HE DOESN'T run, evade or leave opponents standing like the West Coast No. 3, but there is no question that Joel Selwood has been the best first-year player since Chris Judd announced himself as a future great in 2002.

Indeed, by some measures, Selwood has had a greater impact on the competition than did Judd, who like Selwood, turned 19 in the course of his first year, and has some mature man-boy traits that make him a teen wunderkind.

When Judd burst forth, it was immediately apparent that, as accomplished as Luke Hodge and Luke Ball would prove subsequently, the clubs that overlooked him in the draft would have need of an alibi. Their supporters issued a collective "please explain".

No one is suggesting that Selwood will rival or eclipse Judd in the next few years, but his first 16 games have been so impressive that most, if not all, of the half-dozen clubs that passed on him also might need to defend themselves.

The Judd alibi for Hawthorn and St Kilda was that Judd had proppy shoulders, and, for Selwood, it's a similar tale, except that it was his knee. There were serious concerns from some clubs about Selwood's knee, which had been operated on in 2006 and prevented him from playing much last year.

He was a risk, and Geelong should be thankful for the fact that the third Selwood brother was grounded, became a question mark and slipped down to No. 7.

Geelong football manager Neil Balme said the knee "probably pushed him back a little bit, I would think" in terms of draft order. "We were very pleased to get him, obviously."

Balme wasn't sure where Selwood's first season stood in recent history. Had he seen a "yearling" this accomplished? "There's probably been a few, but I can't think of it … I must admit I haven't really exercised my mind on it. But he is very good. He's picked every week in a very good side, which is really a fair wrap for him."

Just to rub it in to those clubs that overlooked him, here's what Selwood said yesterday on the subject of his knee: "I knew that it was fine, and all the doctors and teams knew it was fine by draft camp … Geelong took the gamble on it, and I knew there was no problem there any more."

There definitely wasn't anything wrong with him yesterday, when Selwood had 27 touches. It wasn't as if he just picked up cheap, sheepdog (around the back of the pack) stats in another massacre by the Cats, either. In a wet game in which the easy balls weren't so plentiful, he won very hard balls, and accounted for an astonishing nine of Geelong's 40 clearances, while kicking two goals.

They're numbers that normally translate into best on ground, but Jimmy Bartel — another strong-bodied midfield mudlark — was the game's dominant presence, especially in the first quarter, and should be a certainty for three Brownlow votes.

Usually, when a 19-year-old has the kind of game that Selwood had yesterday, the media makes a big song and dance, and some hype immediately is attached to the kid.

In Selwood's case, however, we're less apt to get worked up about his performance because he's already so good on a weekly basis, and he doesn't play with the theatrical flamboyance of "Buddy" Franklin. Not quick, he just gets where the ball is, and distributes it with precise efficiency.

Mark Thompson some weeks ago described Selwood as the best first-year player he'd coached. Clearly, "Bomber" is concerned about overburdening the kid with expectations, and yesterday, the coach would say only that Selwood was "a very, very good player".

Thompson said he will not rest players, despite the securing of the minor premiership. Selwood's workload has been closely monitored and he was given what Bomber called "a download" — less work at training — last week. "The fitness staff have been amazing," said boy wonder.

"They've sort of watched my load during the week, and instead of having a week off now, not training as much and … just trying to keep my body as fresh as possible."

Normally — the word is often used in contrast to exceptional Selwood — kids are protected to ensure they survive the rigours of the season. In the case of Joel Selwood, one suspects the club also is making sure he's fresh for the finals.