GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 18: Brad Close of the Cats celebrates a goal with Brandan Parfitt during the 2021 AFL Round 05 match between the Geelong Cats and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at GMHBA Stadium on April 18, 2021 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

New year, same old Geelong, emphasis on the old. Jokes aside, the Cats have found themselves in premiership contention year after year, but always find themselves coming up short at the end. Here's our review of the Cats' 2021 campaign.

Season Finish: 3rd
Record: 16 wins, 6 losses

2021 season snapshot

After making the grand final in 2020, expectations for this season were through the roof. Those at the Cattery had to make the grand final, anything less would have been seen as a failure.

This was furthered with the off-season recruiting, going all out and acquiring Jeremy Cameron and veteran duo Shaun Higgins and Isaac Smith.  This would have ideally set them up nicely to win the flag.

Early rounds were average for Geelong, which was highlighted by an upset loss to the Crows, who were expected to finish low on the ladder.

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They bounced back by smashing the Eagles in Round 6 by 97 points, and two weeks later won the grand final rematch, downing the Tigers by 63 points.

The Cats did what was expected and made the top four yet again, but a subpar finals series ended with an 83-point prelim exit to eventual premiers Melbourne.

Star Player: Tom Stewart

Enjoying a career-best season, Tom Stewart claimed his maiden Carji Greeves Medal this year.

Shining in a highly touted defence, Stewart led the backline with his crucial run and carry game.

The 28-year-old missed the final five games of the season, and was sorely missed as the Cats lost three of those games.

Stewart also earned his third All-Australian blazer this year, and is seen by many as the club's next captain.

Breakout player: Jack Henry

While everyone does knock Geelong for being old, one name that should excite fans for the future is Jack Henry.

The 23-year-old enjoyed a consistent season that saw him average 14 disposals, 5.0 handballs and 2.3 intercept marks. All ranking above average.

He capped off the year finishing second in the best and fairest count by just two points.

The defender/utility was dropped for Round 1 but made his way back into the team to feature in all the remaining games.

Henry finds himself as one of the few young players to find his place in a team filled with veteran stars.


The three-headed monster: Experimenting with multiple combinations, Geelong's forward line was most dominant when Tom Hawkins, Gary Rohan and Jeremy Cameron all played together.

The three combined for 133 goals this season, with Cameron kicking 39 from 15 games in his maiden season at Kardinia Park.

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Tom Hawkins seems to be getting better with age as well, and just narrowly missed out on our star player nod.

The 33-year-old was the competition's leading goalkicker two years running, with 62 goals after finals.

The men down back: For a long while, the Cats have had one of the premier defences of the competition. This season was no different.

Geelong ranked second in the AFL for intercept possessions (1337) and third for rebound 50s (657) in 2021.

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Chris Scott has been able to master a backline that can pretty much do no wrong, besides the lack of speed.

You just have to look at the best and fairest count, the top two players were defenders in Stewart and Henry.

This shows the importance of defence at the Cattery, especially when issues arise further up the ground. The back six are able to control the ball when those in the midfield lose possession, which happened quite often.

Teams are able to rebound quickly when Cats midfielders turn the ball over.


The age-old issue: It is said time and time again, but Geelong have a serious issue when it comes to youth.

It's such a problem that 21-year-old Jordan Clark saw his way out after a lack of opportunity.

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Most of their core players and even fringe players are all pushing 30 years or older. This leaves youth on the outskirts. Developing players don't get their time to develop in AFL matches.

This bounds Geelong to their same old playstyle that sees no new innovative movement in possession. This is something young players can bring, just take a look at Essendon.

The last two trade periods hurt as well, with Geelong giving up three first-round picks to get Jeremy Cameron.

Their draft hand this year won't fix anything either, with pick 22 currently their best.

Ruck problems: Yet another issue that has plagued Chris Scott for years continued in 2021 and that is consistency in the ruck.

Number one ruck Rhys Stanley played 19 games, did find form late in the season but showed poor form at times.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 17: Rhys Stanley of the Cats and Toby Nankervis of the Tigers compete in a ruck contest during the 2018 AFL round 13 match between the Geelong Cats and the Richmond Tigers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 17, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Esava Ratugolea was trialled in the ruck due to Cameron and Hawkins being in the team, but was out of place.

Even defender Mark Blicavs had a stint in the ruck, but that left a hole in the backline. He found himself reverted back eventually.

With Scott not willing to give games to Darcy Fort or Sam De Koning, finding a number one ruckman, especially for the future, is a difficult task.

Fort has since been traded to Brisbane, and 20-year-old De Koning could do with some games to develop, having played just the one match.

Season Grade: C+

Many might expect a lower grade for Geelong, perhaps an F, given they were expected to make another grand final or even win the whole thing.

Made finals yet again, and a top-three finish helps slightly, however, the Cats went backwards and were smashed in the prelim.

It's hard to see Geelong winning a flag, with next season looking like their last shot, but we've heard this said many times and they still manage to make it to the pointy end.