Is Geelong chasing the premiership or rebuilding?
Geelong has played eight debutant’s in 2012, the most of any club aside from Greater Western Sydney. This particular statistic would suggest that Geelong’s rebuilding phase is well under way, but they continue to lurk behind the top four and are still being floated by a few as some sort of flag threat.
So are we seeing Geelong re-jig their list for a flag attempt in possibly as little as 2-3 years or do the senior heads at the club legitimately believe they are in flag contention in 2012?
Before we go any further lets establish that you can’t have one foot in both buckets. Hawthorn in 2008 stands as having the youngest average age when winning a premiership.
However, that list already had been through their rebuilding phase and with the exception of some youngsters such as Cyril Rioli most had at least 3-4 years at senior level. That’s not rebuilding, that’s simply winning earlier than expected.
Geelong’s current situation reminds me of them in 2006, while there is not the same feel of frustration as there was in 2006 due to the relief of three premierships in five years, there is still that feeling of under-accomplishment, and with good reason.
If we take away Matthew Scarlett’s uncharacteristic brain fade, if we suggest to Chris Scott early in the first quarter against Sydney that Jimmy Bartel needs to play loose in defense and if we give Geelong the ability to capitalise on dominance in the final quarter against Collingwood, there is a very real possibility that Geelong would be sitting on 40 points.
That would put them equal with Collingwood, West Coast, Adelaide and Essendon (Sydney lose their four points earned against Geelong, dropping them to 36 in this scenario). All of a sudden the pressure is off and we all think that Geelong are right up there in defending there premiership.
The above list is not much that had to go right, but it didn’t. You can call that under-accomplishment, you can call it bad luck. Whatever it is, this list of “if’s” has most likely cost Geelong an attempt at a home final and a double chance, rather than just having to settle for one (or even a spot in the eight).
The fixture discussion about Geelong’s run home has been done to death, we know its extremely difficult so will leave it there. But we can’t deny Geelong has at least been competitive with the genuine flag contenders, so we can’t say the premiership defense is definitely over even with the uphill task of their fixture.
But the amount of youth being played by Geelong this year is undeniably a sign that the rebuilding phase is at least close.
Players to be played in 2012 with twenty or less games experience are Mitch Brown, Allen Christensen, Tom Gillies, Cameron Guthrie, George Horlin Smith, Taylor Hunt, Lincoln McCarthy, Steven Motlop, Jordan Murdoch, Jordan Schroder, Johnathan Simpkin, Dawson Simpson, Billie Smedts, Orren Stephenson, Jesse Stringer and, unbelievably, twenty-five year old Trent West.
That amount of youth being played in one year is unparalleled in any of Geelong’s real ‘premiership tilt’ years, and is why I believe that we are currently seeing Geelong’s rebuilding phase.
However, the quality and experienced group of midfielders, having two genuine key forwards with exceptional smaller ones and a sound defense will stop Geelong dropping to low down the ladder before being a real threat again (in a similar way to Sydney, between 2006 and now, which they deserve major praise for).
I think that if there current trend of retirements and playing youth continue we could see Geelong be in flag contention in as early as 2015 or 2014 if they are successful in recruiting Travis Boak.
While Geelong remain as a possibility for the premiership this year, I think the task ahead is just too difficult, even for them. If Geelong do manage to do something extraordinary they will become an exception to my ‘can’t have one foot in each bucket’ rule.
Every good rule needs an exception.