GEELONG defender Tom Stewart has revealed his post-season honeymoon to Europe delayed his recovery from a groin injury that will rule him out of next month's State of Origin Bushfire Relief match.
The 26-year-old has returned to running in the past month and is still in the Cats' star-studded rehab group, however he remains hopeful of a berth in round one against Greater Western Sydney on March 21.
An All Australian in the past two seasons, Stewart would have been a walk-up start to represent Victoria on February 28 at Marvel Stadium.
Instead, he remains in a race against time to feature in either of the Cats' Marsh Community Series matches against Gold Coast (February 22) and Essendon (March 9).
"I think (I'm) more so focusing on round one, that's the important stuff," Stewart said.
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"If I'm healthy and I'm ready to go in the Marsh Series I'll definitely want to get some game time in. My plan's fixed and firmly looking at round one.
"I was just a little bit sore after the season. I wasn't fully sure of the extent of it and then got married and went on a honeymoon and probably wasn't quite getting the healthy physio treatment that I should've been."
Stewart has been joined by skipper Joel Selwood (hamstring), Mitch Duncan (hip/shoulder), Jake Kolodjashnij (hip), Mark O'Connor (toe) and Nathan Kreuger (knee) away from the main group in recent weeks.
The reliable defender has played a remarkable 68 games from 73 since his debut at the Cats in 2017 and is seen by many at Geelong as a potential future captain.
He was joined by several teammates and Cats' AFLW skipper Mel Hickey at The Food Purveyor in South Geelong on Thursday to work through donations to support communities torn apart by the national bushfire crisis.