AFL

Geelong got 'carried away' with Mitch Clark in 2015

Geelong got "carried away" with their handling of troubled forward Mitch Clark last year, according to Cats football manager Steve Hocking.

Clark, who has made no secret of his battle with depression and who also has an extensive history of serious injuries, only managed eight games in his first year at Simonds Stadium for a total of just 23 in his last three AFL seasons (excluding 2014, which saw him briefly retire).

Rare appearance: Mitch Clark of the Cats marks in front of James Frawley of the Hawks.
Rare appearance: Mitch Clark of the Cats marks in front of James Frawley of the Hawks. Photo: Getty Images

The talented key forward did not play another game after round 9 last year due to a calf injury and after much fanfare surrounding his trade from Melbourne to the Cats, and an impressive 2015 NAB Challenge in which he kicked 11 goals in three games, Hocking admitted the club got "carried away" by the hype.

"He really got to this high point coming out of pre-season and obviously the NAB Cup at the start of the year and then there was a couple of things that went awry early in the season," Hocking told SEN on Friday.

"I think that disrupted his focus and also from our point of view too, he was new to the club and we were so excited to see what his output was, we probably got a touch carried away ourselves."

As a result, Hocking revealed Geelong had purposely held Clark back in his second pre-season at the club as they continued to educate themselves about the role mental health played with league footballers.

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"It wasn't just his body that failed him, the thing that we're learning more and more about every day is the mental side of it and how important that is and how that impacts players as far as their body goes," Hocking said.

"Their sleep, their recovery, all those things are critical because they're loaded to such a level now and there's so many demands on them so for us it's really making sure that we've got the right program in place for Mitch.

"We've had him on a slow burn to this point in time and we'll start to ramp that up over the coming weeks. He is integrated back fully with the group now."

The Cats have undergone a dramatic list transformation in the off-season with no fewer than 12 new players coming in – including high-profile recruits Patrick Dangerfield (from Adelaide), Scott Selwood (West Coast), Lachie Henderson (Carlton) and Zac Smith (Gold Coast).

But Hocking insisted the playing group has already bonded "organically".

"They've settled in really well," Hocking said.

"We're really pleased with the leadership that those guys have brought ... they understand the move they've made is really important to them.

"Having those different voices in meetings has really added to our leadership and also helping grow the program."

Hocking described Dangerfield as happy and content living in the region where he grew up.

Selwood is running again after undergoing a third ankle surgery in October and Hocking said Geelong would be taking a cautious approach to his rehab.

"The main thing for him is just making sure we progress that the right way," Hocking said.

"I think he's rushed it in the past and he's been really strong and our medical team and fitness team have been the same as well, just getting his rehab right and making sure, if anything, we actually hold him back."