Can Geelong maintain their finals streak despite an apparent slide from the top of the pile?
Many will feel that Geelong’s reign at the top end of the AFL ladder will come to an end this year but I believe they are still good enough to be involved when September swings around.
The 2013 list of the 2011 Premiership club is still jam-packed with quality players who have the know-how to take care of business throughout the home and away season.
Double that with the hardness of Chris Scott in the coaches seat and this year should bring about another top eight finish for the Cats which would make it nine out of the last ten seasons involved in finals football.
The offseason additions of Hamish McIntosh (if he can overcome a knee problem), Jared Rivers and Josh Caddy could prove handy but the ruck duties, which former Kangaroo McIntosh was to be assigned, would soon need to be sorted out as the inexperienced Mark Blicavs is the current hope with all other big men struck down by injury.
McIntosh is still struggling along with Dawson Simpson (back), Trent West (knee) and Nathan Vardy (groin) so former steeplechaser Blicavs has the hopes of the Cats pinned on him along with fellow rookie Josh Walker which is somewhat of a worry given his rawness.
Down at Simonds Stadium, however, one thing you can be sure of is the output of such players as Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel, Paul Chapman, Joel Corey, Steve Johnson, James Kelly and Corey Enright. That septet have been around the block a few times before, consistently producing for the Cats, and there is no reason to believe that they won’t come up with the goods yet again in 2013.
The emergence of Tom Hawkins last year was an enormous boost for the club with his 60-plus goal season landing him the Best andamp; Fairest and much will rely on him again having a big campaign, particularly up forward.
The forward line does not appear to be much of a problem with Hawkins receiving assistance from the likes of Chapman, Podsiadly, Steven Motlop and Mitch Duncan last year but another capable goalscorer certainly would not go astray. The return of Travis Varcoe from injury slightly offsets that but he has been earmarked for more of a midfield role and may not be in front of goal enough to provide much relief.
A lot will also hinge on whether or not the likes of Duncan, Billie Smedts, Allen Christensen and Taylor Hunt can take the next step and continue their ascent into top-line midfielders.
The defence is looked after by the likes of Harry Taylor, Tom Lonergan, Andrew Mackie and Corey Enright so there should not be too much to worry about down back.
The experience of the Cats doubled with the promise of some youngsters should hold the club in good stead for the next couple of years and at least in 2013 they will be pushing for another bout of September action.
Joel Selwood – Hard as they come and has added more strings to his bow each season. Quality performer.
Joel Corey – Year-in, year-out brings his best. One of the most consistent players around who helps the Cats engine room tick.
Tom Hawkins – 2011 grand final was his coming of age. Did not disappoint in 2012 with a huge season, winning the Bandamp;F.
Break out potential
Josh Caddy – Down from Gold Coast in a trade at the end of 2012. Tough inside midfielder who will look to make life easier on skipper Selwood.
Taylor Hunt – Half-back who can push through the midfield. Ready for consistent year after 41 AFL games.
Billie Smedts – Produced some quality performances last year in his debut season and is now ready to build on that.
Jackson Thurlow – Averaged just under 25 possessions at the 2012 U18 champs for Tasmania. Ball-gathering midfielder who has a big future.
Shane Kersten – Key forward who will take some time to develop but tipped for big things down at the Cattery.
George Horlin-Smith – Has been expected to make an impact since arriving at the club via the 2010 draft. Had a massive 2012 in the VFL and could shine if he can force his way in.
Hamish McIntosh – Over from North Melbourne and if can regain fitness, will be a huge addition to the Cats ruck stocks. Can push forward.
Jared Rivers – Key defender from Melbourne who will only add to the Cats already solid defence.
Josh Caddy – Midfielder from Gold Coast Suns.
Shannon Byrnes – Melbourne
Matthew Scarlett – retired
David Wojcinski – retired
Predicted finish: seventh
Worth a punt
Tom Hawkins to win Coleman Medal into Geelong to make Top 8: $14
Joel Selwood – to win Brownlow Medal: $31