Reputations are made and lost in finals and Geelong built their 2007-2011 reign of dominance on the back of big-time performers and performances.
Jimmy Bartel, Paul Chapman, Matthew Scarlett, Joel Corey, Gary Ablett, Brad Ottens, Steve Johnson, Cameron Ling and Corey Enright all rose took their game and the team to new levels during September.
Bartel kicked clutch goals and was given the task of shutting down Lenny Hayes in the 2009 grand final. Chapman kicked bags of finals goals, including the 2009 winner. Scarlett’s 2007 series was nearly flawless, conceding just one goal for the whole series and averaging 22 possessions at fullback.
Corey was Mr Fix-it. His smother in the 2007 preliminary final arguably changed the course of the game. He went to halfback at three-quarter time in the 2009 grand final and was influential.
Ablett kicked Geelong’s final goal in the five-point, 2007 preliminary final victory, and was Geelong’s best in the losing 2008 grand final and 2010 preliminary final.
Ottens was best a field in the 2007 preliminary final and who can forget his inspirational run down of Michael Pettigrew in the grand final? Johnson won the 2007 Norm Smith, but his heroics four years later, when he kicked four goals with a knee that needed regular painkilling injections, was more remarkable.
Ling locked down the likes of Sam Mitchell, Dane Swan and Nick Dal Santo. And, finally, Enright won two best and fairest awards during premiership years.
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Fast forward to 2017 and it is a different tale. Since their last premiership, the Cats have lost seven finals and won two, which could have gone either way.
Isaac Smith missed after the siren last year to see them escape and their 2013 semi-final win against an inexperienced Port Adelaide came on the back of a 23-point halftime deficet. Their losses have been alarming.
Fremantle shocked Geelong and the football world in 2012, kicking 5.7 to 0.1 in the first quarter and defeating the reigning premiers in Melbourne. The Dockers did it again the following year, but this time down in Geelong.
Hawthorn came from 20 points down at three-quarter time to see Geelong lose the 2013 preliminary final. It was a straight-sets exit in 2014 and last year’s preliminary final was over at quarter-time, when Sydney led by 39 points.
This year, the Cats earned a second chance after finishing the regular season in second place, and the likes of Stephen Motlop, Mark Blicavs, Lachie Henderson, Sam Menegola, Jordan Murdoch and even mature-aged recruit Tom Stewart are desperate to make their mark.
Motlop’s last five finals have only yielded three goals and he has not reached 20 possessions in any of those games. Blicavs has only averaged 13 touches a game in his eight finals appearances. Meanwhile, Henderson gathered eight possessions in each of his two finals for Geelong and a total of five marks.
Menegola’s finals possession average of 18 is well down on his career average of 24. The line-breaking Murdoch has played five finals and his best return is ten disposals. Then there is Stewart, who had a night to forgot against Richmond, dropping marks, missing targets and failing to show the poise he has displayed all year.
No one enjoys being questioned, particularly during September, however the numbers don’t lie. Geelong’s recent finals record is poor and a list of players have underperformed on the big stage.
Can they turn it around in the space of seven days and replicate their predecessors or will another disappointing performance finish the Cats’ 2017 season?