AFL preview series: Geelong Cats – 4th

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert


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    Patrick Dangerfield (left) and Joel Selwood of the Cats. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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    Geelong are the great survivors. Going back to 2004, they have only missed finals twice, still finishing a respectable tenth both times, and have won three premiership from four grand finals, with another five preliminary final berths earned.

    From the Cats’ 2004 preliminary final loss to Brisbane, only Gary Ablett remains – and think of all that he has achieved between now and then.

    From the 2007 premiership, only Ablett and Joel Selwood, then in his first season, survive.

    It’s a remarkable record, surpassed only by the Sydney Swans for consistency. Geelong truly are the team of the century.

    After missing the finals in 2015, the Cats added Patrick Dangerfield, who launched them back into preliminary finals in 2016-17, both times after finishing second on the ladder. They’ve been one game away from grand finals, but in truth been thumped both times, and on each occasion by the losing grand finalist.

    So, are they close to the next flag, or does it just seem like they are? Enter Gary Ablett once more.

    B: Jed Bews Lachie Henderson Jake Kolodjashnij
    HB: Zach Tuohy Harry Taylor Tom Stewart
    C: Mitch Duncan Patrick Dangerfield Tim Kelly
    HF: Sam Menegola Tom Hawkins Nakia Cockatoo
    F: James Parsons Daniel Menzel Lincoln McCarthy
    Foll: Zac Smith Joel Selwood Gary Ablett
    Int: Mark Blicavs Cam Guthrie Scott Selwood Brendan Parfitt
    Em: Rhys Stanley Zach Guthrie Stewart Crameri

    The Cats have lost three players from last year’s finals series, the retired Andrew Mackie and Tom Lonergan, and Steven Motlop in a free agency move to Port Adelaide.

    Ablett is the main addition, of course, while Stewart Crameri has been rookie listed to add depth to the forward line mix. Tim Kelly looks likely to get his chance as a mature age draftee that has impressed over summer.

    Gary Ablett AFL Geelong Cats

    Gary Ablett (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

    Harry Taylor will surely move back after mixed fortunes as a forward, so that will cover Lonergan’s loss quite easily. This also enables Geelong to play a smaller forward line that can apply more pressure – lack of pressure was the reason given why Daniel Menzel was dropped for the qualifying final against Richmond last year, so we can assume it has been an off-season focus.

    Ablett coming in replaces Motlop’s departure in a mid-forward role, and should add more in both parts of the ground. Lincoln McCarthy, a natural crumber with good hands and a sharp mind, is a favourite of the coaches, and will be picked if fit in a small forward role. Enhanced responsibility for Nakia Cockatoo and Brendan Parfitt also helps cover the loss of Motlop.

    Tom Hawkins will continue to do what he does, mixing deep forward with pushing up the ground, get his 50 goals a year and being the vital presence around which the forward half revolves. He looked sharp last year for the most part.

    Can Menzel add another dimension to his game, or is he just a finisher? He still needs to find more consistency. Will Crameri fit into the best 22, or is he just there to break glass in case of emergency? Rhys Stanley has always been in and out, as a spare forward and back-up ruck.

    Andrew Mackie’s run from half-back might be the hardest to replace. Jed Bews isn’t capable. Jake Kolodjashnij doesn’t win enough football at this stage of his career. Zach Tuohy was superb last year, and will carry on.

    Tom Stewart turned out to be a solid AFL citizen, adept at defence or attack from the back half, but is still in therapy after the nightmares Dustin Martin gave him on the finals stage. To be fair to him, it’s a group session made up of various players from 17 different clubs.

    The midfield is where it’s at for Geelong though.

    Dangerfield. Ablett. Selwood. Here at The Roar, we adjudged them three of the best 12 players in the competition heading into 2018.

    Joel Selwood Geelong Cats AFL 2017 tall

    Joel Selwood (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    How much time they all spend together in the midfield is one of the big questions of this season. If Chris Scott doesn’t start all three in the centre bounce when they first play together, then he’s a party pooper with no sense of theatre. Dangerfield has suffered a hamstring injury that has put his Round 1 prospects in doubt.

    Dangerfield and Ablett are the most natural goal-kickers of the three superstars, both very different in how they operate inside forward 50, which will mean concentration from opposition defences will have to be at an all-time high when they’re resting forward.

    Mitch Duncan is the best fourth banana in the league, and was rated as high as 28 in our aforementioned top 50. In any conversation about the best kick in the league, Duncan’s name must be front and centre.

    The midfield support cast consists of ball magnet Sam Menegola, ruck workhorse Zac Smith, running tall Mark Blicavs, Cam Guthrie who can get used in defensive roles, and Scott Selwood, professional tackler. It’s a decent grouping of good ordinary players.

