Sam De Koning and Jack Henry celebrate during Geelong's clash against Brisbane in round six, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

YOUNG Geelong defender Sam De Koning went through some battles last season, but has now hit his stride ahead of a potential match-up with brother Tom in his 50th game. 

He suffered a concussion, a separate facial fracture and a minor knee injury, battling to get a consistent run until the second half of the season as the Cats themselves struggled on the field.

There was also that pesky Batman-style mask he wore for two weeks in the middle of the season, aiding his return from his facial injury.


"Having a full pre-season and having a pretty clean run into the season, it's been a good start, just getting my feet set and putting in the groundwork to hopefully improve throughout the season and play my role well for the team, try and get a few more wins," De Koning told

"Just trying to earn the respect of my teammates and the supporters.

"I think [the mask is] in the cupboard somewhere, but I have not looked at it since. It's in the past now, hopefully I'll never have to use it again. It was challenging, obviously embarrassing, but I wanted to do whatever I could do to play and help the team win. 

Sam De Koning before the round 11 clash between Geelong and Greater Western Sydney at GMHBA Stadium, May 27, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

"There's no regrets, but I hope I never have to wear it again."

Given De Koning established himself in Geelong's backline so quickly – playing in the 2022 Grand Final win in his 24th game – it's somewhat surprising that Saturday's game against Carlton will only be his 50th.

"I came in pretty wiry, young 18-year-old, not really knowing what to do," De Koning said.

"I'm just so honoured to be at such a great club with people who have taken me under their wing, Harry Taylor early, Mark Blicavs, Tom Stewart and the likes, it's been an honour to play among some of the greats of the club and the AFL. I've developed a lot as a person and trying to develop my game every single game.

Tom Stewart and Sam De Koning celebrate the 2022 Toyota AFL Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

"There were a lot of heat-up meals in the early days, but nutrition is definitely at the forefront these days. Cooking good meals, living with Ollie Dempsey and my sister, so it's just trying to get healthy food in, no heat-up meals anymore. I cook a good chicken and chorizo pasta, it's pretty basic, but Ollie and my sister like it."

There's a chance he'll be directly matched up against older brother Tom – who has been spending more time in attack of late – for the first time, recreating countless childhood battles on the biggest stage of them all, the MCG.

"There's a lot of family asking for tickets, obviously I've got a bigger family than most (one of 10), so it's a bit awkward asking for as many tickets as I am, but hopefully they can all come and it should be a special day for the family," De Koning said.

"He's come down and tried to take a few speccies on me (in the past), but they obviously have really damaging forwards and we've got a big challenge ahead of us. We'll see what happens. 

"Just focus on what's in front of me, he's just another opposition player. There'll be no chat on the field."

Sam De Koning and Tom De Koning pose for a photo during Geelong's clash against Carlton in round 18, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

There'll be no tension between the brothers through the week either – having grown up spending their holidays caravanning in Torquay, Sam now lives in the coastal town, juggling his footy with studying a commerce degree, while Tom comes down for a weekly surf with his brother.

"[Surfing] just clears your head, it's the ultimate balance for my life – being out there, you don't really think too much other than the waves that are coming up," he said.

"Being able to do it with friends, it's just a great release, and I couldn't recommend it enough. It's the ultimate balancer for me, and I wouldn't know what I'd do without it."