Tyson Stengle celebrates a goal for Geelong against Sydney in the 2022 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

WHAT a difference a year makes. 

On this day 12 months ago, Tyson Stengle was waiting to see who Woodville-West Torrens would play in the SANFL Grand Final. 

Interest from AFL clubs was starting to intensify after a standout season at state league level following his exit from the Adelaide Crows, but it was only interest. 

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The rest, as they say, is history. 


Collingwood contemplated him mid-season and Essendon met with him, but it was Geelong that secured Stengle’s signature as a delisted free agent after he helped lead the Eagles to back-to-back premierships by kicking three goals in the decider, taking him to 44 for the season.

Fast forward 12 months and the 23-year-old is now a premiership player and an All-Australian – the first delisted free agent to achieve that double – after a stunning campaign in the hoops that finished with 53 goals following a brilliant performance in Saturday’s Grand Final win over Sydney. 

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Stengle booted four goals in front of 100,024 at the MCG from 15 disposals, nine score involvements and four inside 50s to finish third in the Norm Smith Medal, polling four votes behind Isaac Smith (14 votes) and Patrick Dangerfield (10). 

Eddie Betts was integral in bringing Stengle to the club. The champion small forward had just joined Geelong’s coaching department when he vouched for Stengle’s character when approached by Andrew Mackie and Stephen Wells. Betts and Stengle are cousins and played together at West Lakes. 

Tyson Stengle and Eddie Betts enjoy Geelong's win over Sydney in the 2022 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

While there were plenty of beaming onlookers inside the Cats’ packed changerooms on Saturday night - from the De Koning clan and Selwood family that clustered on one side to the small but delighted Irish contingent who had travelled more than 17,000 km - no one was prouder than the three-time All-Australian former Blue and Crow who kicked 640 goals across 350 games. 

"I always believed in his talent and knew what he was capable of, I just wanted other people to believe that," Betts told AFL.com.au on Saturday night. 

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"Hopefully everyone that doubted him can eat their words right now, knowing that he is a premiership player and an All-Australian.

"Me and my family believed in him, we knew that he could do it, he just needed an organisation that really backed him in and trusted that he could go out and play on his instinct. 

Tyson Stengle and Cats fans enjoy Geelong's win over Sydney in the 2022 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

"Geelong have given him that. The way that they lead down here – having now experienced that firsthand – with the leadership of Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and Tom Hawkins, they’ve got an unbelievable culture down here and Tyson has just blossomed."

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Since moving from South Australia last November, Stengle has divided his time between living with Brandan Parfitt and Quinton Narkle just down the road from the club, and inside the Betts’ household in Melbourne, with Eddie, Anna and their five children, where he is treated like a prince. 

"He is the most spoilt one in our family. I’ve got five kids and he’s the most spoilt one out of the lot of them. My wife spoils him and he gets whatever he wants when he comes home,” Betts said.

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"He loves it; he’s got a room in Melbourne and he’s got a room with Brandan Parfitt as well in Geelong. What a story. The barriers this young kid has had to overcome to where he is now is unbelievable."

Tyson Stengle and Brandan Parfitt celebrate Geelong's 2022 Grand Final win over Sydney. Picture: AFL Photos

Geelong list manager Andrew Mackie was part of the team that decided to recruit the talented small forward, who had coloured outside the lines and was running out of chances at AFL level.  

It was a group decision, along with senior coach Chris Scott, head of football Simon Lloyd and other senior figures inside Kardinia Park. A decision that has delivered far more rewards than anyone could have expected. 

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Mackie, who was elevated to list manager last year after winning three premierships as a player, lauded the effort by Stengle and the team around the star small forward, which has provided him with the environment to thrive in 2022. 


"We always think about what players can possibly do and look at the good in them. That was no different with Tyson," Mackie said. 

"He is super talented – and that was there for everyone to see – but that’s only one thing. But did I think he was going to have this good of a season? That’s a good season by someone who has played at this level for 10 years, let alone someone who was running around in the SANFL last year. It’s an amazing effort by him and the support network around him."

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If a week is a long time in football, a year is an eternity. 

Recruit of the year? Comeback player of the year? 

Tyson Stengle has written his name into football folklore.