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Cats defender named AFLCA's best youngster

Defender Tom Stewart has been a revelation in his first year at the Cats - AFL,Tom Stewart,Geelong Cats
Defender Tom Stewart has been a revelation in his first year at the Cats

GEELONG'S Tom Stewart has taken home the 2018 Shadforth Financial Group Best Young Player of the Year Award, with the mature-age defender rewarded for his outstanding first two seasons at AFL level.

Stewart received 40 votes from the AFL coaches during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, beating out Port Adelaide's Sam Powell-Pepper (23 votes) and Hugh McCluggage (20) for the award.

The 25-year-old took his game to greater heights in 2018, becoming an elite defender in a makeshift Cats back six and averaging career-highs in disposals (20.3), marks (6.2) and rebound 50s (5.6).

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The improvement he made in his second season was recognised across the League, with Stewart named in the 40-man All Australian squad on Monday.

Stewart, pick No.40 in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft, was equal-third in the AFL for total rebound 50s in 2018, winning plaudits for his strong defensive work and ruthless attack on the ball in his first two seasons.

Stewart missed just one match with an ankle injury in round 20 this year, becoming a key part of a Geelong defence that kept its opponents to a League-low 70.6 points per game.

AFL Coaches Association CEO Mark Brayshaw congratulated Stewart on his successes.

"The AFL Coaches Association's Champion Player of the Year votes are a real badge of honour. The coaches don't give them away lightly," Brayshaw said.

"That Tom has earned 40 votes in the first two years of his AFL career is a wonderful endorsement. He should be very proud to have been judged the Best Young Player by the AFL coaches in 2018."

The award is determined by the weekly votes of the AFL coaches based on the individual's performance in his first two seasons in the AFL.

Stewart joins Clayton Oliver, Scott Pendlebury, Joel Selwood and Brownlow medalists Chris Judd and Nathan Fyfe as previous winners of the award.

Final Leaderboard

40 Tom Stewart (Geelong)
23 Sam Powell-Pepper (Port Adelaide)
20 Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane)
19 Luke Ryan (Fremantle)
17 Hugh Greenwood (Adelaide)

*Votes cast across 2017 and 2018 seasons