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Green vests, silverware and the 200 club: Mitch Duncan's wild ride

October 1, 2011.

A 20-year-old Mitch Duncan sits on the Geelong bench with the green vest on, the sub for the Cats on Grand Final day, awaiting his opportunity to grace the hallowed MCG turf against Collingwood in front of 99,537 fans on a cool, drizzly day in Melbourne.

The plan would be for Duncan, playing just his 29th AFL game, to enter in the third quarter. Those plans went out the window when James Podsiadly came crashing down, sustaining a serious shoulder injury during the middle stages of the second quarter.

Podsiadly would be stretchered from the field as Collingwood forward Andrew Krakouer kicked truly to give the Magpies a 15-point lead and all the momentum at the 18-minute mark of the second term.

"To be honest I was just lapping it up, it is hard to think back that far," Duncan said this week when asked to recall the 2011 Grand Final.

"Obviously, it was a bad situation for 'Pods' but I was probably pretty rapt to get on just before halftime, being able to get a full half on. I think it was only the second time I wore the sub vest - it was a shocking rule, I've got to just say that."

Approximately 90 minutes after being brought on, Duncan would be taking part in a lap of honour with his Geelong teammates, premiership medal around his neck after an impressive 10-possession performance, highlighted by what has become a trademark running goal from outside 50 at the 27 minute mark of the third as Geelong began to take control of the contest.

The youthful Duncan was on top of the world, surrounded by modern day greats Matthew Scarlett, Jimmy Bartel, Corey Enright, Cameron Ling, Paul Chapman and Steve Johnson to name a few.

This AFL caper is easy, right?

"I wish I knew [how difficult they are to win] - I would try and savour it more," Duncan told ESPN in the leadup to his 200th match, at home against North Melbourne on Saturday evening.

"I reckon when you are that young, you do take it for granted. Coming into such a successful team, you probably just think you are going to get there on a regular basis, but it just doesn't happen like that, footy is too hard, you need a lot of luck.

"I would have loved to have savoured it a bit more than I probably did."

The West Australian was drafted as an 18-year-old out of East Perth, heading to the sleepy hollow of Geelong, 3,396 kilometres from home.

When Duncan first walked in the door at Kardinia Park, the Cats were the reigning premiers, a dynasty in the making, though it was a certain young star who took Duncan under his wing.

"I come into a footy club with a lot of leaders [but] Joel [Selwood] was probably the one that stood out for me, being a bit younger - he's the one that did a lot for me when I first got here whether it was working on my craft or whether it was outside of footy, meeting people, going to events and helping get that community feeling," Duncan said.

"He's probably the one that stands out for me that's helped me and still does help me probably the most as a player and off the field."

Captain of the WA under-16 team, leadership has always been a core characteristic of Duncan's makeup. He was named in Geelong's leadership group in 2014 after just 81 games.

Penned as a future captain from early in his career, Duncan is hesitant to discuss the possibility of one day leading the Cats with his great mate still at the helm, though it's clear the respect he has gained from within holds a dear place in his heart.

"I don't think about [being captain] because he [Selwood] is still here and the best fit for the job, but if your peers vote you in or vote you into the leadership group, you are obviously doing something that they value - you are living to the club values and if I was to end up in that position I would do my best and be authentic and try and keep this footy club going forward.

"Joel would obviously be a hard person to replace but as I said, you just have to be yourself and make sure you don't change too much if that was the case."

Duncan has been a model of consistency for the Cats on his way to 200, averaging 21.2 games per season after playing eight in his 2010 debut campaign. He boasts an incredible winning percentage of 72.1 percent - an overall record of 143 wins from 199 matches.

The Cats are seemingly stuttering toward September, clinging to top spot by percentage after a worrying dropoff in form after the bye. But Duncan says a feeling of excitement rather than panic can be felt around GMHBA stadium, with the anticipation of what could be to come driving the team.

"I think it's more exciting than anything being in this position. It's really exciting, we've got a new group of players even from last year with the likes of Luke Dahlhaus, Gary Rohan, Tom Atkins, Jordan Clark - they just bring so much more enthusiasm at this time," he said.

The smooth moving Cats' career is littered with finals appearances, having missed September action only once, though he has never made it back to the MCG on Grand Final day - he has, though, been a member of three losing preliminary final outfits.

If Geelong are to lift the premiership cup on September 28, Duncan will need to be a key contributor but this time he certainly won't be starting the game sitting on the bench wearing a green vest.

"I just want to repay the fans and the support staff that have put so much time into my development and the footy club in general," he said. "To be able to give them another premiership drives me for sure."