    Geelong does look to lack a little speed, which is perhaps why they get exposed on the bigger grounds at times. Last year Gold Coast beat them convincingly at Metricon, and they don’t always look their best at the MCG – since their 2011 premiership they’ve lost six of their eight finals at the home of football.

    The Cats have some of the best top-end talent in the league, all of them mature, while their bottom end looks somewhat plain, and also quite inexperienced.

    Geelong has arguably the most unique home ground advantage in the league, and has six walk-up start victories coming from their nine games at Kardinia Park this season. Their other three matches there are against Sydney, Greater Western Sydney and Melbourne.

    The toughest part of their season comes through the bye period, with games against Richmond at the MCG, Western Bulldogs at Etihad, and then Sydney at the SCG off a six-day break – and back-to-back travel taking on Adelaide in South Australia. All four games, against expected strong opponents, are at the opposition home ground.

    Geelong will be part of the finals conversation once again in 2018, for that is who they are. The question now is whether Gary Ablett can bridge the gap between also-ran finalist and Joel Selwood standing on the premiership dias with a cup in his hand on the last Saturday in September.

    Prediction – fourth

    Cam Rose’s AFL ladder prediction
    5: Richmond Tigers
    6: Melbourne Demons
    7: Greater Western Sydney
    8. Essendon
    9. Hawthorn
    10. Collingwood
    11. Western Bulldogs
    12. St Kilda
    13. West Coast
    14. North Melbourne
    15. Fremantle
    16. Brisbane
    17. Carlton
    18. Gold Coast

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • March 15th 2018 @ 6:39am
      Slane said | March 15th 2018 @ 6:39am | ! Report

      We really should rename the ‘Rookie List’.

    • Roar Rookie

      March 15th 2018 @ 8:43am
      Wilson said | March 15th 2018 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      Obviously an elite midfield if they can stay fit, in fact arguably one of the best of all time (we will see), but elsewhere is so uninspiring. I don’t think the midfield and their strong home ground advantage (which is deserved) is enough to get them near the top 4. Not the way this season is shaping up. Too many teams on the up ready to take them down a peg.

      • March 15th 2018 @ 9:24am
        JW said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        I agree. If Ablett, dangerfield and Selwood all fire then top 4 is a strong chance but if 1 has injury troubles (and dangerfield and Ablett have already had minor setbacks) then the rest of the team doesn’t look that strong relative to the other top 4 candidates.

    • March 15th 2018 @ 8:54am
      JustAnotherVoiceOnTheInternet said | March 15th 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      For football’s sake I pray we see the holy trinity in action as much as possible this coming season. I sincerely hoped they didn’t win the premiership last year when it looked all but certain Ablett would be coming home. With him added, if they manage to take that next step and claim another flag I would not begrudge them that success.

      They seem to be the master’s of home and away football, so it looks as if another top 4 spot beckons. From my end I’ve got the Demon’s in 4th. I think (hope) they’ll do a GWS of 2016 and go straight from outside the 8 into the top 4, they certainly have the talent. Now let’s see if they have the mental strength and fortitude.

      My predictions:

      4th: Melbourne
      5th: Richmond
      6th: Adelaide
      7th: Port Adelaide
      8th: Essendon
      9th: Hawthorn
      10th: Collingwood
      11th: Western Bulldogs
      12th: St Kilda
      13th: West Coast
      14th: Fremantle
      15th: Brisbane
      16th: Carlton
      17th: North Melbourne
      18th: Gold Coast

      • March 15th 2018 @ 3:16pm
        Rex said | March 15th 2018 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

        Crows in 6th – interesting!

    • Roar Guru

      March 15th 2018 @ 9:19am
      Dalgety Carrington said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      Rather than Gary Ablett staying fit, they’ll probably be trying to nurse him through anyway, the biggest boost for Geelong could come from a fit Nakia Cockatoo having a big year. I think Tim Kelly will make a big difference too if he keeps true to form.

    • March 15th 2018 @ 9:20am
      Tom M said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:20am | ! Report

      Cats really are the masters of home and away football, always get enough wins to set them up for a run in September. Unfortunately in recent times this run has been short and they have been touched up badly. Not too dissimilar to North a few years back (all be it this team actually have A++ talent, North had a 38 year old), they have gone all in on winning a flag now and this year and the next is flag or bust.

    • March 15th 2018 @ 9:22am
      Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      A set of dodgy hamstrings and injury to Dangerfield sees the cats in 10 th

      At best a repeat of a prelim final massacre.