Geelong defender Tom Stewart joined the AFL Players’ Association’s Instagram account for a live chat, including a question and answer section with fans. Here’s a breakdown of the best parts of the two-time All Australian’s chat with AFLPA regional manager Bobby Quiney.
Growing up in Mansfield and the four-hour trek to Geelong
I grew up playing as many sports as I could playing basketball, footy, cricket and a bit of athletics in there. Footy was my first love but I loved playing cricket when I was younger. I had a really strong cricketing family, a lot of cousins I grew up playing cricket with. Yeah I was (travelling four hours from Mansfield to South Barwon). I don’t know whether it was the fact that I loved playing Geelong footy or whether I got every Friday off school to go down to Geelong to play on the weekends. But for the second half of my under-14 year I travelled every Friday from Mansfield to South and ended up winning a flag at under-14 level. I jumped on the bus from Mansfield to Melbourne and then train to Geelong or sometimes my Dad would pick me up from Melbourne and if he was working up there. That’s the way it started and then I decided to move down.
I started (my carpentry apprenticeship) in 2012 and was lucky enough just before I got drafted I got signed off in 2016. I’m quite interested in the coaching pathway and I’ve been doing some coaching with the AFLW and being a mature-age pick I’d love to spend as much time in footy as I can after missing a few years at the start of my career. I’d love to stay in footy whether that’s in a coaching capacity or an admin role. I got thrown in the deep end and the club approached me and asked me about coaching, because they knew that was something I was interested in, and I was lucky enough to get an assistant coaching gig. The girls backed me in and we just had a lot of fun with it and we grew and learnt together. If I get the opportunity to (go back I will). The little fella is on the way in November, so if time permits I’d love to go back and help out.
Scarlo jumped on in 2013 and he had a lot of love for South Barwon and he had a lot of close mates there in 2013 and after he retired (at AFL level) he came and played with us which was really cool. He was a very different coach back then to what he is now. He was straight down the barrel and I remember in early 2014 he took me aside and said you’re wasting your time and you’ll be playing ‘twos’ soon and that was one of my early memories of him as a coach and what I needed to do to be a better player.
Taking his opportunity
We had quite a young group (at South Barwon) through that 2014 and 2015 period. I’d played 50 or 60 games and been one of the older ones of that age group. I wanted to be a good role model for those boys and I wanted to try my luck at VFL level. I got my opportunity and my thought process was that I’d have a pre-season there and if I didn’t get picked I’d go back to South as a better player and an athlete. I was lucky enough to make the VFL list and then play the whole year there and got picked up (by Geelong with pick No.40 in the 2016 Draft) after that.
Why he’s without a pitching wedge?
I do love my golf and I like taking my dog (Sunny) to the beach and spending time with my wife and my mates. I try to get out (on the golf course) at least once a week during the season, but obviously with the COVID-19 it’s been [more challenging]. I’m missing my pitching wedge. I was playing at the creek course at 13th Beach (Barwon Heads) with Zach Tuohy and Lachie Henderson and when we all play together I know that they’re going to get into me and they know I’m going to bite. It’s something about those two, they just get after me. It went ball in the drink (water), ball in the drink, ball in the drink, club in the drink (pitching wedge) and then I went and sat in the club cart for about 15 minutes. They’re two of closest mates at the club but I don’t know what it is they just know how to get under my skin.
How he got the nickname ‘the General’
The nickname the ‘General’ has stuck. The person who coined me as the general was (former teammate) Scott Selwood and Mark Blicavs got hold of it and it’s stuck ever since. In my VFL year, Scott was coming back from an ankle injury and, I don’t know how he came up with it, but he said after one game that I apparently said to all the boys that I’ve had a ripper here so you can all just start calling me the general of the backline and it’s just stuck. I get ‘Griff’ from Zach and Lachie and that comes from Stewie Griffin from Family Guy. I have an old South Barwon one, ‘Scoreboard’. We had bloke working up on our Scoreboard named Johnny Stewart so I got scoreboard a little bit when I was younger so I’ve got some interesting nicknames that have come out of nowhere.
Proposing to wife Emma
It was Christmas Day. We’d just bought our first house together. I asked her parents for permission and got both families around to what she thought was to celebrate our first Christmas at our new home together and tied the ring around Sunny’s neck and sat him down and told him how it was all going to work and I had this big elaborate plan going on. He saw a room full of people, got super excited and started running. The ring flew off his neck, scuttled under the couch. I had to crawl under there in my nice kit, grabbed the ring and by the time I proposed I was just laughing and having a great time. It was a really funny moment but it took the edge and stress off.