Sam De Koning (left) and Ollie Dempsey after the R1 match between Geelong and St Kilda at GMHBA Stadium on March 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

GEELONG rebuilding on the run? Lively small forward Ollie Dempsey thinks the next generation is ready.

Dempsey is one of a new wave of Cats in the 19-23 age bracket – including Sam De Koning, Tanner Bruhn, Ollie Henry and Jhye Clark – who are set to steer the future of the club, while Mitch Knevitt, Shannon Neale and Toby Conway are among those biding their time in the VFL.

Dempsey – the round one Rising Star nominee after three goals against St Kilda – spent most of his off-season at his parents' holiday place in Sorrento, training with Holmes, Bruhn and De Koning as the quartet worked on their fitness before pre-season kicked off in earnest.


"There are so many good young players, I feel like the list goes on. To see 'Clarky' on the weekend as well, he's so tough at the footy and is just another young player we have coming through," Dempsey told

"I feel like there's a few of us who are ready to step up and not just be those young players. You can see how good Max Holmes is for our team, he's one of our best players now. We always talk about us as a young crew, and we've learnt so much from the older guys and it's our turn to take the mantle in the next couple of years.

"I definitely think we have [the foundation] here. Internally, we think that as well, which is really exciting to see. Over the next couple of years, I think everyone else will get to see a changeover of the guard and it's super exciting to be part of that."

After playing footy as a kid, Dempsey focused on basketball through his teenage years before picking up a Sherrin again.

Following a handful of Year 12 matches played for fun with his school, Carey Grammar, Dempsey was contacted by his now-manager Winston Rous, saying a few clubs were interested. He was selected by the Cats in the rookie draft at the end of 2021.

>> Win $25,000 in the official AFL Tipping comp! Sign up NOW

"I feel a lot stronger, and I've put on a bit of weight since I first came in. I came in at 69 kilos, I was very light, and I'm sitting at about 77 now, which is really exciting," Dempsey said.

"Just being able to play with a lot of confidence – my form last year in the VFL was really good for me and helped me to know I can do it and can play at the level.

"I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to be where I am, and it's all come really fast. I think back to the start of Year 12, I didn't even think of footy to be honest, I was just focused on my studies."

Oliver Dempsey celebrates during the round one match between Geelong and St Kilda at GMHBA Stadium, March 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Dempsey is hard to miss on the field this year with a pair of striking pink boots, the origin of which can be traced back to the nearly absurd number of Cats with long blond hair and headbands: Dempsey, De Koning, Bruhn, Tom Stewart, Mark Blicavs and Zach Guthrie.

"I often had white boots. Mum and my sister aren't big footy fans, and they said it was hard to [distinguish] me with the white, and I had to wear something with colour. There's obviously a few blond players at the Cats, so I started wearing the bright boots, and they came out with the pink ones, and I said that's me, so I've been rocking those ones," Dempsey said.

"It's a surfer's look down here, there's a few of us like Sam De Koning, and a lot of people get us mixed up on the field, so that's why I wear the bright boots now."