Cats primed to pounce again

29 March 2012

Written by: Jake D'Amato

Quick Glance at 2011

The departure of star midfielder, Gary Ablett Jnr. and the arrival of the inexperienced Chris Scott as head coach over the summer had many experts tipping that 2011 would be the year that the Cats began to slide down the ladder.

However the message obviously didn’t make it to Kardinia Park.

A scintillating 14 game win streak at the start of the season got the ball rolling and from there the Cats rarely looked back. Finishing second after a solid home and away campaign, Geelong stepped up into a class of their own in September, dominating throughout the finals series and finishing it off in style by beating a much fancied Collingwood outfit by 38 points in the Grand Final.

Much of their success came from Chris Scott coming in and not changing too much to their previous winning formula, but rather fine tuning it to make it more reliable and effective. Geelong kicked the ball far more than they had in previous seasons, and would often try to hit a target further down the pitch rather than resort to short handballs.

The emergence of young talent was another one of the key reasons to their success, as they had excellent squad depth which allowed them to cover losses without too much trouble for most of the season. The likes of Daniel Menzel, Allen Christiansen and Mitch Duncan were so impressive it also really challenged some of the older brigade and forced them into stepping their own games up to higher levels just to stay on the team.

Key Player for 2012:

Joel Selwood

With Cameron Ling retiring over summer, Selwood has been named the new club captain meaning that his already pivotal role will be even more important to Geelong this season. As one of the best midfielders in the competition, there are very few doubts over the 23 year-olds ability to perform week in week out in a football sense, however he is relatively untried as a leader.

Being such a young captain in a side that is packed with a wealth of experience will be a huge challenge for him, especially after his predecessor Ling was such a popular character around the club. However if anyone can take that pressure and turn it into results, it’s Joel Selwood. Expect another big year from him on and off the pitch.

3 Most important games and why?

Rd 1 vs. Fremantle

The first game of the season is always a big one, and Geelong will be desperate to take off from where they left off at the end of last season. However, the long trip west is never an easy one, even if Fremantle are some way off being Premiership contenders. It will be a big test to see how Geelong have covered their various off season retirements and there will be plenty to prove for several young players.

Rd 2 vs. Hawthorn

Geelong and Hawthorn have always had a solid rivalry, but since the 2008 Grand Final when the Hawks pulled off a shock win over the odds on favorite Cats, the rivalry has intensified. Some of their matches in recent seasons have been titanic, with both sides playing at a ferocious intensity for four quarters. With both sides among the favourites to go all the way, this should be no different.

Rd 8 vs. Collingwood

After the dominant season that Collingwood had last year, losing in the Grand Final was a very bitter pill to swallow. Revenge will be the only thing on the Pies players minds come round 8 as the two square off for the first time since that Grand Final. And make no mistake; Geelong will not be in the mood to hand over bragging rights either. A win could be the boost that spurs either side onto glory.

What to expect in 2012

It will be interesting to see in the early rounds just how important some of Geelong’s retirements over the summer break were to the team, but there won’t be too many Cats fans worried about a massive fall from grace.

Anything less than finals football, or even a top four berth, will be considered a huge disappointment, and based on the strength of their first 22, not to mention plenty more exciting young talent coming through, Geelong are once again well placed to be in major contention for the Premiership crown come September.

Ladder Prediction

1-4

Tom Midwood is a first-year Bachelor of Sports Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Midwood.