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Geelong Cats season 2021 review: Old heads fail to prevail again

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Roar Guru
12th October, 2021
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1345 Reads

We are onto the last three. Today’s subject the Geelong football club aka the retirement village of the AFL.

The Geelong footy club have a record for taking the most 30-year-olds on a list ever. The Cats have recruited for the now and they paid a king’s ransom to do so, but they have as of yet failed to win the ultimate prize.

In this review we have discussed what worked for the Cats, what failed for the Cats, the questions that remain before finishing with what the Cats can improve on going forward.

Now without further ado, let us begin with what worked for the Cats.

Click here to read Chuckakhan’s AFL 2021 season reviews.
What Worked:

The three-tall forward line
Geelong experimented with multiple forward line configurations to find the most suitable configuration; however, it was clear that their forward line was most dominant with Gary Rohan, Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins all playing down there.

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They combined for 133 goals across the season with Tom Hawkins ageing like fine wine and leading the goal kicking across the competition again for the second consecutive year with 62 goals.

The question remains whether they can fit Esava Ratugolea or whether that will make their forward line too tall? I believe they can fit into the same forward line particularly as Rohan has been found out in multiple big matches, and they need a forward like Ratougalea to stretch defences and provide chop out in the rucks. T

he other question is where are the pressure forwards going to come from? The Cats have an abundance of flankers in their list, but they lack that small mercurial forward with Brad Close more playing the high half forward role and Luke Dalhaus being exceptionally inconsistent.

The Cats have been linked to both Eddie Betts and Tyson Stengle for resolving this issue.

Their backline
The Cats backline might be old and slow; however, Chris Scott has been able to effectively create a backline that can mix and match with the best of them. They’re third in the league for rebound fifties (657) and second in the amount of intercept possessions they have (1337).

I believe the element that defines the Cat’s backline is the equitable distribution of labor they’ve created throughout the backline. Additionally, you can see the importance that Scott places on the performance of his back line with Jack Henry and Tom Stewart featuring in poll position in the Carj Greeves medal the latter of which who won the best and fairest despite missing half a dozen games towards the end of the season.

Furthermore, they might have problems disposing of the ball in the midfield, but their backline is able to effectively control the ball and suffocate the opposition.

The other element of the Cats’ backline that stuck out to me it was the willingness of the Cats to amend their structures to fit in Mark Blicavs who has played the offensive half back role to perfection for the Cats. However, the element at which the fall down is they lack a lot of line breaking run, and desperately need to get some speed on the outside.

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Patrick Dangerfield of the Cats looks on with blood on his face

The Cats. They are good but they are old. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Contested domination
The Cats dominated the ball at the coal face leading the league for contested possession (+108 on the nearest competitors Port Adelaide), while also dominating clearances in all their forms leading the league for centre clearances, total clearances and clearances around the ground indicating the strength of their midfield.

However, the trade-off is they’re third in total turnovers and second in the number of clangers they put out (1136, and 968 respectively).

This indicates that the Cats midfield are extremely good at winning the ball however they all too often butcher the ball out of the centre allowing sides with good defences to easily rebound against them. However, strangely enough the worst offenders in the turnover category are not Patrick Dangerfield or Joel Selwood, but Isaac Smith and Sam Menegola.

This indicates their tendency to blaze away on the outside and rely upon the abilities of their key forwards to mark the ball overhead, though part of this may be due to the fact that Dangerfield himself missed several weeks first through suspension and then injury.

What failed
Their advanced age

The Cats have a problem in that both their fringe players and their core players are all pushing thirty not leaving a lot of room for their developing players to force their way through.

Aside from a few players making cameos throughout the season the bulk of the star performances came from their veterans. They practically pulled the reverse Essendon where the Bombers were lauded for their willingness to play the kids and experiment with different configurations the Cats were rigidly bound by their orthodoxy.

Things got even worse as a result of the last two trade periods as the Cats gave up three first round picks to get Jeremy Cameron in the name of winning a premiership flag urgently.

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It wouldn’t be so bad if the Cats were willing to play at least some of their good first round picks instead Jordan Clark is attempting to force his way out of the Cats disillusioned by the lack of opportunity at the Cats.

