Jarryn Geary has done a number on a handful of the premier goal sneaks in the game this season. He’s nullified Cyril Rioli, Brent Harvey, Michael Walters, Lindsay Thomas and Daniel Menzel. And then there was that performance on the best small forward in the game, Eddie Betts. It’s a role he hasn’t always performed, but it’s one he thoroughly enjoys executing as part of an evolving back six.
But while he doesn’t accumulate big numbers or provide run and carry like others in St Kilda’s defence, the reliable small defender has been one of the Saints’ most consistent performers in 2016 and should follow up his fifth place finish in last year’s Trevor Barker Award with another high finish this season.
Geary, who won the 2015 Robert Harvey Award for best clubman, has thrived playing a lockdown role under Alan Richardson, where his defensive orientated game meshes well with the Saints array of rebounding defenders.
“I really like the role I play. I still think I can improve my attacking side, and I'm always looking at ways to do that. I probably haven't reached my potential in that area,” Geary told The Age on the weekend.
“But I might not have to, if we've got blokes like [Shane] Savage and [Dylan] Roberton doing that. That's why I really like playing in a team sport, because I feel like I can play to the strengths of my teammates.
“My output in terms of possessions hasn't been as high over the last couple of years, but I think in terms of the role I've been asked to do I've been reasonably consistent this year.”
Highly rated internally for his leadership, Geary is one of a handful of leaders who could potentially replace the clubs longest serving Captain, Nick Riewoldt, in the role next season.
At 28 and with 139 games of senior experience next to his name, Geary is a strong candidate to fill the void next season, along with midfielders David Armitage and Jack Steven, and younger options in Mav Weller and Jack Newnes.
“We don't have a massive standout candidate, so whoever it is is going to have a few good people next to him, which is exciting, because we've all come up together,” Geary said.
The last time St Kilda made an assault on September, Geary was there. He played his one and only final in 2011 when the Saints exited swiftly in the first week of the finals against Sydney.
Despite playing large chunks of football in the two years prior to then, 15 in 2009 and 19 in 2010, the former rookie didn’t play in the finals, although he was an emergency in two of the grand finals.
It’s been a long, hard slog since then. Finals haven’t materialised and a wooden spoon has bookmarked the struggle. But now, the tide has turned in St Kilda’s favour, it’s just taken a little bit longer than Geary envisaged.
“I've always thought we've been better than what we've showed. I was someone who thought it was going to happen quicker than most, unrealistically probably, but I've just always had that belief,” Geary said.
“I just think at times the team hasn't believed we could be as good as what we can be. Even this year, at times I think maybe we've lost games because we haven't believed in ourselves enough.”