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Footyology countdown: Enough beyond the superstar trio?

An injury in the Cats’ second pre-season game against Essendon wasn’t ideal preparation for Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Footyology countdown: Enough beyond the superstar trio?

Rohan Connolly    

2017 record: 16 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw (3rd)
List age ranking (oldest to youngest): 4th
List experience ranking (most to fewest games): 7th
Footyology draw ranking (easiest to hardest): 9th

Gary Ablett (Gold Coast), Lachlan Fogarty (Western Jets), Tim Kelly (South Fremantle), Charlie Constable (Sandringham Dragons), Gryan Miers (Geelong Falcons), Stewart Crameri (Western Bulldogs)

Andrew Mackie (retired), Tom Lonergan (retired), Josh Cowan (delisted), Tom Ruggles (delisted), Steven Motlop (Port Adelaide), Darcy Lang (Carlton)

B: Jake Kolodjashnij, Lachie Henderson, Jed Bews
HB: Tom Stewart, Harry Taylor, Zach Tuohy
C: Sam Menegola, Joel Selwood, Mitch Duncan
HF: Mark Blicavs, Stewart Crameri, Nakia Cockatoo
F: Daniel Menzel, Tom Hawkins, Brandan Parfitt
Foll: Zac Smith, Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Ablett
Inter: Scott Selwood, Cam Guthrie, Cory Gregson, Lincoln McCarthy
Emerg: Zach Guthrie, Rhys Stanley, Jordan Murdoch

No discussion of Geelong’s prospects in 2018 can escape a heavy emphasis on the Cats’ “terrific trio” of Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett, a midfield dream team if ever there was one.

Each have been at some stage of the past decade close to if not the best player in the competition. The prospect of them working as one collective leading a midfield group is for Geelong mouth-watering.

Can there be a downside? Could so much of the spotlight being shone in the trio’s direction inhibit the growth of the support cast, or at least deprive them of the chance to take on more responsibility, thus a more even spreading of the load?

Geelong would argue strongly not, and with some justification. As good as Dangerfield and Selwood were for the Cats again last season, it’s not like they were merely a duet, fellow midfielders Mitch Duncan and Sam Menegola finishing second and sixth respectively in the best and fairest.

Throw in Scott Selwood, Cam Guthrie and a readymade-looking mature age recruit in Tim Kelly and you have a decent-sized midfield rotation. So why not more bullish about Geelong in 2018?

First, we’re a little worried about their backline, primarily, and specifically the impact of the loss of the retired Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie.

While Harry Taylor’s move back to defence in light of those retirements is a given, and while he and Lachie Henderson are more than handy key backmen, is there enough support around them?

Jake Kolodjashnij and Jed Bews are still a little underrated, and Zac Tuohy and Tom Stewart offer terrific run and rebound off half-back, but how stretched is Geelong going to be if even one of Henderson or Taylor in particular go down?

There’s only nine players on the Cats’ list officially classified as permanent defenders; that’s to fewer than any other team. And that’s a concern.

Another slight reservation remains how dramatically Geelong’s performance falls away when their intensity drops even slightly.

And that was notable even in a year the Cats played off for a grand final spot, most notably in three straight losses to Collingwood, Gold Coast and Essendon in the first half of last season, but also in their last three defeats – by 46 points against Sydney, and in two finals losses by 51 and 61 points.

Up forward, Geelong scores efficiently enough, though there’s still the question of support for key forward Tom Hawkins.

It’s the capacity of an import like Stewart Crameri, and three injury-afflicted smaller types in Nakia Cockatoo, Lincoln McCarthy and Cory Gregson to get some continuity then goals on the board which could make Geelong a lot more formidable still.

There’s no question Dangerfield, Selwood and Ablett are going to be a formidable force. They, however, remain three players in a 22-man side. And you only have to look at the last two premiers to realise just how important now is an even contribution across an entire team, not just the star class.

7th. Enormous talent at the top end. Does it run quite deep enough to take on the absolute best couple of teams in the competition? That is the question.

THE LADDER SO FAR (click on team to read)

  1. Another year … another Geelong slide predicted. It’s like an annual rite of passage now.

    Too much is being laid on Ablett’s shoulders and not enough attention being paid to what the Cats most glaring issue last year was. No fit small forwards. Cats drafted well to address this issue. A couple of fit small forwards also takes care of the perceived lack of forward pressure issue also.

  2. Geelong’s biggest issue is they’re too slow. With Lonergan and Mackie gone, they will lose some backline experience but their retirements may be a blessing in disguise, (as good a players as what they were), if they can inject some back line run. If Ablett can remain fit and Geelong can also find a couple of speedy little forwards, there is no reason why they can’t be at the pointy end come September.

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