From a humble young rookie in Geelong’s VFL development squad to an AFL premiership midfielder with the Cats, Tom Atkins journey to 100 career games is nothing short of remarkable.
Atkins has embodied what it means to be a Geelong Cat right throughout his career, giving his all in the blue and white hoops every time he steps onto the field.
This weekend, the hard-nosed midfielder will play his 100th AFL game against Brisbane, providing another milestone moment in an already incredible story.
Cats coach, Chris Scott spoke during the week on Atkins’ milestone and what he means to the club both on and off the field.
“When you actually work through Tom’s path to 100 games, it has been a long, hard road and he deserves every bit of it,” Scott said.
“He is just crucial to what we’re trying to be, not only as a football team but as a club in general.
"He is a humble young man, he’s a salt of the earth guy but when he gets on a footy field, there is no one more competitive.
"We love him.”
Atkins journey started with the Geelong VFL program in 2014, spending his first season in the development squad before working his way up to become a star midfielder for the VFL Cats.
Playing five years of VFL football, the tough onballer went on to become the Geelong captain while also picking up two best and fairest awards during that span.
Despite being overlooked in two AFL drafts, Atkins remained faithful to the Cats turning down other State-level opportunities and patiently waiting for his chance at the top level.
That opportunity came knocking in 2019, when the Cats drafted Atkins to their rookie list before making his AFL debut in round one of the 2019 season.
Geelong deployed the young bull in a variety of different roles from pressure forward to half-back, before finally letting him loose in the midfield.
Chris Scott touched on Atkins’ versatility during the week.
“He had to work his way through the early stage of his career and really earn his place on our list,” Scott said.
“It feels like when he did that, it was only the start of the job.
"He came in for us, kind of trained his way in really, played through the VFL program into a spot in our forward line because that was the only spot we had at the time.
"He excelled there and then we thought he’s got some attributes that would be good as a defender, he went back and excelled there.
"Now he has come back into the midfield and excelled there as well.”
Playing every game in the 2022 season, Atkins played a pivotal role in Geelong’s premiership run as he became a full-time midfielder and ultimately an AFL premiership player.
‘The Axe’ has built his game around contested situations, leading the Cats for tackles in both the last two seasons while also collecting the most clearances for the club this year.
Atkins will run out for his 100th game this Saturday, as the Cats take on Brisbane in a heavyweight clash at the Gabba.