Queenscliff is a historic seaside village on the Bellarine Peninsula, about half an hour's drive southeast of Geelong.

It’s a quiet but charming old bayside town, its streetscape littered with heritage buildings, an echo of a maritime and defence legacy dating back to the 1850s. Fort Queenscliff stands stoically to this day on Shortland Bluff, its battery once pointed out toward Port Phillip Bay, an ominous reminder of a less certain time. 

It’s also the home of the Queenscliff Coutas Football Netball Club.

The QCFNC is the breeding ground of Jhye Clark, the Cats’ first top 10 draft pick since 2006, and also the scene of a raucous celebration after the local lads’ name was officially called out on Monday night. 

Jhye, still 18, is one of theirs – he played his first senior game in the Coutas blue and red strip when he was 15 – before progressing through to the Geelong Falcons and VIC Country sides, making his mark at each stop. But the eruption at The Monahan Centre on Monday night was matched by parents Steve and Shelley, Couta Life Members, albeit in a more constrained fashion an hour and a bit up the road.

The uncontained pride, and perhaps a little relief, was there for all to see as their son was shepherded from one media commitment to the next. The smiles were contagious. 

But according to Geelong Recruiting Manager Stephen Wells, Clarks’ local roots were secondary when it came down to selecting a player whose football has very much spoken for itself over the last couple of seasons. 


“Jhye’s been a very consistent player over a couple of years,” Wells said on Tuesday night.

“If you watch him play you know he's going to be supercompetitive and tough; great credentials for an AFL career, but aside from that he's got a brilliant footy brain and some good skills, and he'd be a wonderful teammate for whatever team he ended up with and we're just very excited that Jhye's coming to Geelong. 

“It turned out he was from the Geelong Falcons and not too far away from our home ground, but that wasn't the reason we picked him, it was purely because he's been a terrific player at his junior level over the last couple of years.”

But clearly, being a local product hasn’t hurt the hard-as-nails midfielder finding his way to GMHBA Stadium. 

Clark spent a week at the club during the 2022 pre-season where there’s no doubt Wells and List Manager Andrew Mackie were boundary side watching closely. On draft night, it was a Clark favourite, Cameron Guthrie, who greeted him on stage, but Guthrie was one of big list of players he said left a lasting impression on him during his brief visit to Kardinia Park in January. 


“Everyone was really good,” he said. 

“I could go through the whole list and name everyone, but Joel Selwood was really good, Mark O'Connor, Mark Blicavs...”

Clark arrived at the club officially as a Cat early on Wednesday morning where he was taken through an induction experience which includes everything from medical screening to being handed his first bag of official Cats gear before he pulled on the boots alongside all of the first to fourth year players and headed out for a kick. 

He passed the anxious hours on Monday with family before heading to Marvel Stadium for the official event, and the relief of it all finally coming to a head around 8pm was palpable. 

“It's so exciting,” he told geelongcats.com.au on the night.

“It's good to be finally done, the wait is over and I'm super pumped to get started.”

On the field, there’s no doubt Clark lands at Geelong with some serious credentials. He is the Falcons’ reigning best and fairest, and led the club throughout the 2022 NAB League Boys season, while also captaining Vic Country during the national championships where he finished runner up to the number two overall pick Will Ashcroft in the Larke Medal. 

He also averaged 25 and 23 touches a game for the Falcons and Vic Country respectively and earned NAB League Team of the Year Honours in 2022. 

The scouting report on Clark was of a hard-edged and competitive inside midfielder, adept on both feet and someone who prides themselves on going the other way.

But perhaps the one thing that will most appeal to Geelong fans is his determination – he leaves it all out on the ground, and as he told the Geelong Addy on the night “I’ve always hated to lose, there is nothing worse than losing and it’s definitely always been in my blood.”

He should fit in at GMHBA Stadium just nicely.