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Cats have some finals demons of their own to deal with

Who kicked the Cat? A dejected Geelong leaves the MCG after last year’s preliminary final loss to Sydney. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Cats have some finals demons of their own to deal with

Luke Michael    

The feverish anticipation surrounding Friday night’s qualifying final clash at the MCG is mainly centred around Richmond and its quest to win their first final in 16 years.

But Richmond’s opponent Geelong, with its recent premiership dynasty and sustained on-field success in many ways the antithesis to the Tigers, will have to exorcise its own finals demons on Friday night.

Geelong has a finals strike rate of just 25 per cent since its most recent premiership triumph in 2011, winning only two of the past eight finals.

While this may not seem especially concerning, it is a dramatic drop off from the Cats’ formidable finals record during their premiership dynasty, which netted them three flags between 2007 and 2011.

Through this period, Geelong had a finals strike rate of 80 per cent, winning 12 of 15 finals and reaching four grand finals. That’s not to suggest the Cats haven’t had success post-2011, but clearly they haven’t capitalised on their finals campaigns over the last five years.

This is Geelong’s fourth top four finish in five seasons, but the Cats simply haven’t gone on with the job, instead suffering a number of frustrating losses.

Last year, they were blown out of the water against Sydney in their preliminary final, down by seven goals at quarter time. In 2014, they suffered a heartbreaking six-point loss to North Melbourne in the semi-final, becoming the first team to bow out in straight sets since West Coast in 2007.

And in the 2013 preliminary final, the “Kennett curse” was broken as Geelong blew a 19-point lead midway through the final quarter to suffer its first loss to Hawthorn since the 2008 grand final. Added to this was an upset loss to Fremantle in the 2012 elimination final, rounding out a disappointing recent finals record.

Is it time for Geelong to deliver? Patrick Dangerfield certainly thinks so, telling the media on Monday that the “time is now”.

“You put in all the hard work from rounds one to 23 to put yourself in a position to compete,” he said before his 200th game. “This is really when the season starts – this is when good teams become great.”

“Good but not great”’ is perhaps the best description for Geelong in recent years, but this finals series may be the one where everything falls into place again for the Cats to launch a serious premiership assault.

For one, the much-maligned pre-finals bye has gifted Geelong the return of its inspirational skipper Joel Selwood. The Cats have hit a rich vein of form, winning their last three matches, and are playing an opponent whom they have beaten their past 13 meetings.

With Adelaide and GWS both showing vulnerability in recent weeks, Geelong may be peaking at the right time.

But Friday night is especially pivotal because of the ramifications for the losing side, which will most likely face a knockout final against a rampaging Sydney team which has won 14 of its last 16 matches.

As demonstrated by their round 20 win over Geelong at Simonds Stadium this season, and their aforementioned preliminary final victory last year, the Swans have the wood on the Cats and would fancy their chances if they met in September.

A straight sets exit for the Cats would condemn them to a 2-8 finals record since 2012 – not a record befitting such a powerhouse club.

Chris Scott’s coaching legacy could also be defined this finals series, which is highlighted thus far by a premiership victory in his first season, with a star-studded side he was lucky enough to inherit. A premiership in 2017 would truly belong to Scott alone, with this team mostly forged during his coaching tenure.

Given the topsy-turvy nature of this season, neither a straight sets exit nor a grand final victory for the Cats would be particularly surprising.

Geelong fans though, are now used to a certain level of success, and will not accept mediocrity or honourable finals losses.

The Cats have the talent, experience and form to win the flag this year. And if they want to remain a powerhouse club, they need to drive away the finals demons of recent seasons. Preliminary final appearances will no longer cut it. The time for Geelong to deliver a premiership is now.

  1. Well,that wasn’t much chop. “The time is now”. We’re just not good enough. Chappy said on KROCK after the game that Scott doesn’t treat the players respectfully and has not trained them in contested ball. Exactly what we saw last night; little cohesion and a lack of willingness to go in hard.

    Motlop. Good grief.

  2. Saw little on Friday to change my mind about the Geelong coaching staff:

    Pre-game planning and strategy: B+. We are quite good at shutting down teams’ natural style (and even did so for much of Friday night)

    In-game strategy and flexibility: D+

    Team selection: F. We have had one or two taller players too many for almost three years now. It, and the refusal to drop Motlop until recently, have been baffling.

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