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Lonergan does it hard on way to 150

Tom Lonergan of the Cats in action during the 2015 NAB Challenge Week 4 match between the Carlton Blues and the Geelong Cats at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on March 22, 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Tom Lonergan will play his 150th match this weekend
I was nowhere at the end of 2009, didn't know if I was back or forward
Tom Lonergan

TOM LONERGAN spends very little time these days pondering the life-threatening kidney injury that almost ended his career before it had really begun back in 2006.

What the Geelong stalwart does think about is the advice from former coach Mark Thompson and his assistants a few years later about the importance of becoming a very difficult footballer to play against.

He has well and truly achieved that status and will likely show it when he stands Collingwood spearhead Travis Cloke in Friday night's clash at the MCG.

After undergoing trauma surgery to remove his right kidney following an on-field collision with Melbourne's Brad Miller, Lonergan recovered well enough to play in Geelong's losing grand final team in 2008, only to be overlooked for the side which won the flag the following year.

The subsequent retirement of captain Tom Harley after the Grand Final win opened up a vacancy in defence for a man who had previously swung between the forward and back lines without quite making his mark at either end.

"I went away and that was the best pre-season I ever had," Lonergan said on Thursday.

"I wanted to be one of the fittest and strongest guys at the club and to help (club legend Matthew Scarlett) down back.

"I wanted to come into that unit and really contribute and it all worked out pretty well.

"It was my time.

"I was nowhere at the end of 2009, didn't know if I was back or forward.

"With Harls retiring, I spoke to a few of the boys and they said there was a position there and I said I wanted it.

"It felt more natural to me.

"The biggest thing for me was becoming a reliable player, more consistent and becoming really hard to play against."

Call it mission accomplished for Lonergan, who finally achieved his aim of becoming a premiership winner in 2011.

Current coach Chris Scott reckons the 30-year-old is now among the best half-dozen key backmen in the AFL and would likely have received more recognition if not for playing alongside two-time All Australian Harry Taylor.

"He's had a fantastic journey," said Scott.

"To take this long to get to 150 games is a bit unfortunate for Tom really.

"It feels to us he's more like a 250-game player such is his experience on the field and the way he works with our other players."

That combination with Taylor and Jared Rivers will be vital if Geelong is to quell the influence of Cloke and Jesse White and help the Cats to an upset win over the Magpies, who have won four of their opening five matches to sit in second spot on the ladder.

Geelong's nine-point victory over Richmond last weekend was only its second of the season and was built around a standout effort by Lonergan and the other members of the Cats' back six.