Cats run home is how they’ll win the flag
James Podsiadly of Geelong gets past Heritier O'Brien of Collingwood. AAP Image/Joe Castro
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There has been a lot made of the Geelong Cats’ chances, or lack thereof, of defending their flag come the last Saturday in September.
Media personalities such as Mark McClure and Luke Darcy have both come out and said that despite their apprehension at writing off the champion club, the time has finally come for the AFL world to accept that the ‘greatest team of all’, are no longer ‘contenders’, at least for 2012 anyway.
One of the main reasons the Cats’ knockers give for this view is their tough run home, and therefore their likelihood of making the top four is pretty low. We all know how tough it is to win the flag from anywhere but there.
The Cats run home is easy, not by any stretch of the imagination, but compared to the other ‘contenders’ it really is not that much harder.
Considering the ‘experts’ have touted everyone from 1st-9th as genuine premiership contenders at some point throughout the year, I have compared these sides’ runs home. What you’ll see is that the Cats aren’t that much worse off than everyone else. Except the Crows.
The ‘pride of South Australia’, on current form, should only drop two games from here on in, these being West Coast at home which is definitely winnable and then Geelong away, which many people would have them as favourites for.
Below is the current Top 9′s run home, with the amount of games they have against fellow Top nine teams in brackets.
COLLINGWOOD (7): Freo (H), Carlt (H), Geel (A), Hawks (H), GWS (A), St K (H), Swans (A), Nth (H), WCE (A), Ess (A)
SYDNEY (6): GWS (H), B.L (H), WCE (A), St K (H), G.C (A), Carl (A), Coll (H), W.B (A), Haw (H), Geel (A)
ESSENDON (6): W.B (H), St K (A), Port (A), Geel (A), Haw (H), Adel (A), Nth (H), Carl (H), Rich (A), Coll (H)
WEST COAST (5): G.C (H), Nth (A), Syd (H), Adel (A), B.L (H), Freo (A), Geel (H), Port (A), Coll (H), Haw (A)
ADELAIDE (3): Rich (H), Port (A), GWS (A), WCE (H), Geel (A), Ess (H), Freo (H), B.L (A), Mel (A), G.C. (H)
HAWTHORN (6): Carl (A), GWS (H), W.B (A), Coll (A), Ess (A), Geel (H), Port (H), G.C (H), Syd (A), WCE (H)
GEELONG (7): Port (H), G.C (A), Coll (H), Ess (H), Adel (H), Haw (A), WCE (A), St K (H), W.B (H), Syd (H)
ST KILDA (5): Nth (H), Ess (H), B.L (A), Syd (A), W.B (H), Coll (A), Melb (H), Geel (A), GWS (H), Carl (A)
CARLTON (5): Haw (H), COLL (A), Nth (A), W.B (A), Rich (H), Syd (H), B.L (H), Ess (A), G.C (A), St K (H)
The Cats, along with Collingwood have the most games of anyone against other top sides. However, what you would have noticed from the fixtures above, everyone on the top half of the ladder (except Adelaide) have pretty tough runs home.
The good news for us fans is, we have a plethora of huge games coming up over the next couple of months with so many of the top teams coming up against each other.
Now, I agree with much of the media that the make up of the eight looks pretty concrete at this stage with probably only eighth spot up for grabs. However, where each of the Top 8 sides finish is anyone’s guess with the amount of blockbusters we are in store for.
Chris Scott has said all year that the Cats, like they always do, are aiming to play their best footy at the business end of the year. With their next two games being gimmes against Port Adelaide and Gold Coast, they will then hit two massive games against the ‘Pies and ‘Dons.
Even if they lose both of these, they then have three of the remaining seven games at Kardinia Park, and games against West Coast at Subi, against their bunnies the Hawks at the ‘G and then St Kilda at Etihad.
At this stage, I think they will drop the games to West Coast and Collingwood and therefore finish on 15 wins, probably placing them fifth or sixth on the ladder post-Round 23. However, if they can knock off Collingwood they should be in the top four.
Wherever they finish and whoever they play in September, whether it be in Week One or Week Four, their opposition will be cursing their luck.
If Geelong can avoid a do or die match in Perth in the first two weeks of the finals, in my opinion they will be playing in the preliminary final week. Considering they have won four of these in five years you’d have to back them to win one again.
On top of this, if the Cats do make the top four it means they are well and truly flying after a huge final 10 weeks to the home and away season and would be close to flag favourites at the start of September.
We all know finals are a different kettle of fish, and those that have been there and done it before are priceless in the big moments. Although the Cats have lost a couple of these players since last year, they still have them in abundance, and very good ones at that.
Mark McClure said as hard and sad as it to say, the best of the Cats is now well and truly behind us. Maybe it is, but even if they can be just 90% of the quality of the side who has won three of the past five flags, then they will give it a big shake in September.
I, for one, have not written them off and think they’ll clip the Eagles wings on the biggest stage of all, hopefully taking the Pies’ scalp with them along the way!