What has become of the Geelong Cats footy factory?

Stuart McKenzie Roar Rookie

By Stuart McKenzie, Stuart McKenzie is a Roar Rookie

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    At this time of the year, the name Stephen Wells was one that we’d hear muttered in hushed tones.

    The master talent spotter would make the calls on draft night, the kids would come to the Mark Thompson footy factory and they would be ‘trained up’ (as Bomber would say), to become quality AFL footballers.

    Quite remarkably, in their three premiership teams of 2007, 2009 and 2011 there were only three players from other clubs, Brad Ottens, who played in all three and Tom Harley and Cam Mooney who played in the 2007 and 2009 teams, the rest were pretty much products of the Cats footy factory.

    Even more extraordinary, is that in building the list that delivered those three premierships, there were only four top 10 draft picks – Joel Corey at No.8 in 1999, Jimmy Bartel at No.8 in 2001, Andrew Mackie at No.7 in 2002 and Joel Selwood at No.7 in 2006.

    Yes, the success of father-son selections Matthew Scarlett, Gary Ablett and Tom Hawkins far outweighed expectations, but the astute selection of players such as Corey Enright (pick 47), Cameron Ling (pick 38), Steve Johnson (pick 24), Paul Chapman (pick 31), James Kelly pick 17), David Wojcinski (pick 24), Max Rooke (rookie selection), Tom Lonergan (pick 50), Harry Taylor (pick 17), Mitch Duncan (pick 28), and Allen Christensen (pick 40) – players that all clubs had an opportunity to draft – formed the backbone of the Cats’ premiership success.

    It’s little wonder that not so long ago, Geelong supporters suggested that a statue of Stephen Wells be erected at Simonds Stadium. The footy factory was led by ‘Bomber’, a renowned footy teacher, and supported by Brendan McCartney, Nigel Lappin and Ken Hinkley. They educated the players selected by Wells in the ways of AFL footy. It was a system that produced unprecedented success.

    When Thompson left at the end of 2010 and Chris Scott took over, the club’s approach to recruitment, drafting and trading undertook a marked shift. Under the Thompson era, draft picks were the prime currency and investment in their development was the priority, but not so under Scott.

    Since Scott’s arrival, the Cats have brought in Hamish McIntosh, Jared Rivers, Mitch Clark, Sam Blease, Patrick Dangerfield, Lachie Henderson, Zac Smith, Scott Selwood, Josh Caddy, Aaron Black, Zach Tuohy and now Gary Ablett.

    It remains to be seen what impact the Little Master will have, but it’s highly questionable, just how successful these acquisitions have been.

    Other than using salary cap capacity, the Cats gave up nothing for Black (pick 92) Rivers, Blease, and Selwood, though with Rivers and Blease no longer listed, Black playing 5 of a possible 24 games and Selwood having played only 19 of a possible 49 matches, that doesn’t seem to have been money well spent or list places well utilised.

    McIntosh (traded for pick 36), Clark (swapped for Varcoe in a three-way trade with Melbourne and Collingwood) and Caddy (traded for a first and third round draft pick) are no longer with the club. By any measure that’s a big miss.

    Tuohy and Henderson, who will both be 29 next year, cost the Cats first round picks, each slotting nicely into Geelong’s defence.

    And it’s hard to argue that the recruitment of Dangerfield has been anything other than a resounding success, though we’ll never know to what extent Dangerfield’s salary prevented the Cats retaining Caddy and Steve Motlop.

    In failing to bottom out after a period of sustained success, Geelong has achieved something of a miracle in the modern AFL world. Their worst finish since the 2011 premiership was 10th in 2015.

    While they’ve repeatedly played finals, with comprehensive defeats in the past two preliminary finals and a straight sets exit in 2014, a Grand Final, yet alone a premiership, has been a bridge too far.

    Yes, the Cats may still win the flag that vindicates their change of direction, but Geelong supporters must wonder how their team would be placed today had they held their nerve and backed in Stephen Wells and the Cats footy factory.

