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Chris Scott: The charmed Cat

Cats coach Chris Scott talks to the media during a Geelong Cats AFL media session at Simonds Stadium on August 17, 2017 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
8th February, 2018
7

Chris Scott’s unprecedented good fortune at Geelong may be papering over cracks in his coaching veneer.

For make no mistake, Scott’s seven-year and counting Geelong coaching job has truly been the gift that keeps on giving for the former Lions’ star.

After Bomber Thompson’s shock exit following the 2010 season, Scott inherited a driverless car in the form of a dynastic Cats team with a point to prove after a preliminary final loss to the ‘Pies.

If ever there was a team that could coach itself, this was it.

Admittedly, Scott’s own premiership credentials from his part in the Lions’ golden era would have ensured the respect of the Cats playing group and a familiarity for Scott with such a winning environment.

But regardless, and despite Gary Ablett Jr’s departure, this was a team still boasting the likes of Matthew Scarlett, Cameron Ling, Jimmy Bartel and Steve Johnson, positively dripping with recent premiership experience, and humming to Bomber’s well-played tune.

That the Cats marked the coaching change by winning the first 13 games of the 2011 season demonstrated a team firmly on auto-pilot. After all, Geelong was still very much the house that Bomber built and Scott the undoubted beneficiary.

While the Cats went on to win the grand final against the reigning premiers Collingwood, it wasn’t without an ounce of good luck.

It took James Podsiadly’s game-ending shoulder injury for the Cats to click early and Mick Malthouse’s reluctance to pull the cord on the horror Ben Reid-Tom Hawkins match-up to help seal the deal.

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Scott had achieved the ultimate prize in his debut season and was suddenly cloaked in the rare form of immunity only bestowed on premiership coaches.

Rather than attempt a form of rebuild, Scott and the Cats have since sought to keep the club’s premiership window ajar by topping up with veteran talent.

Gary Ablett AFL Geelong Cats

What can Gary Ablett do for his new old home? (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

While not an unusual approach for a club in such a position, the fact the Cats have been able to snare the transcendent Patrick Dangerfield and favourite son Ablett is remarkable – even by Scott’s standards of good fortune.

After cratering to a tenth-place finish in 2015, Dangerfield has put the Cats on his back and taken them to two consecutive preliminary finals.

And who knows what a rejuvenated Ablett can do wrapped in his familiar blue and white hoops?

It certainly won’t hurt that Geelong is the only Victorian club to enjoy a unique home ground advantage. While not peculiar to Scott’s reign, it’s undoubtedly another perk of his job.

That last season’s three-game Geelong home-stand coincided with a Cats’ revival following a worrying form slump surprised few.

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Yet, seemingly lost amidst the finals appearances and big-name recruits have been a series of missteps by the Scott-led Cats which arguably throw shade over Scott’s coaching bona fides.

Not least is the view that the arrival of Dangerfield – and now Ablett – is papering over an aging, one-paced list that is destined to remain in preliminary final purgatory before a steep drop off.

For many, the failed Mitch Clark experiment and finals miss in 2015 marked the point at which the reset button should have been pressed, with or without Dangerfield joining the fold.

Romance aside, the clearly ‘win now’ move for the 33-year-old Ablett – which came at the expense of one of the club’s few live wires in Steven Motlop – heightens concerns for the club’s long-term future.

While some may argue Scott is not in charge of list management, it’s naive to suggest that he is not at least complicit in Geelong’s approach.

List concerns aside, there has also been the nagging feeling that Scott has come up slightly short in the coaching box when the lights have shone brightest.

There were the puzzling home final losses to the Dockers, a straight-sets finals exit after a third-place finish in 2014 and the most recent preliminary final defeats.

But perhaps most galling was Scott being at the wheel when the Hawks finally broke the Kennett curse against the Cats in the 2013 preliminary final and went on to win three straight flags.

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Another blot on Scott’s Geelong copybook was the alarming lack of judgment involved in leading the Cats’ much decried, and ultimately unsuccessful, 2012 mid-season delegation to Adelaide to woo the Power’s Travis Boak.

Scott’s more recent PR disaster involved him appearing to kick-start a ‘no win’ public spat with Geelong’s Mr. Nice Guy, Jimmy Bartel, over Bartel’s exit from the club.

Yet it’s safe to assume all this will matter precious little for so long as fortune continues to favour Scott and his Cats.

The question now is whether Ablett shapes as Scott’s best present yet or the beginning of the end for the charmed Cat.