In the early rounds of the season, a lot of us tip the outcome of games based on what our preseason expectations were of the clubs involved.
I was certainly guilty of doing that on Thursday night.
Rather than tipping Geelong, who I had tipped the previous two weeks (on the back of frighteningly good form in the JLT), I tipped Adelaide who I have expected to improve in leaps and bounds this season.
I am sure I speak for a lot of people when I say this… but why did I do that?
Geelong have started their season in sensational fashion and gave me no reason to tip against them.
It was my preseason expectation of Adelaide that influenced the tip.
The Cats look sharper in attack, tighter in defence and are averaging just over 68 tackles a game. That’s a great effort.
That tackling is also the first thing that caught my eye about the Cats in 2019.
I can’t say I was one for watching every preseason game and overanalysing every move, but I did tune in to Geelong’s JLT game against Essendon.
The defensive pressure was first class and they gave the Bombers no room to move, suffocating their midfield until the ball was turned over.
They are running desperately to create the contest to put the opposition under pressure.
That’s the difference between a good side and a great one.
This from Sam Menegola is just one of many examples:
Look how far back Sam Menegola was before spoiling Josh Jenkins.
— AFL (@AFL) April 4, 2019
That has been just one element of Geelong’s 2019 revamp.
Unlike his twin brother, Chris Scott fields his best, most in-form players in the 22, regardless if they’ve played three games or 300.
Six weeks ago most of the AFL world wouldn’t have known who Gryan Miers was – and now he’s the name on everyone’s lips!
And it’s not just the debutants, but the leaders are also stepping up for Geelong.
I’ll start with Patrick Dangerfield.
He’s one of my favourite players in the AFL and he’s one of the best in the business.
In the opening three rounds of the season he’s kicked at least one goal in every game, and is averaging 32 touches, 6.7 clearances and 4.7 tackles.
He’s off to a flyer.
So is the little maestro, Gary Ablett who is enjoying his start to the season a little higher up the ground.
And then there’s Tim Kelly, who most people forget is just in his second season of AFL because he looks as though he’s been out there for a decade.
I know what you’re thinking – it’s only Round 3 and anything can happen.
But since the end of 2006 and the review of then-coach Mark Thompson, Geelong has developed a strong administration behind the scenes, built up a winning culture on the field and successfully sustained that for over a decade.
Since that review, the club has won three premierships from five grand final appearances.
They boast three Brownlow medallists.
And they have a great player development program, bringing kids in and turning them into fantastic footballers.
It’s that development that has allowed them to bid farewell to the likes of Jimmy Bartel, Matthew Scarlett, Joel Corey, Paul Chapman, Corey Enright, Steve Johnson, Max Rooke, Tom Harley and Cameron Mooney (just to name a few) without impacting the on-field success too much.
Of course you’re never going to truly replace those names and what they did for Geelong during their careers, but there have been plenty of players standing up in their place.
Yes, there’s Selwood, Ablett and Dangerfield. But there’s also Tom Hawkins, Harry Taylor, Tom Stewart, Mark Blicavs, Mitch Duncan… just to name a few.
And if you want a true reflection of Geelong’s success, look no further than Joel Selwood.
At the end of Round 2, 2019 he’d played 272 career games.
203 of those are wins.
Just under 75 per cent.
As impressive as it is, I can understand where the annual prediction to fall comes from.
They have played finals in four of the last five seasons (2014, ’16, ’17 and ’18). From that, the Cats have won just two of their eight games. That’s where the doubt kicks in.
Those disappointing finals results stick out in our minds when making predictions for a new season.
But the memories we hold on to are those that the Cats look to analyse and improve on by the time the new season starts.
They come out fresh, they come out fighting and once again, they’re ready to push themselves into contention.
In this game you’ve got to be in it to win it. And Geelong is just about always in it.
Maybe it’ll be their year, maybe not, but they’ve had a sensational start to 2019.