For a moment there in the draft, I looked at Geelong’s haul of young talent and almost reconsidered my guess that Geelong will struggle this year.
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In Round 15, Etihad Stadium played host to what many saw as the end of Geelong’s season. On the back of one kick, Geelong was relegated from top-four fancies to a team not worthy of their place in the eight.
However, such hysteria, is merely that, hysteria. Had Harry Taylor been more accurate, the Cats would be entrenched inside the eight and fighting for a home qualifying final.
Geelong’s chances of making the top-eight are still high. Out of the seven games remaining, four are at GMHBA Stadium, two at the MCG and the outlier is their clash against Adelaide on Thursday night.
Geelong also has the third highest percentage, behind only Melbourne and Richmond.
It is undoubted that Geelong’s home-and-away form has been less consistent than many inside and outside the club would’ve hoped. However, Geelong has demonstrated they have the ingredients required for success on our games grandest stage.
The notion that premierships are won on defence is synonymous with our game. To quote Malcolm Blight; “Forwards win Coleman Medals. Midfielders win Brownlow Medals. But do not underestimate the importance of defenders in winning premiership medals.”
Such a notion is not merely rhetoric.
Since 2008, only three grand final sides have finished outside the top-three in points conceded that year.
The last two years have supported as such.
In 2017, we remember the free-flowing, dominant grand final performance the Tigers produced against the Crows. However, the Tigers campaign was one built on defence.
Richmond was the second lowest scoring side from the top nine teams.
In Richmond’s three finals, they restricted their opponents to just an average 55 points. Notably, they kept Geelong to 40 points (season average of 97) and Adelaide 60 (season average of 110).
2016 witnessed a similar trend. The Bulldogs were only the 12th highest scoring team during the home and away season, but the third stingiest. Finals saw the Bulldogs contain their opponents to an average of just 71.5 points.
When it comes to defence in 2018, Geelong is the AFL’s benchmark. Astonishingly only conceding 69 points on average, the lowest in the AFL.
Mark Blicavs and Tom Stewart have replaced the ageing superstars of recent seasons.
In 2018, the Cats have held Sydney (59 points), North Melbourne (59 points), Collingwood (45 points) and Port Adelaide (50 points) to well below their season average. They also held Richmond to their lowest score at the MCG this season.
The Cats will hope to welcome back veteran defender Lachie Henderson as he recovers from an ongoing knee injury.
The Cats have a finals hardened spine, and their phenomenal defence puts them in a great place to contend come September.