With the trade period over for another 12 months, who won? I think three sides can claim to have had the best trade period.
Cameron Ling is representative of Geelong. After an inconsistent start to his career, the Cats skipper, who announced his retirement yesterday, has squeezed every little bit of effort and ability out of himself over the past five years and achieved greatness with three flags. But his retirement doesn’t mean the end of the ‘dynasty’. In fact, coach Chris Scott has just got started.
There’s no doubting it this Geelong side are a truly great team.
Three premierships in five years. That’s hard to argue against.
But following Saturday’s Grand Final win there has been a debate about whether or not Geelong had usurped the feats of the Brisbane Lions in the early naughties.
There’s also been a debate about whether Geelong’s reign at the top is a true ‘dynasty’.
In the wake of that discussion, there’s been a sense that Geelong’s dominance is now coming to an end, like Brisbane’s eventually did after their third premiership.
Ling’s retirement certainly gave weight to that sentiment.
Twelve months ago, many people were writing off the Cats and while, like Ling, they’ve given their all in 2011 to squeeze out another flag, there is a sense they surely can’t do it again. The stars are moving on and beginning to age, the hunger is surely fading.
However, first-year premiership coach Chris Scott won’t have that. The man has impressed all in his first year at the helm at the Cats, including many at the club. There’s a decent discussion to be had about whether Geelong are actually before off with him rather than predecessor Mark Thompson, but that’s for another day.
He’s also a man who played in two of Brisbane’s three premierships before their dominance eventually ended with Port Adelaide defeating them in 2004 AFL Grand Final, before finishing 11th in 2005. Scott retired in 2007, witnessing Brisbane’s slide first hand.
Alistair Lynch and Craig McRae were the only two key players who retired after the 2004 Grand Final defeat. Quality players like Michael Voss, Nigel Lappin, Simon Black, Jonathan Brown, Jason Akermanis and Luke Power were all still there in 2005. But the team fell away.
If you look at this current batch of Cats, Ling will be joined by Darren Milburn and Cameron Mooney in retirement. However, the latter two weren’t part of the Grand Final side on Saturday and their loss, with all due respect, won’t be felt hugely, although the departure of their leader is a blow.
Some people will say veterans Joel Corey (29), Brad Ottens (31), Corey Enright (30) and Matthew Scarlett (32) may not be far behind in hanging up the boots, although the latter two did both just make the All-Australian team and appear capable of continuing on, at least for 2012.
Stars such as Jimmy Bartel (27), Steve Johnson (28), Paul Chapman (29) and James Kelly (27) have some years left in them and should be firing in 2012, while the next brigade of leaders in Joel Selwood (23) and Harry Taylor (25) are coming through.
However, a pertinent point made by Ling after he announced his retirement yesterday was that he wanted to remain at the club in some capacity.
Indeed, Ling along with many of this current ‘great’ Cats brigade can leave a long-lasting legacy at the club. It’s all about the standards they set and the mentality required to get to the top.
Scott will have seen that slip first hand at Brisbane and, on the evidence of 2011, he’s the right man to ensure it doesn’t happen at Geelong in 2012.