In this compressed 17-game season, despite travelling to Perth, Queensland and Adelaide to play games from the fourth round onwards, Geelong have become one of the in-form teams of the competition.
Taking nothing for granted, this season there have been a few teams to watch for a crack at the premiership, including Port Adelaide, Geelong, Brisbane and Richmond. I reckon they are going to be the top four teams by the end of the home-and-away season.
Let’s look at Geelong. They’re one of the exciting teams to watch this season, as they have been from 2007 until 2019 when they missed the finals in only 2015. But ever since their last premiership in 2011 Geelong have underachieved in finals, with four preliminary final losses in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2019, two elimination final losses in 2012 and 2018, and a straight-sets loss in 2014.
For those years they played in the preliminary finals, barring 2013 match, which they lost in a cliffhanger to Hawthorn, the game was lost in the first quarter. The same pattern applies for the elimination final loss to Fremantle in 2012 and Melbourne in 2018, in which they gave the opponent a five-goal head start in the first quarter that ultimately was the difference between winning and losing.
Last year Geelong were leading at halftime in the preliminary final but could not sustain the advantage when the pressure was turned on. Tom Hawkins and Mitch Duncan were sorely missed during the match.
Fast-forward to 2020, and barring the first-round loss to GWS and the first-quarter fade-out against Carlton, Geelong have been playing good, sustainable footy with strong defence and attack and generally good form on the contested ball and at the stoppages.
To bury the preliminary finals loss, the Geelong team of 2020 is more level-headed, better focused in their tasks, fitter coming back after the COVID-19 break and – touch wood – will be lucky with injuries.
With the condensed fixture Geelong were able to come back from a bye and grind out a victory against Adelaide last weekend, so the extra day’s rest could potentially help the team manage player load and help the recovery process.
There is some similarity between Geelong 2020 and Geelong 2007. After the first five rounds of 2007 Geelong were sitting with 2-3 win-loss record, but then in Round 6 they beat the Tigers at the MCG by 150-plus points and went on to win the next 19 of 20 games, the only loss coming to Port Adelaide in Round 21 by less than a kick. They of course claimed the flag that year.
Richmond now is the experienced team when it comes to finals campaign, having won two flags in the last three years. Their best game is good enough to kick a winning score against any team.
I can see Geelong winning the contested possessions and centre clearances for the year. The only difference is in 2007 we had dominant ruckman Brad Ottens, but if Rhys Stanley can stay fit throughout the finals, I like Geelong’s chances of getting a shot at the grand final.
Of course Geelong will have good motivation to win the flag given it’s the last season for Gary Ablett Jnr and Harry Taylor. How sweet it would be for both Geelong champions to win the flag in their final game.