An interesting fact from the shortened 2020 AFL season was that only two clubs did not have any players capable of playing enough games this year to become new members of the top 100 elite game-players at that club.
Those two clubs were the grand finalists Geelong and Richmond, and it raises questions as to whether this was just a coincidence or part of the secret of success.
The two clubs had more existing top 100 game players at the start of the season than any of the other clubs that had been VFL/AFL members for more than a century and that was probably the more significant stat. Geelong had seven players who had worn the blue and white hoops for at least seven years but two of these retired after the grand final, leaving only five players to commence season 2021 among the Cats’ elite.
Gary Ablett and Harry Taylor served Geelong with great distinction with Ablett taking a seven-year sabbatical to join the Gold Coast Suns and lead the AFL’s attempt to conquer the North, thus finishing his AFL career as the 13th-greatest game player and the 75th-greatest goalscorer of all time.
Despite missing those seven years at Geelong, Ablett, regarded by many as the best footballer of all time, still left an indelible mark on the Cats, finishing his career as the 20th-greatest game player and the 13th-greatest goal scorer at the club. It is sobering to think that had he not left Geelong, Ablett would have surpassed the club’s record game holder’s total by 25 games.
His trophy cupboard includes two Brownlow Medals, six Best and Fairest awards, two premierships, a three-time leading club goalkicker and eight All-Australian selections over his 19-year career.
The other retiree was Western Australian Harry Taylor, a versatile player who was used to fill gaps wherever they appeared over the ground, and – although best known as a centre-halfback – he regularly kicked goals throughout his career, including 22 in the 2017 season.
As my favourite Geelong player, I was hoping that he would kick the three goals he needed this year to sneak into the top 100 Geelong goalkickers of all time but unfortunately, he managed only one.
Joel Selwood heads the list of those top 100 game players at Geelong who are continuing on in season 2021. Selwood sits at number 64 on the AFL elite games played list and number three on Geelong’s list.
If Geelong continues its now well-established habit of making the finals next year and Selwood has a good year with no injuries, form slumps or suspensions, he could well finish the year with the mantle of the greatest game-player ever at the Cats.
A similar tantalizing target applies to nearly all the other top 100 game players at Geelong: Tom Hawkins needs 23 games for the 300-game milestone, Cameron Guthrie needs 18 games for 200 and Mark Blicavs needs 21 games for 200. In addition, Patrick Dangerfield needs 17 games to make the top 100 list and Jake Kolodiashnij (who still has not kicked a goal in AFL football) needs to have played 22 games before season’s end for top 100 status.
The sums don’t quite add up for Mitch Duncan to reach the 250-game milestone, but a good season would see him climb into the top 20 game-players of all time at the Cats. All the current long-serving players at Geelong have the opportunity to enhance their position in the hierarchy at the club, but it will be well into the season before we will know the outcome.
Geelong’s four continuing top-100 goalscorers in order are Tom Hawkins, Joel Selwood, Mitch Duncan and Patrick Dangerfield with Dangerfield the only one likely to make any great advancement up the list.