Geelong’s Tom Atkins is flourishing in a new role in 2021.
The 25-year-old spent most of his first two seasons at senior level with the Cats as a small forward, but has shifted to defence this season and is having a positive impact.
Atkins has slipped into the backline seamlessly where he operates alongside fellow small Jed Bews and is enjoying working under defensive coach Matthew Scarlett with the likes of Tom Stewart, Lachie Henderson, Zach Tuohy, Jake Kolodjashnij and Jack Henry.
After playing 11 home and away games plus the Qualifying Final last season before missing the last three finals, including the Grand Final, Atkins admitted he needed a change of scenery otherwise the writing may have been on the wall.
“I’ve been loving it,” Atkins said on SEN Breakfast.
“It’s obviously been a change of pace. I could sort of see what was happening, next year was going to be a bit of a squeeze in the forward line and I was just fortunate to get the opportunity with ‘Scarlo’.
“I think I’d be pretty stuffed if I didn’t get the opportunity to play down back. I’m just happy that I’ve been able to contribute in some way so far.
“There’s still a long way to go in the season obviously, but loving it so far.”
Atkins made a frank assessment of his standing in the Geelong defence when discussing the best small forwards he’s come up against this year.
“I’m probably the worst defender in our back six so I typically get not one of the best small forwards,” he added.
“Jed Bews is usually the man for that.
“(Izak) Rankine was one I played on. He didn’t have a great day against us, but I played on him for the last 15 minutes in the last quarter and he just lost me a couple of times at stoppages.
“Blokes like that who can get on the fly and he’s obviously got a bit of x-factor too.”
Having spent time trotting around the forward line without the tangible rewards, Atkins admits he has taken to the straight-line nature of being a backman.
However, he still has a soft spot for playing in attack.
“They’re both tough. Playing as a forward was pretty hard some games,” Atkins said further.
“You’d come off with five or six touches and no goals or anything and you think, ‘what have I actually done?’
“Definitely running towards the ball and not having to u-turn when you get it is handy as a back. You’ve also go to worry about the opposition players and there’s a lot of good small forwards in the comp.
“It’s hard to say which one I like better.”
Atkins is averaging a career-best 18 disposals in his new role and will return to action with the Cats against Port Adelaide on Thursday night following their week off with the bye.