Kolodjashnij eyes off key defensive post in wake of departures

401010-tlsnewsportraitVERSATILE Geelong youngster Jake Kolodjashnij is anticipating spending a significant amount of time playing the role of the Cats third tall defender in 2018.

Kolodjashnij emerged as a genuine midfielder in the latter half of this year, pushing up on to a wing and handling himself with aplomb.

But with veteran defenders Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie calling time on their playing careers there is a notable gap in the tall defender stocks at GMHBA Stadium and the 22-year-old looms as an obvious option for Chris Scott to provide support to Lachie Henderson and Harry Taylor in defence.

Kolodjashnij has had no trouble keeping small and mid-sized forwards quiet in the past and at 193cm he would be more than capable of holding down a key forward if required.

The Tasmanian said he was keen to take his game to the next level following the retirement of two of Geelong’s most respected defensive players.

“I think I’ll spend a bit more time on the (opposition’s) third tall with Harry and Hendo back there. That is going to be my role in the team I’d have thought so far, but we’ll have to wait and see what the coaches have planned,” Kolodjashnij said.

“I reckon that’s the goal for me … so far over pre-season Cam Guthrie has been training a lot back there, and obviously we’ve got guys like Jed Bews, Tommy Stewart and Zach Guthrie who can hopefully fill a void down there.

“I’ll probably try to take on a bit of a leadership role if I do play a bit more down back because obviously we’ve had the loss of Mack and Dom. It is an area I can get better at and something I’m looking forward to challenging myself.

“Having that little bit of experience now, hopefully I can take that next step.”

Kolodjashnij endured a horror pre-season last year, missing a large chunk of training time with a bout of glandular fever before injuring his groin upon his return.

He is fighting fit this preparation and while he is preparing to be a familiar face in the Geelong back line, he said his time in the midfield had opened his eyes to other opportunities.

“Last year was a bit chaotic with injuries and (glandular fever) so to be out there training this year with no injuries, I’m rapt to be out there with the boys and being 100 per cent fit,” Kolodjashnij said.

“Getting a full pre-season in and chipping away at my fitness and my game and the fundamentals is really going to help me, so hopefully I’ll have a good year off the back of a good pre-season.

“It (playing on the wing) was definitely an eye-opener and I definitely learnt a lot hanging around Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield a little bit more. It was nice to get that experience and some versatility in my game.”