats

Geelong fans have become accustomed to seeing Joel Selwood or Patrick Dangerfield turn games in the midfield.

But on Saturday night amid one of the bravest Port Adelaide comebacks you’ll ever see, a 75-game mature-age recruit played the game of his life in one of the Cats’ most impressive wins of its already mightily impressive 2022 campaign.

And, still, Tom Atkins feels he hasn’t cemented his spot in Geelong’s best 22.

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Fox Footy’s commentators – and Geelong fans surely – beg to differ.

Atkins was colossal for Geelong on Saturday night, producing an epic fourth-quarter to inspire his side to a 12-point win over the Power at the Adelaide Oval.

Port turned a 34-point half-time deficit into a seven-point lead at the final change after a dominant third term, with the Cats thumped at the coalface and around stoppages. A big reason behind that was the absence of Rhys Stanley – who was subbed out of the game with a knee injury after eight first-half clearances – allowing Charlie Dixon and Jeremy Finlayson to take over.

But with Stanley sidelined – and Selwood (13 disposals) and Dangerfield (11) having little to no impact on the game – Atkins roared to life.

Tom Atkins of the Cats. Picture: Sarah ReedSource: Getty Images

The 26-year-old, in the fourth quarter alone, racked up a game-high 12 disposals, seven contested possessions and two clearances as the Cats’ on-ball brigade got back on top at the contest.

Subsequently, Geelong won clearances by +10 in the final term and kicked four goals to one to claim a gutsy win.

“Tom Atkins in this quarter – I know he’s announced himself in the last 10 weeks as a genuine bonafide midfielder – he’s now announced himself as a Selwood-like matchwinner when something needed to be done,” Melbourne champion Garry Lyon told Fox Footy.

Seven-time All-Australian Nathan Buckley added: “He’s not an accumulator. Although he finds the ball, it’s not about that – it’s about impact. When the ball needs to be won, he’s the one that has done it. All of his touches from him are impactful. ”

Atkins has been thrown into the Cats’ midfield mix in the past two months and added a hard edge during the team’s winning run.

Tom Atkins of the Geelong Cats. Picture: Sarah ReedSource: Getty Images

Asked if it’d been frustrating biding his time outside the midfield, a humble Atkins told Fox Footy: “It hasn’t been frustrating. It’s been a constant grind trying to improve.

“I don’t care where I play, I’m just happy to be in the 22 at the moment. There’s a lot of great guys in the VFL that are missing out at the moment, so I think we owe it to them to play well – I owe it to them because I’m on the fringe – so I’m just happy that we ‘re able to win.”

Probably everyone bar Atkins thinks he’s “on the fringe” of Geelong’s best 22 now. But it’s an approach former Feet coach Buckley respected.

“Don’t you just love that attitude? ‘I’m on the fringe’ … that’s the attitude that a dog-hungry type player where you get sort of that response and performance in the last quarter,” Buckley said.

Atkins earned his AFL shot the hard way, plucked out of Geelong’s VFL side via the rookie draft in late 2018.

Lyon said Atkins’ success should be a lesson to rival club scouts.

“If you’re a recruiter out there or you’re a side that hasn’t competed in finals for a while and you’re sitting there bemoaning the fact your list is not that great and you’ve only got access to X amount of draft picks – exhibit A, right there, the Geelong No. 30,” Lyon said.

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“You’re going through the qualities of the players you want, but if in doubt go for dog-hungry, competitors every single time – and that’s what he is.

“I would defy anyone that didn’t sit back and enjoy watching him in that last quarter and his last eight weeks since going into the middle of the ground.”

Cats teammate Tom Hawkins said Atkins had been “a real revelation” going into the midfield.

“He just gives us a different dynamic,” Hawkins told Fox Footy.

“He’s been so versatile in his career at Geelong – he’s played forward with us for a period then down back and here he comes to play in the midfield. He’s been excellent, but I think he’s typifying the way we’re playing at the moment, executing his role really well and he’s getting the reward for it.

When Fox Footy’s Mark Ricciuto suggested to Atkins that he turned the game with his huge fourth-term performance, Atkins said: “I wouldn’t say that, mate. The whole team and just the resolve we’ve got this year is something else.

“They (the Power) played an amazing third quarter, but we’re just comfortable in those tough moments at the moment.”

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