The Geelong Cats face a defining season after putting all its eggs in the “premiership” basket. With a host of ageing stars and a coach that is under severe pressure, what will 2022 bring for Chris Scott’s men?
3rd (16-6), 126.7%
A third-placed finish for the Cats in the regular season was thought to be the perfect spot for Geelongn to launch a premiership run but it was again found wanting in September. An indifferent season was highlighted by the Cats’ 97-point win over West Coast in Round 6 and then its 44-point loss to the Brisbane Lions in Round 14.
Geelong often did things the hard way with its gameplan and style often receiving its fair share of criticism. Slow and stagnant ball movement hindered the Cats numerous times in 2021 as they became unwatchable at different stages of the year.
Including finals, the Cats lost four out of their last six games with two of those losses coming against Melbourne. The double chance was needed as Port Adelaide swept them aside before a nervy win over the Giants put them into yet another Preliminary Final.
However, Geelong ran into the buzzsaw that was the Melbourne Demons, the hottest team in football.
The performance left many wondering exactly where the team goes from here after another horror show. A host of older stars and a game plan that needs tinkering, season 2022 is shaping as a defining one for Geelong.
Jonathon Ceglar (via Hawthorn), Tyson Stengle (Woodville West Torrens), Toby Conway (Pick 24 AFL Draft – Geelong Falcons), Mitchell Knevitt (Pick 25 AFL Draft – Geelong Falcons), James Willis (Pick 32 AFL Draft – North Adelaide), Flynn Kroeger (Pick 48 AFL Draft – Eastern Rangers), Cooper Whyte (Pick 64 AFL Draft – Geelong Falcons)
Lachie Henderson (retired), Darcy Fort (traded to Brisbane), Oscar Brownless (delisted), Jordan Clark (Fremantle Dockers), Charlie Constable (Gold Coast Suns), Ben Jarvis (delisted), Josh Jenkins (retired), Nathan Kreuger (Collingwood Magpies), Stefan Okunbor (delisted), Cameron Taheny (delisted)
It has been the older brigade that has set the training track alight this preseason. Most notably star forward Jeremy Cameron.
Having had his fair share of hamstring issues throughout the last campaign. He hasn’t missed a beat this season.
He has completed every training session and is looking to improve on his 39 goals from 15 games in his debut season for the Cats.
Other veterans in Zach Tuohy and Mitch Duncan are looking to build up their workload over the coming weeks. With a heavy expectation set to be put on the older stars, a faultless preseason is paramount for a deep finals push.
New recruit Tyson Stengle has hit the ground running with his new team. In a similar vein to Cameron, the diminutive forward has not missed a beat during the pre-season since his arrival and is settling into life at the Cattery rather well, and is in the mix for Round 1 selection.
What to look forward to:
The Cats signing Jeremy Cameron to tandem with Tom Hawkins was seen as a move that would solidify their premiership chances. We saw glimpses of what the duo could do last season. Now with a full pre-season together and more time to develop the cohesion that is needed at AFL level, the pair could be set to improve on their showing last year.
Another thing for Cats fans to look forward to is exciting youngster Max Holmes. The 19-year-old played nine games in his debut season, averaging 13 disposals with his lightning pace a feature. With another preseason under his belt, the midfield/forward could be set for a vastly improved season for the Cats.
It’s a big year for:
That may come as a surprise to many, but Geelong’s No.35 needs a big year. Despite missing a large portion of the year due to suspension and injury, the former Brownlow Medallist was well below his best, averaging 23 disposals last season, and could only muster eight goals in his 16 games.
The Cats superstar only surpassed the 30-disposal mark three times in 2021. Blessed with all the physical attributes needed, the 31-year-old could add another string to his already impressive bow and become a genuine goalkicker in 2022.
It might be surprising to suggest that he needs a big year. But when the AFL community has been used to his lofty heights for so long, that last season was somewhat surprising. A big year is ahead for the Cats midfield dynamo. If he wants to be considered a superstar of the competition, a huge lift is needed.
Biggest unanswered question:
How will the game-plan adapt?
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Geelong Cats has been its game plan. Last season saw them referred to as boring and the label fit perfectly at times. Slow ball movement and a lack of scoring made the Cats difficult to watch at times.
Can Chris Scott tweak his game plan in 2022?
The Cats were found wanting in the finals series as Scott’s gameplan failed and failed badly. A host of new coaches including former Blue and Crows champion Eddie Betts and former club great James Kelly have been brought in to shake up the coaching group.
Last season, the Cats were shown up by speed and quick ball movement, particularly in the finals series. Port Adelaide’s run, drive, and quick movement meant Geelong could barely lay a finger on them. This was on show again in the Preliminary Final loss to Melbourne in what was an alarming trend.
The Cats managed to get past a depleted Giants team but were underwhelming in doing so in what was the team’s only win in the finals series.
Can they turn around their game style to keep up with the rest of the competition? That is the biggest question mark that hangs over Chris Scott and the Geelong Cats this season.
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Coaching pressure index:
For many Cats fans, Chris Scott is in the hottest of hot seats coming into the new season. After going “all in” by acquiring Jeremy Cameron, Isaac Smith, and Shaun Higgins last off-season, it was Premiership or bust.
Well, last season the Cats were bundled out of the finals series by eventual premiers Melbourne in the Preliminary Final. So, this season, the end game should be the same. A Grand Final win or bust with an ageing list and a game plan that has been found wanting in September. Scott has it all to do in 2022.
Having been the Cats coach since 2011, when Geelong was in the Grand Final (which they won), the team hasn’t been back to the podium since.
Contracted until 2024, many have suggested that should another failed season happen and Scott can’t deliver a Premiership, his time may be up. If the Cats fail again after investing so much, serious questions will be asked, if they have not been already.
Predicted Round 1 lineup:
5th – 8th
Geelong has the quality in the squad to be a finals team. Having been previously written off due to the age of their team, do it at your own peril.
Finishing in the top four this year looks like a bridge too far. However, a top-eight spot is likely given the obvious quality Chris Scott’s side has. With the squad ageing, this could be the make-or-break year for the Cats.
With all its eggs in one basket, last season was a huge disappointment for Geelong. In 2022, Chris Scott is under pressure to deliver the club a premiership. He gave up some of the club’s future in search of success and it has not worked out.
It could very well be Cats legend Joel Selwood’s last AFL season. The Cats will want to send their superstar off with a premiership. Will they do it? The talent is there and with a host of coaching changes, Geelong could be a different team in 2022. A season of intrigue awaits.
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