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    The Crowd Says (51)

    • Roar Rookie

      October 21st 2017 @ 4:01am
      Chancho said | October 21st 2017 @ 4:01am | ! Report

      I didn’t realise Lonergan was as low as pick 50! Wow!!! Another guy to mention is Podsiadly, I remember a few games against the Hawks where he was a nuisance to us… he was a pretty low pick too from memory

      The one thing over and above the coachin/recruiting/accademy stuff is the overall culture at the club is amazing and a legacy Bomber should take an awful lot of credit for and should be proud of. But Thompson left in 2010 and these thing need to be constantly honed… which I take it is the point of your article?

      Regarding your coment re their recent finals appearances but not having great results there, it’s clear the club is doing all the right things to get them into the best position to play in a GF, it’s just about having that final elment and go up a gear come finals time?

    • October 21st 2017 @ 7:03am
      Gus said | October 21st 2017 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      Good article – it does explain the shortage of young talent in the squad and the dangers of recruiting for today.

      • Roar Guru

        October 21st 2017 @ 7:12am
        Cat said | October 21st 2017 @ 7:12am | ! Report

        How is recruiting a few 25 year olds ‘recruiting for today’? They are still going to play 5-7 years. That one hell of a long ‘today’.

    • Roar Guru

      October 21st 2017 @ 7:07am
      Cat said | October 21st 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      though we’ll never know to what extent Dangerfield’s salary prevented the Cats retaining Caddy and Steve Motlop.

      Dangerfield isn’t on huge money. That’s why we had to trade for him, Adelaide could have matched the offer.

      Geelong’s offer to Dangerfield is worth about $800,000 per annum over six years, putting him on par with inspirational captain Joel Selwood.
      It puts Dangerfield, 25, only marginally ahead of former Essendon big man Jake Carlisle, who is expected to earn more than $700,000 a year at St Kilda from next season after requesting a trade to Seaford on Thursday.

      ——————
      It’s easy to say Bomber only did it one way. You are forgetting he only had that option. If FA existed when he was building the team (on average he still had higher draft picks that Chris Scott has had due to Bomber taking over a struggling side and Chris Scott obviously not) who knows what bomber would have done.
      Teams need to change with the time or get left behind.
      Sure we haven’t won a flag in the last 7 years but neither have 14 other clubs! I’ll take Geelong’s ‘having a go’ approach over giving up and doing a 5 year rebuild every day of the year. Look at the Saints and Geelong since 2011. They were at similar places, who do you think has enjoyed the last 7 years more? Saints looking more and more like they will have to rebuild their rebuild, list is lacking a lot of quality still.

      • Roar Guru

        October 21st 2017 @ 9:47am
        Camo McD said | October 21st 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Amazing how times change. We would’ve been the last place attracting free agents in those days. Bomber only came in because our previous coach (and captain) walked out to pursue careers at ‘more successful’ clubs.

        Getting Dangerfield and Ablett is one thing – these guys are legends. Most of the other guys mentioned are competent enough but unless they are filling a specific hole, generally the default should be for youth and I reckon they’ve got a few of those decisions wrong.

        • Roar Guru

          October 21st 2017 @ 12:13pm
          Cat said | October 21st 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

          Which ones were wrong?

          Stanley for pick #21 (which we got for Allen Christensen who wanted out and has barely been sighted on the field since). Saints used the pick on Hugh Goddard (9 games). Doesn’t seem like anyone has made out in that deal.

          Scott Selwood was a FA, didn’t cost any picks. Geelong was well aware Scooter was coming with an ankle injury and would miss at least half his first year with us. Has shown, when fit, he was well worth waiting on.

          Sure Clark and MacIntosh were duds, but after losing our ruck of the future (Mummy) to Sydney on a deal we could not match, we desperately needed a #1 ruck and it’s not like there are a surplus of them on the market. They also don’t come ready made from the draft. They take several years to develop so we had no choice to gamble.

          in 2013 we went to the draft, we even went in with extra picks after trading out 4 senior players. How’d that work out? Pick #41 Jake Kolodashnij is the lone remainder from that draft. Goes to show the draft is no guarantee.

      • October 23rd 2017 @ 10:50am
        Shane said | October 23rd 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Agreed Cat. Additionally, the author seems to disregard the effect of having such a long period of sustained success on our available draft picks. We had a major structural defect in our middle tier age group directly attributable to Bombers time at the helm, which forced the recruitment of the players mentioned above. And even if we didn’t have that structural defect, we didn’t really have the draft picks to be recruiting guns to develop. Over all, I would say this is pretty one sided analysis aimed at putting the boot into Scott, and glorifying the Bomber years – which took over half a decade to come to fruition, a fact also overlooked by the author.

