Unlucky Stokes atones for 2008 mistake - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Unlucky Stokes atones for 2008 mistake

By Daniel Brettig 24/09/2009 07:15:59 PM Comments (0)

Mathew Stokes knows he got one he shouldn't have last year.

This admission will help the crestfallen Cat cope with his omission from the Geelong 22 to play St Kilda in the 2009 AFL grand final.

Stokes, 24, ignored a groin strain in the final weeks of 2008, carrying it through success in the preliminary final but struggling badly in the decider as Hawthorn snatched a flag from the favourites.

His decision and its repercussions stayed with Stokes for quite some time, and made him understandably eager not to make the same mistake again when his groin twinged during the qualifying final against the Western Bulldogs.

In this context it was not surprising for Stokes when coach Mark Thompson diverted his attention from a newspaper to deliver some personal bad news.

"To be honest, the whole reason I didn't play last week was because of last year and letting the boys down," Stokes told reporters on Thursday.

"I played two games where I shouldn't have, my groins weren't strong enough and I should not have played but I still did.

"This year it wasn't that bad, it was a bit of a twinge and I just didn't want to take the risk. Could I have played or not? I don't know, I've made the right decision and I stand by it.

"Last year I think was Bomber showing his support and he backed me in, and I let him and the boys down, and I just didn't want that to happen again." Among the trio of late Cats omissions from their three consecutive grand finals, also including Mark Blake (2007) and David Wojcinski (2008), Stokes can feel rightly hard done by.

Prior to the preliminary final he had played 10 games in succession as a dangerous small forward.

But the lesson Stokes learned from his groin trouble in 2008 was mirrored on a wider level by the Cats, who presented the player to the media only an hour after his omission was made public after some unseemly distractions followed the previous two grand final selection announcements.

Stokes showed great character to speak freely of his dumping, even finding the time to make a joke of how he might still squeeze into the team.

"You never know, we've still got one more training session to go so I might kick someone's calf or something," he said.

"We're staying in Melbourne tomorrow night and I'll know everyone's rooms so I might need to pay someone a visit late at night, but I've dealt with the fact I'm not playing, I'm quite happy with the decision.

"Definitely no regrets. It took me a long time to get over last year.

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