Geelong's unsung hero.
Who am I?
Before last week's loss to Gold Coast, I ranked No. 1 at Geelong in 2014 for disposals and uncontested possessions, which also put me in the top five in the AFL for those categories.
I am a midfielder, who has also ranked third at the Cats for clearances and fourth for inside 50s across 2013 and 2014 combined.
Source: Campion Data.
No, I am not Joel Selwood.
I started my career as a clever goalkicking forward before transitioning into the middle. And as of last week, I had created as many goals for my teammates as any other player in blue and white.
No, I am not Steve Johnson.
I wear No. 27 and in the past two years have quietly morphed into one of the league's most prolific onballers and one of the Cats' most important players.
So far this year, I have lifted my game from "above average" to "elite", according to Champion Data.
I am, of course, Mathew Stokes.
And unfortunately for Geelong, I am now injured.
Geelong revealed on Wednesday that Stokes could miss "anywhere between two and eight weeks" with the ankle injury he sustained early in the loss to the Suns last Saturday.
The worst-case scenario is highly unlikely, coach Chris Scott said.
But the 29-year-old will definitely miss Friday night’s match against Essendon at Etihad Stadium and, at least one other, and from there who knows.
"That’s a reasonably significant ankle issue,” Scott said of the injury, before adding "the long-term prognosis is a bit more uncertain."
The good news is that, according to Cats physiotherapist Mike Snelling, Stokes "normally comes up pretty well from these injuries".
And the fact the Cats play the Bombers, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney in the next month will also be of comfort to supporters.
But internally, every game is lose-able. So to say that Stokes is not a significant "out" no matter how long he is sidelined for would be to ignore several things – how much they missed his drive against the Suns, the fact he is not so easily replaced as he once was, and that the Cats don't appear to be covering for their key players as well as they once did. But appearances are always deceiving where Geelong is concerned.
"He's going to be a loss. We have relied on him this year as a midfielder," Scott said.
Not that too many outside Geelong have fully appreciated it, but Stokes has flourished since becoming a permanent member of the midfield, elevating his disposal average from 15.5 in 2012 to 26.4 last year, and up to 29 each game this year.
Of course Fremantle coach Ross Lyon drew attention to just how far Stokes had come last year when he sent Ryan Crowley to him early in last year's qualifying final.
As always with good players, it’s not all about the numbers.
"He has obviously accumulated a lot of the ball, but he’s been better than just his possessions," Scott said, with a nod to his workrate and ability to create scores.
The Cats are optimistic Stokes will return sooner rather than later and, in the interim, can turn to players such as George Horlin-Smith (a chance this week after missing last), Josh Caddy (sub against the Suns) and Allen Christensen (coming off his first game for the year) and be confident they can get the job done against the opposition that await. Maybe even some others in the VFL, including Jarrad Jansen, Brad Hartman, Darcy Lang.
Having Harry Taylor back in the side, after missing the Suns game with a knee injury, will also make a difference and the star defender is expected to be available against the Bombers.
Ruckman Hamish McIntosh, though, is less likely because of "lower leg soreness", however the Cats can recall fellow big man Dawson Simpson.
Many of the Cats players will line up against their former three-time premiership teammate Paul Chapman for the first time this week since the club opted to let him go at the end of last year.
"I think [our players will] be looking forward to playing him as much as he's looking forward to playing us," Scott said.
"He's still a good player ... and he understands the position he's in and the position our club's in. But that doesn't take away from the theatre, and I think he'll embrace it and we'll embrace it."