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Atkins' Story of Persistence

VFL team co-ordinator Nathan Tweddle, Tom Atkins and VFL coach Shane O'Bree. - Geelong Cats
VFL team co-ordinator Nathan Tweddle, Tom Atkins and VFL coach Shane O'Bree.
Bigger things going on in the world mate I still get to have a run around in the 2s! Will catch you round the club.
Tom Atkins via text to Simon Lloyd.

As the old adage goes, good things come to those who wait.

Words couldn’t be truer in the case of Tom Atkins.

The Geelong VFL captain and two-time best and fairest winner finally found his way onto an AFL list on Friday, completing his five-year journey from VFL development squad member to the Cats’ senior list.

“It’s still a little bit hard to believe,” he says.

“It feels great. A big relief more than anything. There’s obviously still a lot of work to do but it’s just nice to be given the opportunity. I’m just very thankful that I’m in this position.”

The dogged midfielder received the news via a text message from Geelong’s talent ID manager Troy Selwood.

“I was actually in the car, driving from work. There was a bit of traffic in Geelong and I sort of knew it might happen around that 6 o’clock time but it started a bit earlier.

“I was just driving home I was in the car and I pulled up at home and checked my phone and Troy Selwood had messaged me and said it had officially been done. It was a big relief, it’s nice when it happens because you don’t really have to stress about it anymore.”

Twelve months earlier, Atkins had received a message of a different kind. Geelong GM of Football Simon Lloyd got in touch to offer some support as Atkins went undrafted for yet another year.

“Simon reached out to me after the draft and just sent me a really nice message, encouraging me to stay at it and not get too hung up on it,” Atkins says.

“It was nice of him to reach out and show me a bit of support.”

The 23-year-old Cat’s classy reply to that message shows the character of the dedicated clubman Geelong added to its list in this year’s draft.

“I understand putting a list together is a tricky job and not everyone can be a winner,” Atkins replied to Lloyd back in 2017.

“Bigger things going on in the world mate I still get to have a run around in the 2s! Will catch you round the club.”


GM of Football Simon Lloyd reaches out to Atkins after he went undrafted in 2017.

VFL coach Shane O’Bree has been along for much of Atkins’ Geelong VFL journey that started in 2014.

“He’s been our pinup boy in the VFL – he’s been in the program for five years now,” O’Bree says.

“He started off as a development player and then made it as the 23rd man and then he’s played a lot of VFL football this year as our captain.”

Atkins is a Geelong footballer through and through, turning down more money from state leagues around the country as teams competed for his services.

“It was a bit of a decision I made after the first best and fairest that I won to stick with the VFL,” Atkins says.

“I made it because of how good the VFL program is at Geelong and there’s a lot more exposure in the VFL with playing against other VFL players.

“I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if I had moved interstate, so you sort of never know what could have happened.”

O’Bree is another Cat happy the hard-nosed midfielder stuck around.

“He was playing good VFL footy and had SANFL and WAFL teams throwing a bit more money than we could give him, but Tom’s a Geelong boy and obviously loves our program,” the VFL coach says.

“He’s put a lot of time into it and we’ve put a lot of time into Tom as well so he’s always stuck by us.

“It’s fantastic for the club to keep promoting our VFL boys. It’s good to see our VFL boys that have put the time and effort in and committed to our program for a long period getting that reward.”

Atkins agrees that the success of mature-age Cats such as Tom Stewart and Ryan Abbott gave him hope, and can’t thank O’Bree and his program enough for his successes.

“Especially in recent times there have been a lot of people that have done what I have done, especially in the Geelong program,” he says.

“That was always a good motivator because it could show that it is possible.”

“Just the way that the organisation has supported me, especially with being captain last year, they’ve put a lot of faith in me to lead when I was real young. That gave me the confidence that something might happen.”

Now the task for Atkins turns to making it work on an AFL list. If he approaches the challenge like he approaches the football, he shouldn’t have many issues.

“He has the determination and the competitiveness to win the contests that not many players can win,” O’Bree says.

“He finds a way, some of it’s not the perfect method but he’s hell bent on winning every contest he can or halving it at least. He’s got an uncanny ability to win more than he loses.”

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs