After coming so close, but so far, to a premiership in 2019, Geelong entered 2020 with surprisingly little hype for a reigning minor premier.
Tim Kelly has stamped himself as one of the premier midfielders of the competition, putting together one of the best first two years of an AFL career in recent memory.
He has played all 48 games possible since his arrival at Geelong, proving very quickly that he was a ready-made midfielder out of the WAFL.
Over his first two seasons, Kelly has averaged over 24 disposals, five clearances and 11 contested possession per game, also proving his versatility by booting 48 goals from those 48 games.
His remarkable 2019 campaign was capped by his first All-Australian blazer and a fifth-place finish in the Brownlow, encapsulated perfectly in his final game in the blue and white hoops, amassing 31 disposals and three goals, almost single-handedly dragging the Cats over the line in their preliminary final against Richmond.
For the second straight year, however, Kelly has requested a trade back home to Western Australia and looks likely to be wearing an Eagles jersey come Round 1 next year. Kelly has been one of the Cats’ top three midfielders over the past two seasons, which begs the question: how will Geelong cope without Tim Kelly?
Kelly’s departure will leave a big hole in the Geelong team, but this also opens an opportunity for some of their younger players to thrive through the midfield group.
The midfield will still be lead by superstar Patrick Dangerfield and more than likely Mitch Duncan will be seen as the number two midfielder. But Geelong has a host of other players waiting in the wings for an opportunity like this to present itself.
Charlie Constable showed promising signs across his first seven games in 2019, averaging 21 disposals before spending the rest of the year in the VFL. Quinton Narkle was the opposite of Constable, spending much of the season in the VFL before cracking into the AFL side for the final six games of the year, providing a spark through the middle of the ground and an injection of pace in the Geelong forward line.
Brandon Parfitt is another who Geelong hope will take the next step, spending large amounts of time through the midfield during their 2019 campaign, averaging 18 disposals and five tackles. Sam Menegola is similar to Parfitt, showing signs that he could develop into a starting midfielder but not yet showing the consistency, only managing 12 games in 2019 (some missed due to injury).
Cam Guthrie is another option for the Cats to step into Kelly’s role, another who has showed signs throughout his career but never showed durability and consistency, only managing one season where he played every game possible for Geelong. However, Guthrie’s 33 disposal and eight clearance semi-final against the Eagles proved that he is more than capable of filling the hole left by Kelly in 2020.
The ever-reliable Joel Selwood will always be there when the Cats need a spark, as proved during their finals campaign, however he is turning 32 next year and is entering the twilight stage of his career. Chris Scott moved Selwood out to a wing for much of 2019 but Selwood proved he still does his best work in the centre square and without Kelly, may need a more permanent role in and around stoppages.
These players will all be eager to prove themselves to Chris Scott over the preseason as a permanent role in the Geelong midfield is well and truly up for grabs. Their trades over the offseason could also open up more possibilities, with four-time St Kilda best and fairest winner Jack Steven expected to join the club during the trade period.
So, it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom Cats fans, yes you will lose one of the star midfielders in the competition, but this could pave the way for another young star to become a household name.
Cats fans should also know to always trust in Stephen Wells and his recruiting team, they will find a way to get the job done.