Geelong has the greatest winning percentage of any club in this decade, yet only have one premiership to show for it after some dismal showings in September.
Geelong finished second in both 2016 and 2017, however, they were bundled out with ease by the Swans and the Crows before being minor premiers in 2019 and losing to the future premiers in Richmond.
Geelong had a topsy curvy type of trade period, losing superstar Tim Kelly to the Eagles before acquiring Jack Steven and Josh Jenkins from the Saints and Crows respectively.
Going deep into September is yet again expected for the Cats and going by recent history there’s nothing to suggest they won’t, but what goes up must come down and the Cats aren’t getting any younger.
FB: Jake Kolodjashnij, Mark Blicavs, Mark O’Connor
HB: Zach Tuohy, Harry Taylor, Tom Stewart
C: Jordan Clark, Joel Selwood, Mitch Duncan
HF: Brandan Parfitt, Esava Ratugolea, Luke Dahlhaus
FF: Gryan Miers, Tom Hawkins, Gary Ablett
FOLL: Rhys Stanley, Patrick Dangerfield, Jack Steven
I/C: Cameron Guthrie, Tom Atkins, Jack Henry, Quinton Narkle
Geelong statistically had the best defence in the competition this year, conceding the fewest amount of points of any team throughout the home-and-away season.
It’s hard to see that dropping away too significantly, however, one of Jake Kolodjashnij or Jack Henry might have to improve considering it is unlikely that Harry Taylor will play as well as he did last year due to his age and injury concerns.
The defence was led by Mark Blicavs, who had a tremendous year and showed himself to be one of the best defenders in the league, while Tom Stewart had another great year winning another All-Australian jacket.
There have been plenty of people suggesting that the Cats backline is too tall, but clearly, it’s working for them and the way they play. No small forward really got a hold of them last season and ironically it was the Tiger tall in Tom Lynch that snatched a grand final appearance from their grasp.
The Cats back six will continue to be one of the best in the competition in 2020 due to their relative youth and will hold the club’s finals fortunes in good stead.
Even with the loss of Tim Kelly, the Cats still have one of the best midfields in the competition with superstars Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood leading the way.
Not only did the midfield rank first in goal assists and tackles per game in 2020, they completely stifled the opposition’s midfield’s ability to do anything constructive against them.
They conceded the fewest amount of kicks against them last year, the second-fewest amount of disposals against them per game and the fourth-fewest inside 50s against them which obviously helps out the back six in a major way.
Dangerfield was close to winning another Brownlow in 2019 and has at least a few good years left in him, Joel Selwood is the club’s leader and steps up in finals every year while guys like Mitch Duncan, Jack Steven, Cameron Guthrie and Gary Ablett complement the midfield beautifully.
Admittedly, the loss of a 25 disposals per game midfielder who kicked 24 goals last year and was arguably the best player on the ground in the preliminary final in Tim Kelly will hurt, but if Jack Steven can get anywhere near back to his best and guys like Guthrie and Jordan Clark improve, it’ll soften the blow.
The Geelong forward six is, without doubt, their biggest weakness. Admittedly, they ranked third in points per game last season, but a lot of that was to do with guys like Tim Kelly (24 goals), Patrick Dangerfield (27 goals) and Gary Ablett (34 goals) contributing in a big way.
Kelly isn’t there this year which hurts, Ablett is another year older and dropped away significantly in the second half of the year and they didn’t do anything to address their problems at the trade table.
Josh Jenkins was recruited for the Crows and could potentially play the majority of the season, even though he was very poor last year at Adelaide. The issue with them recruiting him is that I don’t think they can play all of Esava Ratugolea, Tom Hawkins, himself and Rhys Stanley in the same team.
They lack a dominant small forward when Ablett isn’t in the forward 50. Gryan Miers played well last year but is still largely unproven, while Luke Dahlhaus, Brandan Parfitt and Quinton Narkle are all more midfielders than small forwards.
The forward line is a clear issue during finals, displayed last year by them producing scores of 51, 88 and 66 in their three finals games.
If they don’t address the issues with their forward line in 2020, it’s hard to see the Cats reaching their ultimate goal of a tenth premiership.
Geelong hasn’t missed finals for a very long time now and it’s hard to see that changing this season.
The nucleus of a brilliant midfield is still there with the likes of Dangerfield, Selwood, Duncan and Steven while the defence will continue to be one of the best in the competition.
Whether Geelong can take the next step, like every team, will rely upon the likes of Clark, Narkle, Parfitt, O’Connor and Miers having breakout seasons.
It will be another good year to be a Cats supporter as they play in another finals campaign.
Predicted finish: sixth.