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No ‘perfect’ solution to replace Stewart, says Ling

Coach Chris Scott said after the three-point win that Lachie Henderson was in contention but close observers, including triple premiership star Ling, believe Jordan Clark would be a better fit, for he can provide dash and creativity off half-back.

“It’s a very big loss. I don’t think they necessarily replace him [Stewart] perfectly. He has a couple of All-Australian [selections]. He is just so composed down there, plays on someone, always finds the footy, does all that. I think responsibility just rolls over a little bit,” Ling said.

“So maybe it’s Jack Henry steps into a slightly different role. I think [Jake] Kolodjashnij steps into a slightly different role and probably Jordan Clark comes in.

“Clark is not going to replace Stewart but his run and speed and carry will replace part of the elements that Tommy Stewart has got. But I think with Henry and Kolodjashnij, they replace the intercept marking, the defensive skills. Elements of those three … they step into sublety different roles. Clark provides the run and rebound from down back.”

Stewart’s value cannot be measured by statistics alone. While he averages 22 disposals per game (10th among defenders) and has a disposal efficiency of 80 per cent, it’s his composure that is also crucial.

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Ling, the 2011 premiership captain and now Seven commentator, said Henderson would likely not be needed against the speedy Suns forward line.

“As an intercept marker, maybe, but I don’t think he [Henderson] has the run and creativity of a Stewart and Clark. But his other attributes are very good,” he said.

“It might be a little bit [of] match-up for a couple of weeks. They have Gold Coast this week, you go [Mark] Blicavs versus [Ben] King I presume, Kolodjashnij or [Mark] O’Connor maybe plays on [Alex] Sexton and then you have a number of little blokes that are running around and creating havoc at the moment.

“Maybe a Harry Taylor doesn’t suit the match-up with the Suns but the following week he does suit it. I think they will mix and match the backline over the next few weeks depending on the team they are coming up against.”

The Cats may also need to replace forward Tom Atkins, who was hit in the chest and finished “sore” by game’s end on Sunday. Lloyd also said Patrick Dangerfield was cleared of any structural damage to his jaw after a heavy clash with Michael Hibberd.

“Paddy has received a couple of big knocks, last week and this week, and receives a lot of attention. He was able to get back out there and influence the game as he always does,” Lloyd told the club’s website.

The Cats have not enjoyed successive wins since round 12 last season but will hope that changes on a weekend they will celebrate the significant milestones of Gary Ablett (350 matches) and Joel Selwood (300).

Selwood has been full of praise for Matthew Rowell, the rookie Suns’ midfielder who appears a lock for the Rising Star award and is third favourite with TAB for the Brownlow Medal, having shortened from $81 to $8 in recent weeks.

Rising Sun: Matt Rowell.

Rising Sun: Matt Rowell. Credit:Getty Images

He was awarded the full 10 votes by senior coaches Stuart Dew and Justin Longmuir on Saturday – the third straight week he had claimed maximum votes in the AFL Coaches’ Association award.

Ling said it would great to see Rowell and Selwood go head to head but the Cats may opt to tag the flame-haired bull.

Why Tom Stewart is so valuable

2019-20 (H&A) Avg. Rank
Disposals 22.0 = 10th
Disposal Efficiency % 80.4 11th
Disposals (Def 50) 12.2 4th
Marks 7.3 5th
Uncontested Poss 12.5 = 21st
Kick-Ins 5.0 = 4th
* Competition rankings are for defenders only. Champion Data.

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