NEWLY-signed Cat Esava Ratugolea can’t contain his excitement at the prospect of another two seasons with the Geelong Cats.
It’s not unusual to see his beaming smile in the hallways of GMHBA Stadium, but post-match after Geelong’s win over the Dockers it looks even wider than usual.
To Esava, a contract extension until the end of 2023 means a chance to stay alongside his mates, a young core that is driving the next generation of the Geelong Football Club.
Henry. O’Connor. Parfitt. Narkle. Simpson. Zach Guthrie.
All the above names were brought into the club alongside Ratugolea in the 2016 offseason, and Esava is expecting big things from the group of Cats all 24-years-of-age or younger.
“I can’t wait to see what this group does moving forward. I want to be a part of it so it’s very exciting times,” Ratugolea says.
“I got drafted with a few of the blokes that have signed on, Jack Henry and Mark’Connor, Parfitt – it’s very exciting.
“I love the group that’s playing at the moment so I can’t wait to develop my footy and grow with this club.”
There’s no denying that the young key forward has a soft spot for the 2016 recruits, which also include veterans Zach Tuohy and Tom Stewart.
“I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them and myself and hopefully we can take this club forward in the right way,” Ratugolea says.
“It’s great to watch, it’s crazy how much work they do behind the scenes as well. To see them come out like they do and perform like they do is unreal.”
Ratugolea’s own development continues apace, with the 22-year-old Cat spending a significant amount of time as a centre-bounce ruckman in 2021.
“It’s great for my development, I’m still learning the game and all that comes with it so I’ll play wherever,” he says.
“It’s actually really good. It’s adding another little string to my bow. Pretty much I’m just competing as much as I can and whether that’s in the ruck or up forward it’s great.”
Things appear to be coming together for the 198cm Cat, with his output against the Dockers one of his best performances this year.
Ratugolea clunked four contested marks, his highest output of the season, even more remarkable given the greasy condition at Optus Stadium.
“It was about time, it was a bit wet today so I had to take them,” he says
“As long as I’m jumping well in the air and competing well and taking some as well, it’s great.
“Our small forwards were really good today as well, so as long as I’m flying and competing in the air… Dal and Gryan and Closey are coming in and working well at my feet.”