2017: 2nd (lost in prelim to Adelaide)
Gary Ablett (from Gold Coast), Stewart Crameri (from the Western Bulldogs)
Andrew Mackie (retirement), Tom Lonergan (retirement), Steven Motlop (to Port Adelaide), Darcy Lang (to Carlton)
Million Dollar Question
Can the return of the messiah get the Cats over the hump? Geelong have clearly thrown their eggs all in the one basket, passing up on bringing in a youngster with the pick they were gifted after losing the maligned but talented Steven Motlop in free agency. Instead they chose to bring back arguably the greatest player in the clubs history, Gary Ablett. Though obviously still a supremely gifted footballer, the 2 time Brownlow Medalist will turn 34 midway through the season and could only manage 14 games in an injury interrupted campaign last year. While just the presence of the great man is sure to please the masses down at Kardinia Park, the Geelong Football Club are clearly in win now mode and will hope paying a hefty price for Ablett won’t come back to bite them in the long run.
Any team that boasts the top end quality midfield Geelong does has to be taken seriously. In fact, the league might not have seen a better trio than Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield, skipper Joel Selwood and dual Brownlow Medal winner Gary Ablett going at it in the same midfield. This is what leads many football scribes to believe that it is “flag or bust” for the Cats in 2018, given the hefty price they’ve paid to assemble such a midfield group. Believe it or not, this is not the group that will insure weather or not Geelong salute this September. In fact, it is the next group, the “second tier”, that the entire city of Geelong are so desperately waiting to make the grade. The young, dynamic group of players boast a list such as Nakia Cockatoo, Lincoln McCarthy, Jordan Murdoch, Corey Gregson and Jackson Thurlow. Geelong come from behind at 3 quarter time to win 6 times last season, and mostly due to the heroics of inspirational skipper Joel Selwood and the brilliance of Dangerfield. Half of those could easily have been losses, which could mean the difference between a top 4 spot or just making up the numbers in September. If just a few of the afore mentioned players can go to the next level in 2018, the Cats will once again be a “TEAM” to fear come September.
Like so often has been the case with Geelong in seasons gone by, the view of many is that this is a team too reliant on its star players, and there’s too big a drop off between them and the rest. Too many passengers, to put it bluntly. Of course, all teams need their stars to fire, but Geelong have an unhealthy reliance on their top echelon players. This was evident in two of their three finals last season in which both Selwood and Dangerfield failed to fire. In these finals, the Cats looked like a pretty ordinary footy side. They’re also slow. The Cats were run off their feet on three separate occasions at the MCG last year by the Bombers, Collingwood and Richmond, all sides who troubled Geelong with their pace. They’re even slower now with the loss of Motlop, therefore fans will be desperate for Cockatoo and first year player Tim Kelly to provide some run and carry on the wide open spaces of the MCG. The backline will also likely raise concerns at times this season, which is only natural when you lose so many games to retirement like the Cats this offseason in Mackie and Lonergan (485 to be exact).
One to Watch
The Cats have been really impressed with what they’ve seen from Tim Kelly this offseason, showing his impressive speed and goal nous during training drills down at the cattery. Kelly kicked 26 goals in the WAFL last season and finished runner up in the Sandover Medal. Cats fans will be hoping to see the 23-year old bring his tricks to the Cats forward line in 2018.
Geelong are expected to be there again when the whips get cracking this season, but it doesn’t look like the Cats will take that next step unless they have a few more of the second tier players come along for the ride and have career years. They’ve backed themselves into a corner the Cats, and expect the blow torch to be on them all off-season if they’re not able to at least advance to the clubs 18th Grand Final appearance.