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Opinion

Geelong’s Mr. Fix-It continues to be the Cats' diamond in the rough

10th May, 2023
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(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Roar Rookie
10th May, 2023
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Where do we play Mark Blicavs this week? That is a question Geelong Cats head coach Chris Scott and his lieutenants must debate every week.

Blicavs is a rare breed of modern AFL footballer. He can play as a ruckman, key defender, wingmen or onballer. One week you will see him playing on Buddy Franklin or Taylor Walker – the next on Lachie Neale or Clayton Oliver.

Blicavs possesses a unique combination of height (198cm) and running prowess that is unmatched in the AFL.

His history as a near Olympic level steeplechaser gives him the aerobic capability to play in any position without requiring a rest. For context, Blicavs’ personal best 2km time trial is five minutes and 39 seconds.

Nick Daicos won Collingwood’s 2km time trial this preseason with a time of 6 minutes 32 seconds – some 53 seconds slower than Mark Blicavs.

Throughout 2023, Blicavs continues to provide Chris Scott with extreme flexibility and adaptability at the selection table.

Rory Lobb of the Dockers and Mark Blicavs of the Cats contest the ruck

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Injuries to first choice ruckman Rhys Stanley and youngster Sam De Koning? Blicavs can cover the Cats’ ruck duties.

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A week’s rest for the ageing Mitch Duncan or Zach Tuohy? Blicavs can slot into the Cats’ back six with ease. A dodgy hamstring sidelining Patrick Dangerfield? Blicavs can flow through Geelong’s midfield rotations.

Blicavs role diversity has been his career’s greatest strength. Early in his career (2013-2015), Blicavs spent most of his game time in the ruck (42% of 2013 playing time, 28% of 2014 playing time and 42% of 2015 season time).

Throughout 2016 and 2017, he was shifted to a midfield role (40% of playing time in 2016 and 37% of playing time in 2017).

From 2018 to 2022, Blicavs became a staple in the Cats’ back six (2018 – 84% of playing time, 2019, – 76% of playing time, 2020 – 40% of playing time, 2021 – 54% of playing time).

Finally in 2022, Blicavs spend 41% of his playing time in the ruck, with this support assisting Rhys Stanley to experience a career-best season in the blue and white hoops.

Blicavs’ pure footballing nous and ability has also improved across his 235-game career. Last season (aged 31), Blicavs polled a career-best 9 Brownlow votes as he regularly plugged holes across Geelong’s line-up.

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This year, Blicavs have continued his role as the Cats’ everywhere man. From rounds 1-5, Blicavs played predominantly as a defender, with the Cats attempting to cover early season injuries to premiership players Jake Kolodjashnij and Jack Henry.

Over the last month, Esava Ratugolea’s defensive emergence and longer-term injuries to Sam De Koning (round 7) and Rhys Stanley (round 5) have meant that Blicavs services have been required in the ruck.

Whilst in the twilight of his career, the Cats continue to see Blicavs as an integral piece of ammunition, extending his contract to 2025 earlier this year.

The Cats continue to understand that Blicavs is highly dependable, having played more than 20 games in each of his 10 AFL seasons.

What position will Blicavs play for the remainder of the season? Your guess is as good as mine.

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