Following Friday night’s second-half capitulation in losing a preliminary final to Richmond by 19 points, Geelong supporters will undoubtedly have questions about the match and the off season ahead which demand answers.
So here we are, attempting to add sense to those burning questions – done with one part informed opinions, and not too much knee-jerk reactionary responses.
That was a 40-point swing from halftime to full time. What happened, and who is responsible?
Obviously some would argue that the class of Richmond was too much to deal with. After all, the Tigers had not lost a match since falling to these same Cats in Round 12 back in June.
However the worrying signs were just as obvious to witness – most notably Dustin Martin being allowed inexplicably to run free down the wings and in behind the Cats’ defenders, and Tom Lynch being allowed to take high marks inside 50 with seemingly little resistance en route to kicking five goals.
Clearly certain members of the back six were highly culpable for missing assignments and not matching up properly on the likes of Martin and Lynch – among others – but this also comes down to coaching decisions and allocations at some point as well. And in a preliminary final, that’s inexcusable.
Does Geelong coach Chris Scott deserve blame for the loss?
In that context, absolutely. In the debate over whether he is a good in-game tactician who can make adjustments during the flow of play, these are elements where he must take the blame.
(Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
Will this match – yet another Geelong finals failure – cost Scott his job?
Very doubtful. Granted, there are many Geelong supporters who are tired of this club being ‘close, but not quite there’ in another September campaign and want Scott’s head served on a silver platter.
However in the big picture, being one good half of footy away from another grand final in a season where many of the so-called experts picked the Cats to finish anywhere between fifth and ninth on the ladder in their preseason prognostications is overachieving to a great degree. And Scott deserves credit for that in his coaching abilities.
Besides, it can be argued that the week before – when Geelong came back to beat West Coast in their semi-final – it was Scott’s in-game coaching that got them over the line and that arguably earned him a year’s contract extension already.
Tom Hawkins missed the preliminary final through suspension. How much was his influence missed?
Quite a bit, for sure. The later the game got, Geelong’s forward line was screaming out for one more tall forward who could take marks and it just wasn’t there. Esava Ratugolea is a good player who can evolve into Hawkins’ role over time, but he needed a good second tall forward to help him be more effective.
Lachie Henderson was not the answer, Harry Taylor was not sent forward often enough because his skill set was more greatly needed down back and Patrick Dangerfield’s play-making abilities were not going to be sacrificed from the midfield and stoppages.
Is another tall forward needed in the future?
Absolutely, given that Hawkins’ workload suggests that a bit of help is needed in big games. Trying to get another tall forward – preferably a younger one – to complement him in the trade period should be a priority for Geelong.
Otherwise, the commitment to promote a developing VFL club talent has to be assessed as soon as possible. Players such as Wylie Buzza, Darcy Fort, Ryan Abbott, and Nathan Kreuger are all ready to be given a chance to compete for the position at the top flight.
Is Tim Kelly as good as gone?
Not necessarily. Granted, a year ago he had made requests to return home to Western Australia – via a trade or otherwise – because of family realities over football dynamics. The only way he stays is if he has a reversal of reasoning – of football over family – and how much he may be enjoying his footy in Geelong.
And where he may be more likely to win honors and trophies, either in Geelong or for West Coast or Fremantle. If he wins the Brownlow on Monday night – as some have him as a legitimate dark horse candidate – then that may tip the balance for him staying at Geelong.
Why does Gary Ablett retire?
Because he has played 18 fantastic seasons, won two premierships with the Cats, two Brownlow Medals – one each with both Geelong and Gold Coast – is arguably the best and most complete player of his generation, has asked his body to do everything it can to make it through this past season and may have nothing left to prove.
(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Why does Gary Ablett not retire?
Because the competitive fire still burns bright within his soul. Whether he can get his body and fitness together for a 19th season is completely up to him, but is firmly within his grasp. After all he did kick the Cats’ opening goal against Richmond on Friday night, so his passion for winning trophies for himself and the club has not waned one bit.
Is it time for players from the 2007, 2009 and 2011 premiership class to move on?
Geelong definitely has a host of veteran players which the club must consider their futures upon. In addition to the debate over Ablett’s future premiership veterans Taylor and Joel Selwood – yes, even the captain isn’t untouchable – may have their futures examined, especially if the club seeks to blood younger players for the next generation.
Also, the contributions and potential of other veterans such as Henderson, Zach Tuohy and Zac Smith will have to be evaluated. However, an Ablett verdict on his own future will not act as a catalyst for the club making other decisions about its list.
Could Geelong benefit from a ‘youth movement’?
If results from recent recruitments are anything to go by, then this already exists as part of a work in progress. Not just players for the sake of youth or mature-age acquisitions, but also local recruiting and development is also working in the club’s favour.
Contributions from the likes of Gryan Miers of Grovedale, Tom Atkins of Newtown and Tom Stewart of South Barwon shows that the plan – done intentionally or otherwise – is working.
As a Venn diagram can be drawn between the two trends – with either circle showing significant results – it would make sense to continue with it.