Who are the Cats players who should play to their optimum level in 2021? To be eligible for selection, a player must have played at least five games in 2020, so there can be a reference point as far as those players who apply their talent the best at AFL level.
There were some tough choices made, leaving various players out, but the toughest choice was made regarding the selection of Patrick Dangerfield.
When the likes of Joel Selwood, as well as recruits Jeremy Cameron and Isaac Smith, don’t make the cut then there’s bound to be competition for a place in the Cats’ best 22 in 2021.
Here are the ten players (plus an honourable mention) who will stand out from the pack in season 2021.
Brandan Parfitt worked hard defensively with the highest average tackles for the Cats, with 5.94 tackles per game, in season 2020. He featured in 18 games.
Parfitt had 23 tackles in the Cats’ last three finals games. It’s a make or break year for him in season 2021.
10. Shaun Higgins
Higgins should be a revelation for the Cats if his consistent performance in season 2020 is anything to go by; he averaged the most disposals of any Kangaroos player with an average of 21.35 disposals per game.
He had a respectable disposal efficiency average of 75.50 per cent. The Cats wouldn’t have signed him for two years, despite the fact that he is turning 33 this year, if they didn’t believe he had the talent and ability to play to a decent level.
9. Jed Bews
Bews finished seventh in the Cats best and fairest in season 2020, featuring in 20 games.
He had the fifth-highest disposal efficiency of any Cats player with an average of 77.52 per cent. Expect him to be a consistent performer and look for him to maintain his position and contribute in the Cats’ best 22.
8. Jack Henry
Henry played every game in season 2021. He averaged a respectable 3.90 marks per game.
Henry had the ninth highest disposal efficiency with an average of 75.10 per cent. Expect him to gain confidence from finishing eighth in the Cats best and fairest.
He will have more onus on him from the perspective of his importance to the team, given the retirement of Harry Taylor. Along with that, Lachie Henderson is coming towards the end of his career and Mark Blicavs can play at centre halfback, but is a utility who plays the role of a second ruckman.
Expect Henry to improve and grasp the opportunity of the team being more reliant on him.
7. Tom Hawkins
Hawkins was picked at full-forward in the All Australian team in season 2020 and he also won the Coleman Medal. He featured in all 21 games that the Cats played in, with an average of 2.33 goals per game and he finished second in the Cats best and fairest.
There should be less onus on him to play at his optimum level is season 2021, given the recruitment of key forward Jeremy Cameron from the Giants.
6. Patrick Dangerfield
Danger featured in every game the Cats played in season 2020 and was named captain of the team, on a half-forward flank. Despite that fact, he finished fourth in the Cats best and fairest.
He’s had an interrupted pre-season, due to injury, which should hinder the endeavour he can exert in the opening few games. Regardless of that impediment, he will be doing everything within his power to get the Cats back to the grand final and contending for a premiership in season 2021.
To combat his injury, he may play more forward time.
5. Sam Menegola
Menegola was named in the All Australian squad in season 2020 and it could be argued he warranted a spot on the wing when the final 22 players were selected. Despite that, he finished sixth in the Cats best and fairest.
He featured in every game, with the second-highest average disposals of any Cats player, with an average of 21.19 disposals per game. He is a player that reads the game exceptionally well, which can be summed up by the mark and the subsequent set shot goal he kicked from outside fifty that would have gone down in history had the Cats won the premiership in 2020.
He is a player that doesn’t have to overwork, given the manner in which he anticipates situations where the ball is in dispute.
4. Mitch Duncan
Duncan averaged the fourth most disposals of any Cats player in season 2020 with an average of 20.35 disposals per game. He featured in 20 of the 21 games that the Cats played.
Despite not being selected in the All Australian squad, he finished fifth in the Cats best and fairest, one place above Menegola. The fact that Duncan had an average of 3.40 tackles per game, the sixth-highest of any Cats player, is a clear indicator that he’s willing to work hard on the defensive side of his game.
3. Mark Blicavs
Blicavs featured in the All Australian squad in season 2020. He is a player that puts in a lot of work and applies himself well; he doesn’t take his position in the Cats’ best 22 for granted.
He played every game in 2020 and finished third in their best and fairest. He would like to improve on his average of 12.52 disposals per game in season 2020.
Despite that, he had the highest disposal efficiency average of any Cats player with 84.82 per cent. He averaged 8.62 hit outs per game, which clearly indicates he is a utility player that can play as a second ruckman.
2. Tom Stewart
Stewart featured in 18 games in 2020. He is a player that never shirks a contest.
He was particularly impressive in the grand final, where he created plenty of run out of defence. He averaged the fifth-highest disposals of any Cats player in season 2020, with an average of 19.11 disposals per game.
He had the third-highest disposal efficiency of any Cat in 2020 with an average of 82.57 per cent, which is impressive for a defender.
1. Cameron Guthrie
Guthrie was selected on the wing in the 2020 All Australian team. Despite that, he is more of an inside midfielder, with Duncan and Menegola normally playing on the wing.
He won the Cats’ best and fairest in 2020 and averaged the most disposals of any Cat with an average of 21.33 disposals per game.
He has the ability to keep on performing at an optimum level in season 2021 as he is still under 30 years of age and has become a regular and imperative part of the Cats team.