    • Roar Guru

      October 21st 2017 @ 9:25am
      Rick Figjam said | October 21st 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      Geelong’s only mistake last year was not playing switch football against Richmond in the 1st Qualifying Final.

      Richmond are nothing special, yet are premiers.

      It’s a tough competition. You give yourself a chance every year and roll the dice. Geelong have been one of the best at it, but come up short. $h!t happens.

      What you don’t do is change a huge amount, especially when you’re constantly making prelims and the last two premiers are Richmond & the Bulldogs.

      Cats are on the pace – they’ll be close next year again.

      • October 21st 2017 @ 10:31am
        truetigerfan said | October 21st 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        To say, ‘Richmond is nothing special’ is, while a widespread and accepted opinion of many still in disbelief, a tad premature to say the least. It may be like saying the Tigers adopted the Bullies game plan, not even close to the truth! Dimma kept saying throughout the second half of the year, ‘we will improve, our best is yet to come.’ Yes, they will have to improve further next year to have a shot but are well placed to at least be a good chance. We may just be . . . special!

        • October 22nd 2017 @ 8:35am
          David C said | October 22nd 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

          Richmond were scorned upon all last year but prevailed to win the GF and amazingly the knockers still don’t acknowledge them as a great team. Top 4 again next year.

        • October 23rd 2017 @ 10:34am
          Peter the Scribe said | October 23rd 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          True Tiger Fan , why do you even care? If I supported your team who just won the whole blasted thing I wouldn’t give two hoots whether sour grape jealous haters called them less than special. Same as bulldogs last year, the cup is everything and all the moaning after is white noise.

      • October 21st 2017 @ 3:27pm
        Peter T said | October 21st 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

        THIS!
        Only one team can win a flag each year, and the best you can hope as a supporter is that your coach gives your team its best possible chance.
        With a once in 10 years player like Selwood around, and then a once in a generation player in Danger joining, you would be stupid not to have a shot a flag. And who could argue that getting ablett, rather than a draft pick, would help not hinder the cats shot at flag in the short term

      • October 21st 2017 @ 10:43pm
        Billy said | October 21st 2017 @ 10:43pm | ! Report

        Bit depressing to be beaten by 51 points by a side that is nothing special. In reality Cats are too slow, with limited young talent and have have not taken the hard decisions on Menzel and Hawkins. Then they turn around and recruit a 34 year old – there is more pain coming for the moggies!

      • October 22nd 2017 @ 1:47am
        Floyd Calhoun said | October 22nd 2017 @ 1:47am | ! Report

        Richmond put all pretenders to the sword, Geelong included. This is not a bloody debate!

    • October 21st 2017 @ 10:09am
      Don Freo said | October 21st 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Interesting suggestion that Scott Selwood has been available for 49 games.

      If that was true, he would have played 49 games.

    • October 21st 2017 @ 11:18am
      Joe said | October 21st 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

      I get the point of the article, but I think it goes over the top in order to be critical. It also doesn’t make any mention of Chris Scott’s penchant for playing youth, which was striking back in 2011 when he shook up the playing list, and is still common now (see our 2017 debutants). There’s a reason we’ve been able to rebuild without collapsing, and it isn’t just the trades.

      Parfitt, Cockatoo, McCarthy, Kolodjashnij, Menzel, Buzza, Bews, Duncan, Gregson, Guthrie, Horlin-Smith, Parsons, Ruggles, Z Guthrie, Thurlow, Stewart and Blicavs were all drafted by Cats. Obviously you could have chucked Motlop and Lang in there too, plus a bunch of others we’ve traded out the last few years. It’s a pity more haven’t become stars, but they’re all young, there’s plenty of potential for improvement.

      Pick 92 for Aaron Black and some extra depth is hardly worth criticising, it’s no different to Crows picking up Gibson. Rivers was a solid get for us, and was a crucial part of a defence that came close to a flag. Likewise it’s silly to suggest Scott Selwood is a waste just because he’s been injured.

      All you’re really criticising is trading away our draft picks for the last two/three years to go for a flag.

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