FOR ALL of the growth third-year speedster Jordan Clark shows this year, Geelong fans can attribute a lot of it to captain Joel Selwood.
Preparing to lead the Cats for a club-record 10th season as skipper, Selwood has detailed the steps he took last year to guide his younger teammate through a challenging campaign.
Clark was linked to a move home to Western Australia last year after falling out of the Cats' best 22, but with the help of his skipper and some honest conversations, committed to seeing out his contract to 2022.
Now stationed on a wing with a hint of inside midfield time, Clark collected an equal team-high 29 disposals in last week's AAMI Community Series win over Essendon.
And with Mitch Duncan to miss round one with a persistent calf injury, the 20-year-old appears set for a berth against Adelaide on March 20.
"It was talked about, but he was never going, I can tell you that," Selwood told AFL.com.au this week of Clark.
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"He's pretty keen to be at the Geelong Football Club for a long time and with Jordan it was about getting a few things in place that he could take the next step in his footy career.
"He's still only young … he's 20 years of age but because we saw so much of him early, we just want so much more as supporters and fans of the game.
"I think it's been really important to keep a close eye on him, personally, because I've had brothers (former West Coast players Adam and Scott) go and do the same trip that Jordan has and head over to Perth and you can be quite isolated at different times.
"(It's) probably understanding that knowing you need a big brother sometimes."
Clark enjoyed a blistering 2019 debut season after being drafted as a first-round selection at the end of 2018.
But due to form (early and late in the year) and injury (middle of the year), he managed just three games in 2020. And instead of running out for the decider against Richmond, Clark took part in the annual Grand Final sprint at quarter-time – and won it.
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"Last year he had to learn a couple of lessons and he managed to do that," Selwood said.
"It was good on the weekend (against Essendon), giving a guy like Jordan the chance to take a few kick-outs to get him involved in the game was really helpful for him.
"He'll be big for the footy club."
And the lessons Clark had to grasp heading into year three?
"It's a little bit of everything for Jordan," Selwood said.
"He was a talented young cricketer, a talented young footballer but it was more just fine-tuning little things in his game that we need to be really solid.
"We had a side that was playing some really good football and guys in his position that were probably just playing a little bit better than him.
"When you've been picked in the first XI or the first XVIII pretty regularly (as a junior) it was probably just hard to take for a period of time. (It was about helping him) just getting through that part in his life."
Clark flew back to WA for a stint over summer but has returned to Geelong fitter and ready to bang down the door for a senior spot and not sit back and wait – something he's been guilty of in the past.
And the pre-match meals with his skipper are on the menu once more.
"He pops around for a pre-game dinner," Selwood said.
"Britt (Selwood's wife) usually cooks him up some dinner and he finds it really relaxing to be honest. Those two gossip and then I'm off just doing my own thing.
"He's a really likeable kid and I've got to remind myself that he is just a kid because I get along with him really well, he's quite mature in many ways. It's more just that we have a strong relationship."
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The Cats confirmed at Thursday night's season launch Selwood would take the reins of an unchanged leadership group in 2021.
Mark Blicavs and Patrick Dangerfield will serve as joint vice-captains in a group that includes Duncan, Mark O'Connor, Tom Stewart and Zach Tuohy.
With 200 games to his name as captain, Selwood, who falls out of contract this year, will edge closer to the all-time record for games captained set by Carlton's Stephen Kernahan (226).