Pre-Season Prediction: 4th
Current Position: 7th
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Premiership Odds: $5.50 (via TopSport)
A quick fire way to open your premiership window. Just get the best player in the comp in your team and your halfway there. Geelong looked at what they needed in the 2015 off-season and went out and got it, bringing in Lachie Henderson, Zac Smith, Scott Selwood and the aforementioned Dangerfield. A poor 2015 meant the Cats needed to find a short term solution.
So far this season it’s been a good campaign for Chris Scott’s men and their well within touching distance of the top four and they’ve proven that at their best, they’re the best team in the league. What’s worked in their favour is the form against top eight sides. Up until the Sydney loss, Geelong had beaten every top eight side in the competition and relatively easy too, if you discount the ten point win over GWS in round 11.
The problem with Geelong however, is that we haven’t seen enough consistent form from the Cats to warrant them being a comfortable premiership favourite. Their bogey has been the bottom ten sides, with poor losses to Carlton, Collingwood and St Kilda. Like I said their best form is scary but at times they can look like the seventh or eighth best team in the league.
What’s Gone Right?
A quick fix is what Geelong were after and that’s exactly what they got with Dangerfield. Since arriving at the club Geelong’s inside 50 and clearance numbers have risen. Last year, the Cats were the worst clearance side in the competition, averaging just 34 a game. This year that’s increased to 38 and has them equal fifth in the league. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that’s due to Dangerfield’s work in the middle. He was the best clearance player in league at Adelaide and he has retained his place, in his new home at Geelong.
With clearance numbers comes solid Inside 50 numbers and Geelong have improved again in that department in 2016. Last year Geelong were ranked 11th for inside 50s with 49 per game and this year, they’re the third best ranked Inside 50 team with 56 per game, so a decent jump. Although Geelong are getting the ball to their forward line on a regular basis, they’re not capitalising on the scoreboard, so either their disposal into the forward 50 needs to improve or the forwards need to present more efficiently.
So with the recruit of Dangerfield, it’s enabled the rest of Geelong’s midfield to free up. Selwood is improving his game and performing as good as he has in years, Cam Guthrie has been able to run through the midfield with no pressure and Jimmy Bartel is no longer relied upon to get 25 plus disposals a game. It’s not just Dangerfield though, Zac Smith is the ruckman Geelong have been crying out for since the retirement of Brad Ottens and has proven he is one of the best ruckman in the league. Lachie Henderson has also seemingly slotted down back and looks like he’s been playing with that group for years. The Cats have done well with their recruits, but it remains to be seen how well that bodes for the future.
What’s Gone Wrong?
Geelong’s contested possession numbers were significantly down last year and although there has been improvement on the average of 131 a game from 2015, 145 and seventh ranking in the competition is not good enough for a side that’s contending for a flag. Dangerfield and Selwood lead the way with 15 and 13 each game on average, but after that it drops off significantly. The next best is Josh Caddy with 9, and he’s currently out of the side due to injury. He may be more important to Geelong than commentators give him credit for. Geelong needs more from the likes of Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie, Steven Motlop and Mark Blicavs. All four are out of form at the moment, and it’s crucial that these players give more to the side in order for 2016 to be a successful year down at the cattery.
Inconsistency has been a massive problem for Chris Scott and his coaching staff this season with Geelong dropping games to teams that they should really be beating. Great wins have been followed with losses to the likes of Carlton, Collingwood and St Kilda and even losing to Sydney at home is seen as a game that the Cats should be winning. Inaccuracy at goal has cost Geelong in nearly all their losses this season with the Cats significantly outscoring their opponents in terms of shots at goal. That’s more down to the players themselves rather than the tactics and strategies implemented by Chris Scott. There are a lot of experienced players within the Geelong side and they need to be much better in front of goal because in a big game, it’s going to cost them dearly.
Undoubtedly it’s been star recruit Patrick Dangerfield, who is on another planet as opposed to the rest of the competition. Was it his 43 possession game on debut against the Hawks back in round one or his 48 possessions and two goal game against North in round twelve? Both were utterly fantastic games and his form throughout the year suggests he is the clear favourite to take Charlie home in September.
Zac Smith and Lachie Henderson have both been brilliant despite doubts over their respective places in the best 22 during pre-season. Smith has quickly established himself as the club’s No.1 ruckman, competing well in ruck contests before helping out at ground level and pushing the Cats forward.
Scott Selwood’s injury troubles have continued since arriving from the Eagles, but the on baller has since returned through the VFL and will push for senior selection in the coming weeks.
Sam Menegola enjoyed a superb AFL debut on the weekend, finishing with 26 disposals. Prior to getting the call up to senior footy, he collected 42 possessions against Werribee last week. Matthew Hayball, Ryan Gardner and Wylie Buzza have also all been playing consistent footy at VFL level.
The Run Home
Two big games in the next fortnight down In Geelong with Adelaide tonight being a memorable occasion for close mates Jimmy Bartel and Corey Enright with Bartel playing his 300th game for the club and Enright breaking the club’s games record. The Western Bulldogs follow the week after before games against Essendon, Richmond, Brisbane and Melbourne.
Geelong in truth, should win all their remaining the games and take their place within the top four come seasons end.