Season 2022 was the ultimate fairy tale for the Cats after so many years of near misses and heartbreak. A perfect send off for a club icon in Joel Selwood and a year when many of their next generation made giant leaps.
From the emergence as stars of the competition of Sam De Koning and Tom Atkins, to the inspiring comeback of Tyson Stengle to the ultimate finals man performance from Isaac Smith, it truly was the year of the Cat.
Premiership teams are notoriously hard to break into, but there are plenty who will be aiming to do just that, from Jack Bowes to Jhye Clark, there will be no shortage of challengers looking to drink in from the cup.
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Ins: Tanner Bruhn (GWS, trade), Jack Bowes (Gold Coast, trade), Oliver Henry (Collingwood, trade), Jhye Clark (national draft, pick No.8), Phoenix Foster (national draft, pick No.52), Oscar Murdoch (rookie draft, pick No.18), Osca Riccardi (rookie draft, pick No.32), Ted Clohesy (category B rookie), Oisín Mullen (rookie)
Outs: Joel Selwood (retired), Shaun Higgins (retired), Quinton Narkle (delisted), Luke Dalhaus (retired), Francis Evans (delisted), Nick Stevens (delisted), Paul Tsapatolis (delisted), Zane Williams (delisted), Cooper Stephens (Hawthorn, trade)
There isn't much more to be said about this Geelong defence that hasn't already been said. Comfortably the best backline in the competition in 2022, the emergence of Sam De Koning only solidified what was already a formidable unit.
Led with distinction by star Tom Stewart, on paper this isn't a collection of star names, but rather a sum of its parts, a well-oiled unit that is extremely difficult to expose. The Cats have long been experts when it comes to intercept work in defence and Stewart and De Koning are no exception to this.
It's perhaps more symbolic of the Cats defence that they have developed this unit with the players at their disposal. The likes of Jake Kolodjashnij, Jack Henry and Jed Bews while not necessarily fashionable names, have all developed into dependable players who rarely have their colours lowered, while the experience from veteran Zach Tuohy has been crucial.
With the likes of Tom Atkins, Zach Guthrie, Jack Bowes, Sam Menegola and Mark O'Connor all available to be deployed in defence, the depth is something that most clubs could only dream of. With no discernible weakness, the Geelong backline is the bedrock that the success of this club is built on.
The premiers boast a midfield packed with talent and experience, as clearly evidenced by the way they destroyed the Swans at stoppages in the first half on Grand Final day. When you have an explosive talent like Patrick Dangerfield, you're always going to be difficult to stop.
Coupled with workhorses who have become stars in their own right like Mark Blicavs, Cameron Guthrie and Tom Atkins, the midfield takes formidable shape. The emergence of Atkins in particular over the past 12 months has certainly softened the blow of Joel Selwood's retirement.
Isaac Smith's Grand Final heroics prove that he still has plenty of good footy left in the tank, while Mitch Duncan is a versatile star for the Cats, able to be utilised in all parts of the ground. Likewise, Brandan Parfitt, who remains a solid option to have in the rotations.
Perhaps the only question mark is on Rhys Stanley in the ruck, yet he performed admirably in 2022 and is now a premiership player who has Mark Blicavs, Jonathon Ceglar and Tom Hawkins to call on for aid if need be.
The Cats are also now blessed with plenty of depth and promising options to test in the midfield in the coming seasons following the emergence of Max Holmes and the acquisitions of Jhye Clark, Jack Bowes and Tanner Bruhn. There is still plenty to like about this Geelong midfield in 2023.
The Cats also have arguably the best forward line in the competition, stacked with talent, always dangerous and capable of kicking big scores. No one typifies this more than their two man mountains Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron.
Cameron's outstanding work as a mobile forward who can operate a bit further up the ground was arguably the missing piece for the Cats. As a long-time veteran in the forward line, Hawkins has been stellar for the club throughout his career and continues to be one of the games premier key forwards. Having improved his ruck craft in recent years, he is never far from the action.
As one of the game's great stories of redemption in 2022, Tyson Stengle has proven to be every bit as good as we were promised he was. He is a deadly addition to the Geelong line up, creating havoc, assisting goals and most importantly, kicking plenty himself. His inclusion has allowed Gary Rohan to thrive.
With less opposition attention each week, the speedster has flourished, rewarding the Cats for their faith in him and becoming a more consistent contributor. With youngster Brad Close bringing intense pressure and goal nous, this Cats forward line is as envied by the competition as it is respected.
Having recruited some very handy players with forward line ability like Bruhn and Ollie Henry, not to mention premiership small forward Gryan Miers waiting in the wings, the future remains bright for the Cats.
FB: Jack Henry, Sam De Koning, Jake Kolodjashnij
HB: Zach Tuohy, Tom Stewart, Jed Bews
C: Mitch Duncan, Cameron Guthrie, Max Holmes
HF: Brad Close, Jeremy Cameron, Isaac Smith
FF: Tyson Stengle, Tom Hawkins, Gary Rohan
Foll: Rhys Stanley, Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Atkins
Int: Jack Bowes, Brandan Parfitt, Zach Guthrie, Mark Blicavs
Sub: Tanner Bruhn
Emerg: Gryan Miers, Mark O'Connor, Sam Menegola, Oliver Henry
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