Legendary small forward Eddie Betts has joined Geelong’s coaching staff after recently calling time on his glittering 350-game AFL career.
After losing key assistant coaches Matthew Knights, Corey Enright and Matthew Scarlett this off-season, the Cats have pulled off a genuine coup by securing one of the most influential players of the modern era.
Betts retired in August with 640 goals after 17 seasons with Carlton and Adelaide and is widely recognised as one of the AFL’s most popular ever figures for his freakish skills and charismatic nature.
But his impact has not just been felt on the field, in recent years he has been a powerful voice in speaking about race issues in Australia.
The 34-year-old has served as an important mentor for young players over the last decade at Adelaide, and in the last two years after returning to Carlton, the club that drafted him in 2004.
Former Adelaide and Richmond forward Tyson Stengle could be given a third AFL chance with the Cats and Betts would provide a calming influence for the talented but troubled 22-year-old, who was caught up in multiple off-field incidents while at the Crows.
“Geelong is known for developing people and that is also an exciting element of joining the club,” Betts said.” I’m looking forward to working with the playing list, in particular the younger players and helping them develop both on and off the field.
“It’s important for players to develop skills in all parts of your life. Obviously I will spend some time with the forwards, particularly the small forwards, but hope to get across all on-field spaces where the club see they need me.”
Betts considered remaining at Carlton but it is understood he thought it would be challenging coaching former teammates so soon after retiring.
He is the second Indigenous AFL figure to be appointed in a coaching role in as many days after former Melbourne defender Neville Jetta was added to Collingwood’s support staff on Tuesday.
Former Magpies and Geelong star Travis Varcoe, who is now a development coach with the Western Bulldogs, last month pondered why there were not more Indigenous coaches at AFL clubs.
Geelong football boss Simon Lloyd said everyone at the Cats was excited to welcome Betts on board for the role, which he will begin in January.