Geelong coach Chris Scott isn't afraid of a grand statement and he boldly declared Tom Stewart is the best defender in the game after a dominant display in Saturday's 42-point win over Adelaide.
The Crows won the clearances (51-45) yet were thwarted on countless occasions by Stewart intercepting their forward thrusts and beginning Geelong's own.
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The three-time Therabody All-Australian, who missed last year's finals series due to a foot injury, had a career-best 40 disposals with 16 marks and 17 intercepts.
Stewart (87) is behind only James Sicily (92) for marks this season, averaging 8.7 per game, while he's equal seventh in the league for intercept marks with 29 in 2022.
"I'm biased but I think he's the best defender in the game," Scott said.
"Tom Stewart was just sensational today. If we didn't have him behind the ball when they were winning the stoppages it would've been really difficult for us.
"He's improving, that's probably the best description, off a very, very high base. He's important for us.
"He was crucial for us last year, to lose him going into the finals was a big loss and I think we're seeing exactly what a loss that was right at the moment."
Stewart has a new partner down back developing into a gun too, with Sam De Koning fast emerging over the past month as a contender for the NAB AFL Rising Star.
The 21-year-old is yet to be nominated for the award but will be hard to beat in round 11 after 19 disposals, nine marks and 11 intercepts.
"I'm trying to keep the lid on it a little bit," Scott said.
"I don’t know how long ago it was … but he played a game and our supporters here at Geelong were going, 'We love this guy right now but we're going to love him a lot for the next 10 years'.
"A couple of weeks ago I thought he had a great contest (against Max King). I likened it to Glen Jakovich and Wayne Carey, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration as they're two of the greats, but I think Sam has the potential to be one of those guys that people go to the footy to see."
Scott said forward Gary Rohan, who was withdrawn with hamstring tightness, would be available to face the Western Bulldogs on Friday night, while Rhys Stanley's ankle issue was "lingering a little bit" but the ruckman was likely for round 12.
Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks lamented his side's inaccuracy and inability to take its chances, having only two fewer scoring shots, finishing with 7.13.
The Crows came into the game ranked 18th for accuracy in front of goal over the past four weeks, having kicked 9.15 against St Kilda (round 10) and 9.12 against Brisbane (round nine) over the past fortnight.
"We had a really good crack at them but we weren't able to put through goals unfortunately and that was the difference in the game in the end," Nicks said.
The Crows had the first four scoring shots of the game but were all behinds, not kicking their first goal until the 11-minute mark of the second term, when they'd already missed six times.
"We probably had our opportunities early, especially early, where we didn't put scoreboard pressure on and that cost us in that first quarter," Nicks said.
"That's a couple of weeks in a row now we've let ourselves down. From a scoring shots point of view, we gave ourselves a chance but we weren’t quite polished enough."
Nicks admitted the Crows coaching staff weighed up whether to tighten up on Stewart, who was allowed to play loose behind the ball with Adelaide having an extra at the contest.
"A lot of that (Stewart's disposals) was ground ball, 13 were kick-ins, so when you don’t kick straight you give a player like that an opportunity to use the ball. He's very good with the footy.
"He's the guy they like to free up and he's pretty hard to stop in that space. He's had 40 a number of times and they've lost games of footy. We'd like to have limited his ball use but we do that by kicking goals."
Nicks also praised ruckman Reilly O'Brien, who returned after two weeks in the SANFL with 28 disposals, nine clearances and 47 hitouts.
"Really pleased with Reilly," he said. "He came back in and competed. He gives an opportunity for first hands, he's a big strong lad and got working around the ground.
"We were pleased with Strachany's (Kieran Strachan) efforts in the two weeks he was up so we'll continue to have a look at that and the possibility of us going with two rucks."