After winning their second premiership in three years, Geelong entered the 2010 decade as the team to beat.
If you think Geelong is set for a slide down the ladder this year – after two premierships and a Grand Final loss in the past three seasons – then observe the following: tough-as-teak midfielder, Joel Selwood, is not yet 22 years of age, yet he could soon be the best player in the competition.
And sooner rather than later.
Last year’s Brownlow Medallist, Gary Ablett Jr, however, remains the compeition’s pre-eminent player and shows no sign of slowing down after a 37-possession display against Essendon in Round 1.
Jimmy Bartel is just 26, and is a Brownlow Medallist (like Ablett), All-Australian and premiership player (twice). Not many have that on their CV.
Joel Corey and captain Cameron Ling continue to contribute heavily to their team’s cause on a consistent basis.
And that’s just the midfield.
Then consider the defence.
Matthew Scarlett may be almost 31 years of age, but he is still the best full-back in the league.
Corey Enright is not far behind as far as talent goes, while Darren Milburn, Andrew Mackie and Harry Taylor help make the Cats’ backline one of the best in the competition.
He may be just 23, but remember his job on Nick Riewoldt in last year’s Grand Final? The star Saint was rendered ineffective for the first time in 2009 on football’s biggest day.
And Geelong had Taylor to thank. You don’t win the ultimate prize without a super defence.
In the forward half, Paul Chapman, Steve Johnson and Cameron Mooney still provide headaches for any opposition defence.
Yes, predictions that 2010 will be the start of Geelong’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The Cats, I believe, are simply a victim of tall-poppy syndrome. Many would base their assertion on the fact the Cats have been on top of the AFL tree for the better part of three seasons (bar a Grand Final loss to Hawthorn).
But my belief that the Cats remain as good as ever is not based on a scratchy opening-round win over Essendon. It is based on fact.
How can a team be expected to drop down the ladder when so many of their stars remain in their prime? That said, age is just a number, and players, especially the champions, often defy it.
Scarlett and Milburn, for example, are both on the wrong side of 30. But I’d like them in my team. Even today. There is plenty of competition for the Cats this year (there always is). The Western Bulldogs, St.Kilda, Collingwood and Adelaide are all capable. But none of that group has proven they are superior to the reigning premier.
That is their task in season 2010, and it will be one tough challenge.
St.Kilda held flag favouritism before the season began, ahead of the Cats. Geelong won’t care about that, though.
Countless experts have them to not make the Grand Final.
But it is not just footy supporters predicting a fall from grace. One AFL captain – at the annual captains’ gathering before the season started – predicted the Cats will finish outside the top-eight.
Surely, that captain was telling porky pies to stir-up some opinion? A dynasty cannot last forever, but it also won’t end prematurely.
Yes, it’s only early in the season, and there is only one way the Cats can go this year – down. But, until it’s proven otherwise, they remain the AFL’s No.1 team ahead of this Monday’s clash with their nemesis, Hawthorn.