Story

From Geelong Advertiser
Report by Michael Auciello

THE rich vein of father-sons will continue at Geelong today when Tom Couch makes his debut for the Cats' VFL team.

The 18-year-old midfielder will follow in the footsteps of his famous father Paul when he dons the blue and white hoops for the first time at Skilled Stadium.

After hanging around the Cattery in his dad's day as Geelong's self-confessed No.1 fan, Couch says wearing the jumper for real will be a ``dream come true''.

``I'd like to wear the AFL one, of course, but VFL, you've got to start somewhere. So hopefully I'll play in the AFL one day, but I'm just happy here trying to get a kick,'' he said.

He means the VFL no disrespect, but his hunger to make it to the top grade is obvious.

When he missed being picked up by the Cats in the rookie draft at the end of last season, Couch was devastated. ``It was hard. The six weeks after that were the hardest of my life,'' he said.

``I wanted to give up. The first week after I thought about giving it away, but if you love it so much, you've got to stick by it and you just never know.

``You've got to stay focused, get motivated and think `there's always next year'.

``Dad said `don't worry about it.' He just tells me just go out and enjoy your footy and it'll happen one day if you're good enough, just stick at it.''

So that's what Couch is doing. He's determined to turn good form for the Geelong Falcons last year _ when he was named the team's best in the finals _ into similar success for the VFL team.

``I just want to play as many games as I can. I thought 10 to 15 at the start of the year, but I'll have to re-assess my goals, of course, after a couple of games and try and go for the finals,'' he said.

``The finals is the key. We're definitely good enough and hopefully I can be a part of that.''

Couch admits he's ``a bit slow'', but as he builds his strength, he hopes to improve his pace.

``My kicking's improved and I try and read the play. My dad says that's the best part of my game,'' he said.

``It's a lot quicker in the VFL. The pace is just unbelievable. If you make a mistake, the AFL boys will let you know about it.

``In the first couple of games, the pace was too much but I've settled in pretty well since. I was happy with a couple of my practice games. You've got to keep your confidence up and try and worry about the next kick.''

His dad, the 1989 Brownlow medallist, is his No.1 coach, but Couch junior says he doesn't feel the pressure of carrying the name of a club great.

``I did at first, but then you're just another bloke trying to get a kick. There are the Abletts and Tomahawk, there's six, seven father-sons here so it's no big deal, really,'' he said.

Paul Couch says he's looking forward to see his son get a game, after missing the first two rounds with a groin injury. ``He's pretty pumped. He has done the work and deserves a go,'' he said. ``He's done a great job, that's all we can ask as parents. We're proud of him, like all our children.''

Couch says he's a bit nervous about his debut game, and has faced a couple of sleepless nights in the build-up, but is hoping once he gets his first kick out of the way, things should settle.

The VFL game starts at 1pm. GFC members get free entry.