AFL 2021 Season Preview: Geelong Cats

Patrick Dangerfield and Tom Hawkins. Image: geelongcats.com.au

Geelong will have the 2020 Grand Final loss firmly in its mind heading into season 2021, with its primary goal for the season to go one better on its 2020 campaign and win a tenth VFL/AFL premiership.

Last year:

Grand Final Loss to Richmond

4th. 12 wins, 5 losses. 136.8%

Despite a Qualifying Final loss to Port Adelaide, the Cats surged into their eighteenth VFL/AFL Grand Final following two rousing finals wins – a 68-point Qualifying Final victory against Collingwood and a 40-point triumph over Brisbane in the Preliminary Final. 

Holding a 15-point lead going into halftime in the following week’s historic Grand Final, Geelong would ultimately fade late in the game. A late flurry of goals to Richmond seeing the Tigers run over the top and win by 31 points.

It wasn’t all bad news for Geelong though, as it finished with the highest percentage and most points of any team in the 2020 home and away season, largely thanks to its average winning margin of 35 points, and a sturdy win-loss record of 12-5.

Track watch:

A trio of young midfielders have been turning heads at the Cats this summer. Charlie Constable, Jordan Clark, and Cooper Stephens, who have collectively been unable to break into, or cement their positions in Geelong’s best 22 in past seasons, are all creating headaches for the Cats’ coaching group. 

Constable is “looking powerful around the ball” and “making an impact” in traffic, according to assistant coach Matthew Knights speaking to Cats Media on the trio.

Third-year midfielder Jordan Clark continues working to bolster his outside run and contested game in a bid to win his place back in the senior side, while Cooper Stephens has impressed with his stoppage and clearance work under the mentorship of Cam Guthrie and Joel Selwood. 

Forwards coach Corey Enright has also shared his excitement at the addition of experienced recruits Isaac Smith, Shaun Higgins, and Jeremy Cameron, who has recently recovered from a minor hamstring setback. Enright said the trio’s experience and football knowledge have been one of the most helpful aspects of their addition ahead of this season.

What to look forward to:

Cats’ Coleman Combo… and the rest of the forward line

Fans will be waiting eagerly to see the Cats’ new key forward combination of recruit Jeremy Cameron and 2020 Coleman Medalist Tom Hawkins. Geelong scored the most points of any side in the competition during 2020, with just three of its victories by a margin of fewer than 20 points.

Remarkably, the Cats also recorded five victories of 59 points or more across the season. With the addition of GWS’s all-time leading goalkicker to its list, Geelong’s forward line is suddenly looming as a nightmare for opposition backlines.

Add to that veteran duo Isaac Smith and Shaun Higgins, who both joined the Cats in last year’s trade period, as well as Luke Dahlhaus, Gary Rohan, and emerging star Gryan Miers, and Geelong’s forward line looks comfortably one of, if not the best in the competition.

With a return to 20-minute quarters in 2021, expect to see the Cats pile on the pain for their opposition and be among the competition’s highest-scoring teams once again.

It’s a big year for:

Having been on the fringe of selection thus far in his three seasons at the Cats, 2021 looms as a make-or-break season for Charlie Constable. With Geelong typically opting for experience in its midfield, Constable has previously been starved of opportunity at AFL level, even despite continually impressive showings in the VFL.

Constable will be hoping to cement his place in the Cats’ best 22 by the end of the season and has shown his ability to perform at the top level before, averaging 20.6 disposals from his nine AFL games. With additional work on his contested game during pre-season, Constable could be a handy asset for the Cats’ midfield, and should he get a chance in the senior side, will hopefully grasp the opportunity with both hands. 

Biggest unanswered question:

What happens if Geelong doesn’t win the flag in 2021?

Making four Preliminary Finals and one Grand Final in the past five seasons, Geelong has certainly been consistent in recent years. But with so many high finishes, what happens if the Cats don’t go a step further on their 2020 campaign?

A premiership will be the primary motivator for the Cats in season 2021, but with the league’s second-oldest list and most experienced by games played, Geelong’s time in the premiership window could be limited. With the retirements of Gary Ablett, Harry Taylor, and Jack Steven following the 2020 season, a number of the Cats’ other key cogs are also approaching the end of their careers. 

With a loss of such experience potentially around the corner, and having loaded up on experienced recruits in the off-season, it will likely be premiership or bust for the Cats in season 2021.

Coach pressure index:

Medium

Since winning a premiership in his first season as coach of Geelong in 2011, Chris Scott’s time at the helm has seen the Cats finish outside the top eight just once. Geelong has finished inside the top four in seven of Scott’s ten seasons as coach, with four Preliminary Final finishes, one Grand Final, and the 2011 Premiership.

With such a successful record in terms of ladder finishes and finals appearances, the fact that Geelong has only won one premiership under Scott is perhaps a talking point. A talking point that is starting to wear thin on groups of supporters.

Should the Cats fail to reach – or win – the Grand Final in 2021, more questions may need to be asked, but there’s no doubt Scott has been an excellent coach in his time at the Cats.

Ins:

Jeremy Cameron (Trade – GWS Giants), Shaun Higgins (Trade – North Melbourne), Max Holmes (National Draft – Sandringham Dragons), Shannon Neale (National Draft – South Fremantle), Isaac Smith (Free Agent – Hawthorn), Nicholas Stevens (National Draft – GWV Rebels), Paul Tsapatolis (category B rookie)

Outs:

Gary Ablett (retired), Nakia Cockatoo (Brisbane Lions), Lachie Fogarty (Carlton), Jacob Kennerley (delisted), James Parsons (delisted), Blake Schlensog (delisted), Jack Steven (retired), Jake Tarca (delisted), Harry Taylor (retired)

Predicted Rd 1 line-up:

B: Jack Henry, Mark Blicavs, Jed Bews

HB: Lachie Henderson, Jake Kolodjashnij, Tom Stewart

C: Mitch Duncan, Joel Selwood, Sam Menegola

HF: Gary Rohan, Jeremy Cameron, Shaun Higgins

F: Gryan Miers, Tom Hawkins, Luke Dahlhaus

R: Rhys Stanley, Patrick Dangerfield, Cam Guthrie

I/C: Isaac Smith, Zach Tuohy, Brandan Parfitt, Mark O’Connor

Ladder range:

1-4

With the addition of some experience and firepower to its forward line, as well as its already strong midfield, Geelong fans can once again expect a top-four finish. Expect the Cats to again go deep into the finals.

About Will Cuckson 55 Articles
Will is one of the Inner Sanctum's premier all-rounders. Not only does Will write on Aussie rules and cricket, you can also hear him on a number of our podcasts, including as the host on the SuperCoach Sanctum PODcast, a panellist on our cricket podcast Over and Stumps, and a key contributor on Ascending Olympus, our Olympics show. You can also find Will's graphic design work across the Inner Sanctum network, including the art for all our podcasts, creative articles and even the Inner Sanctum logo!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*