The only player I can think of that has influenced the Cats heavily this year is Max Holmes who was the result of them trading their first round pick for this year. The Cats are heading for a cliff without a doubt and will need to consider whether they want to pre empt that in the name of getting good draft picks and surging back up the ladder.

Jeremy Cameron of the Cats (R) celebrates a goal with Tom Hawkins

Was getting Jeremy Cameron the right call? (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Mentality in big games
I am not just referring to their calamitous preliminary final, the Cats showed an inability to get the job done on the biggest stages this year. In Round 23 they dropped a 44-point lead to Melbourne in the second half, they were obliterated by a tough Brisbane outfit in the home and away season, they also dropped their qualifying final to an equally as flighty Port Adelaide.

Gary Rohan himself was emblematic of this having an atrocious finals series that included getting a single solitary disposal in the preliminary final and being subbed off in ignominious fashion. The thing that really stuck out to me was the desperation to go deeper into September but as soon as a modicum of pressure was applied they wilted.

Questions that remain
Where does the improvement come from?

The Cats line up is extremely stable without any major long term injuries. The other issue is it is clear that some players like Brandan Parfitt who’ve rested on their laurels relying on the exemplary work of Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood.

The other problem is ambitious players like Jordan Clark are trying to force their way out of Geelong because they’re not being given adequate opportunities. Losing their young talent hurts particularly for a side like Geelong as it means they will have to rely upon the older heads around the contest where the likelihood of injury is far higher.

Which of their veterans can play multiple position?
I ask this question with Joel Selwood in mind. He will have been captain for ten years next season, and is clearly a generational talent for the Cats. If they wish to keep their young talent they will need to look at moving established talent like Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood out to the flanks.

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I’m not too concerned about Dangerfield who has shown the ability in the forward line in the past, but Selwood has only ever been an inside midfielder and the talk of moving him to a flank may end up leading to a deterioration of his play. The trade off is his leadership is still vital for the Cats and is what may be keeping him in the best 22.

Joel Selwood and Chris Scott

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Solutions
Trade Jordan Clark

The Clark bridge appears to be completely burned in my opinion, and the Cats are not achieving anything by holding Clark to his contract.

They already have an over-abundance of half back flankers and by continuing to throw good money after bad they will only succeed in alienating Clark more so. Fremantle have come to the table with a legitimate deal and should be considered important enough to deal with.

Trade Gary Rohan if you can
Rohan’s habit of going missing in big games is far too punitive to justify taking him in for another year particularly if the Cats want to challenge for another premiership.

I guess they could play him further up the ground but they already have far too many wings and half back flankers so he’s out from those positions as well. The Cats have gotten the best they can out of Rohan and they should trade him or delist him while he still has currency.

Best and Fairest: Tom Stewart
Tom Stewart won the Geelong Cats and fairest despite playing five fewer games than the rest of the side. He averaged 24 disposals and 9 marks a game both of which are elite for a third tall defender. Stewart was able to win the best and fairest medal in just his fifth season being a local recruit in the 2016 AFL draft.

Best Win: Round 8 vs Richmond
The Geelong Cats put their best foot forward against the Tigers excising memories of last year’s capitulation in the grand final. They pummeled the Tigers in the second half with Gary Rohan, Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron combined for a huge fifteen goals while Cam Guthrie, Sam Menegola, and Mitch Duncan combined for a huge 92 disposals showing the value of their solid link up play.

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Gary Rohan

Gary Rohan (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

Letter Grade: F
I’m sorry but if you recruit as aggressively for the now as the Cats have I expect that you will at least improve on the last year’s performance. The Cats failed to do that, in fact they’ve gone backwards, yes it is harsh to grade them as a fail but they didn’t make the grand final so they’ve gone backwards.

Way too early prediction: 5th to 12th
The Cats will make finals next year but they will struggle to win as many games as they did this year at least if they struggle to develop different aspects of their game style they may decline even more. I think next year is going to be exceedingly important as to whether Chris Scott carve his name into the Geelong history as the Cats will be one more year older.

Well, there you have it folks. Was I too harsh on the Cats? Leave your remarks in the comments below and I will do my best to respond as soon as possible. Tune in tomorrow for my remarks on my most reviled foe the Western Bulldogs.

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