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VFL Cat enters record books with amazing stat

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 05:  Tom Atkins of the Geelong Cats looks on during the 2017 VFL round 16 match between the Box Hill Hawks and the Geelong Cats at the Box Hill City Oval on August 05, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/AFL Media)
Geelong VFL player Tom Atkins

VFL-LISTED Geelong player Tom Atkins has further enhanced his draft chances, laying an equal-VFL record 23 tackles in Saturday's thrilling five-point victory over Collingwood at Olympic Park Oval. 

Atkins, 21, also gathered 25 disposals and kicked two goals in a clear best on ground display for the Cats.

His absurd stat line included 21 contested possessions and 13 clearances, with the tough onballer predictably named as the Cats' best player.

Atkins was originally credited with making 26 tackles by match-day statisticians, although after watching the match back on tape Champion Data downgraded that figure to 23. 

Atkins – the VFL team's co-captain – made up to a dozen tackles in the final quarter alone when the game was in the balance, something coach Shane O'Bree said epitomised the on-baller's determination and toughness. 

Atkins joins Carlton-listed midfielder Nick Graham, who laid 23 tackles in a VFL game last year, in holding the all-time VFL tackling record.

Twenty-three tackles is also the equal-second most tackles ever recorded by Champion Data across all competitions.

Jay Boyle holds the all-time record with 24 tackles in the SANFL's Under-18 competition in 2005. 

Tom Liberatore, Jack Ziebell and Jude Bolton hold the all-time AFL record for tackles with 19.

TACKLE KINGS
 Competition Season Round Player Club Tackles
SANFL18 2015 12 Jay Boyle Glenelg (U18) 24
TAC Cup 2006 8 Brent Bransgrove Northern Knights 23
NEAFL 2013 15 Tim Garlick Hills Eagles 23
VFL 2016 5 Nick Graham Northern Blues 23
VFL 2017 18 Tom Atkins Geelong VFL 23
TAC Cup 2013 8 Chris Bromley Northern Knights 22
TAC Cup 2013 11 Angus Brayshaw Sandringham Dragons 21
TAC Cup 2015 11 Aaron Fenton Eastern Ranges 21
NEAFL 2016 9 Isaac Taylor Canberra Demons 21
NEAFL 2016 10 Kane Murphy Sydney Uni 21
VFL 2016 15 Jed Adcock Footscray Bulldogs 21

Atkins, a bullocking midfielder, has had an injury-interrupted season in 2017, missing six matches with a hamstring problem.

However, when he has been able to get out on the park, Atkins has been named in Geelong's best players in seven of the eight matches he has played in this season. 

The 180cm, 85kg midfielder has averaged 21 disposals and 8.5 tackles per game this year and according to O'Bree improved his professionalism out of sight.

O'Bree said Atkins, who thrives on winning contested ball in the clinches, had given himself every chance to be considered by AFL clubs at the end of the season.

"Tommy's in that age bracket now where he's improved every year," O'Bree told AFL.com.au.

"He's a quality VFL player and he's the type of player every team needs.

"I've coached him for three or four years now and he keeps growing as a player.

"Hopefully he gets an opportunity at the end of the year."

Atkins, who hails from Geelong Football League club St Joseph's, won Geelong's VFL best and fairest award in 2016, edging out mature-aged draftee Tom Stewart.

Atkins averaged 18 disposals, eight tackles and four clearances per game last year, kicking 15 goals in what was a breakout season and was considered a little unlucky not be picked up by an AFL club. 

Selected with pick No.40 in last year's NAB AFL Draft, Tom Stewart has been a revelation for Geelong in 2017, averaging 14.5 disposals from 17 games in his first season with the Cats.

Geelong also took developing forward Timm House (pick No.68) and mature-aged ruckman Ryan Abbott (No.69), who both played in its VFL team in 2016, in last year's Draft.

The Cats adopted a similar approach when they took Tom Ruggles in the previous year's Rookie Draft, with the small defender playing 22 games in his two seasons at AFL level so far.

Stats supplied by Champion Data