Top Cat purrs in a top year

Selwood reflects on stunning 2013 AFL season

Joel Selwood speaks to the Bendigo Advertiser about 2013.

ALL-Australian captain, Geelong best and fairest, Brownlow Medal runner-up, two AFL Players Association awards - where do you start when looking back on Joel Selwood's incredible 2013 AFL season with the Cats?

For Selwood, it's none of those accolades.

Like the team-first way he goes about his footy on the field, Selwood would much prefer to talk about Geelong's 2013 as a whole, rather than what he achieved on a personal note.

"It was a pretty strange year. We played some great footy at times, but some patchy footy also," Selwood told the Bendigo Advertiser this week.

"As a club I thought we did pretty well. From the year before we had 13 debutantes and we added games onto those players again.

"To finish third was not where we wanted to finish, but at the start of the year there were probably a lot who didn't pick us there.

"Did we achieve? Probably we did in the end, but (third) is not where we wanted to be."

The Cats bowed out of the premiership race in the preliminary final when Hawthorn finally ended the Kennett Curse, defeating Geelong by five points.

Selwood looked headed for his fifth AFL grand final when the Cats led the Hawks by 20 points at three quarter-time.

However, the Cats couldn't hold off a last-quarter surge from the Hawks who - inspired by midfielder Sam Mitchell - kicked 4.8 to 1.1 in the final term to win 14.18 (102) to 15.7 (97).

"I've been lucky enough to play in three winning grand finals already and you know what it takes. We were so close, but we slipped up," said Selwood, who had 23 possessions and four tackles in the preliminary final.

"We had it with our 2006 side (finished 10th the year before Selwood arrived)... maybe you need those little hurdles to jump over and realise what it takes to get back up there."

With the Cats' season ending in the preliminary final, for only the third time in his seven years at Geelong Selwood was an onlooker on grand final day as Hawthorn beat Fremantle by 15 points.

While the ultimate team success of a premiership eluded the Cats this year, for Selwood personally it was a year of significant achievement.

The former Kennington-Sandhurst junior was rewarded with his second Geelong best and fairest when he won the Cats' Carji Greeves Medal from runner-up Harry Taylor for a season in which he played all 25 games, averaging 24.6 disposals, 5.6 tackles, 5.1 clearances and 4.0 marks per games.

Selwood also added an extra string to his bow as a goalkicker, booting a career-best 30.

I was always told you've got to be respected before you're liked and that's the way I continue to do it - Joel Selwood

"Geelong is a club that I grew up barracking for and holds a special place to my heart," Selwood said.

"The (best and fairest) award is really important. It's the respect of the whole club and the people who really matter, so you like winning those sort of awards."

The 25-year-old, who has played 160 games for Geelong, also won the best and fairest in 2010, while he was runner-up in 2012.

While Geelong's preliminary final loss to Hawthorn was a near miss, so to was Brownlow Medal night for Selwood three nights later.

Selwood was one of the leading contenders heading into the Brownlow and with one round remaining, led by one vote from Collingwood's Dane Swan and two from Gold Coast's Gary Ablett.

Ultimately, in a dramatic climax Ablett polled three against the Greater Western Sydney Giants on the final card of the night to win the Brownlow Medal by one vote from his former team-mate.

Not that Selwood has wasted any time thinking what could have been?

"I was certain he (Ablett) was going to poll well in that last game and I ran out of legs towards the end of the year in a couple of games. But it was what it was... he's the son of God and close to becoming God himself," Selwood joked.

Selwood never let himself get carried away on the night by beginning to ponder a Brownlow Medal-winning speech, but just in case, he was handed one by Geelong chief executive officer Brian Cook after round 21 when he hit the front.

"I didn't have anything planned and it really was a shock," Selwood said.

"Until you get into the night, you don't really know.

"Round one came up and I thought I played one of my better games for the year. Two votes came up and Harry Taylor turned to me and said, 'I don't think it's going to be your night'.

"Then the next round I played pretty ordinary and got a three, so it's funny how it works out.

"I felt like I let down the table more than anything (by not winning), but it was what it was and we would have much preferred to be playing the next Saturday."

Selwood may have fallen just short of joining Greg Williams as a Bendigo Brownlow medallist, but he was named captain of the All-Australian team in an honour that is still sinking in.

It was Selwood's first time as captain, but his third All-Australian selection following 2009 and 2010.

"Looking back in years to come when you see the players you've been pigeon-holed with... to have Gary (Ablett) in the side and a number of other players who have been in the side multiple times, to be given the accolade is something pretty special," Selwood said.

Adding to Selwood's list of accolades this year was winning the AFL Players' Association's best captain and most courageous awards and radio station 3AW's player of the year, but he's not one to dwell on those, or everything else he's achieved since he was selected by Geelong from the Bendigo Pioneers in 2006.

"You just get on with it. That's how I was brought up and as soon as I got into the league, that's how I was told to go about it," Selwood said.

"I was always told you've got to be respected before you're liked and that's the way I continue to do it."

The game is forever changing, so you have to keep changing with it or you get left behind - Joel Selwood

With his stellar 2013 behind him, Selwood has now turned his attention to next season and like always, finding ways to improve as a footballer.

"I kicked some more goals this year and hope to do that again," Selwood said. 

"You'll see me playing across different positions next year. If it's forward, back or midfield, the game is forever changing, so you have to keep changing with it or you get left behind."

Selwood - September's Bendigo Advertiser-WIN TV Sports Star of the Year winner - was in Bendigo this week where he was named the ambassador for AFL Central Victoria's Development Squad.

The "Joel Selwood Bendigo Development Squad" feature's AFLCV's under-15 boys and youth girls squads.

• Watch the Selwood video interview online at the Bendigo Advertiser website.

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