I must persevere up forward, says Benny

KNEES UP: Beleaguered Cats captain Ben Graham appeared to enjoy being back with his teammates at training last night. Photo: GEELONG ADVERTISER  
Wednesday, May 22

OUT-OF-TOUCH Geelong captain Ben Graham admits returning to defence would benefit his career, but accepts he must continue to learn the ropes as a key forward.

Graham has come in for sharp criticism this season as he adapts to a forward marking role after spending his entire career as a full back.

Graham was thrown into defence when last week's game against Port Adelaide was already lost, and enjoyed being back in his familiar role, but will return to the goalfront when the Cats take on the Western Bulldogs this weekend.

``I enjoyed that, being around the ball, throwing my body around,'' Graham said.

``I didn't go back again because (coach Mark Thompson) is worried about me playing forward.

``We were 12, 13 goals down and it was a chance to get me back where the ball was for a little bit of confidence and a little bit of form.

``All forwards are going to go through this,'' he said.

``I'm a 28-year-old forward in my first year, I've got a lot to learn.

``I've got no doubt my best position for the development of the Geelong Football Club is up forward.

``The backline is developing beautifully with Matthew Scarlett and Tom Harley, Daniel Foster and those types of guys.

``If it was all about me right now I'd probably play down back, but it's about the club so it's up forward.''

Graham was not angered by the criticism he had received, but urged patience as the recast forward line gradually melded and players became accustomed to each other's game.

``I'm not really concerned about what people are saying because the more I worry about that, the harder it will be to get back to where I know I can be,'' Graham said.

``While I might be down on form a little bit, Cameron Mooney bobbed up in the first four or five games to lead contested marks, Kent Kingsley is third on the goalkicking table, (injured) Ronnie Burns is yet to get a kick,'' he said.

``Things aren't working all the time but there are some good signs there.''

Graham's form slump came at a difficult time as he and other senior players tried to cajole the talented teenagers who were in danger of losing confidence after three straight losses.

Graham did not think his authority had been compromised by his poor personal output, and was determined to show the youngsters the support he missed out on when he was starting out with the club.

``During the week my own form doesn't matter,'' Graham said.

``I spend a lot of time helping them out and I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing these young players develop.

``It's the senior players' job to encourage and nurture these guys on.''