‘Really tough one for me’: Cats coach still holds out hope Ratugolea’s ‘future is at Geelong’

Geelong coach Chris Scott still holds out hope Esava Ratugolea will remain at the Cats, admitting the prospect of the key defender being traded is “not something I’m comfortable with” in the inflated key defender market.

Ratugolea reportedly informed Geelong earlier this month of his wish to be traded to the Power – 12 months after he was denied the same move.

It comes after the out-of-contract 25-year-old managed just 20 AFL games across the past two seasons for the Cats, despite reinventing himself as a player by shifting into defence.

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“It’s a really tough one for me. I feel like our club has invested a hell of a lot in Esava – and personally, I’m really invested in the guy,” Scott told Fox Footy’s AFL 360 on Monday night.

“I’m still hopeful that his future is at Geelong. He’s played a lot of games for us when he probably wasn’t ready and that’s sort of part of the investment. It’s not just that in terms of the games he’s played, but just in terms of us taking a long-term approach in the hope that he would be a much better player in the second half of his career than the first.

Esava Ratugolea of the Cats. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

“To let him go is not something I’m comfortable with, especially in the current environment where key-position defenders just seem to be, one, hard to get and, two very, very expensive. So in that context, I’m hopeful he’ll be wearing the hoops.”

Scott in June indicated the Cats would fight hard to keep Ratugolea, who’s been linked to a possible move away from Geelong for months.

And Ratugolea isn’t the only key defender on the market, with North Melbourne’s Ben McKay a free agent in demand and Essendon’s Brandon Zerk-Thatcher also requesting a trade to the Power. It comes after Harry Himmelberg re-signed at the Giants and Tom Barrass informed West Coast he was committed to his long-term contract, despite interest from the Swans.

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Asked if he was prepared for Ratugolea to go for nothing should the Cats drive a hard bargain, Scott said: “Yep, but I doubt it will come to that point because there’ll be such a market for him – if you exclude Port from it – no one’s going to say ‘we could give a pretty good deal’ or hope that he gets through to Pick 2, 3, 4 or even Pick 15 in the national draft.

“Ben McKay, even Tom Barrass over at West Coast – they’ve kind of set the market for these types of players. You don’t steal them.”

Ratugolea has played 75 games since being selected with Pick 43 in the 2016 national draft.

He’s one of four players linked to the Power, with Zerk-Thatcher, Bulldogs ruck Jordon Sweet and Richmond ruck Ivan Soldo all reportedly in Port’s sights.

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