Geelong are proving to be led by more than veteran stars, with a raft of young guns lighting up the competition out of Kardinia Park.
They are playing with brilliant composure, and it is why the premiership window is open longer than many have been anticipating.
It has recently been about the stars in the spotlight, yet Geelong is further shades of stardom than that light suggests, despite the list of top echelon icons in Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Hawkins, Joel Selwood and Jeremy Cameron.
Geelong's success has fluctuated, however, the Cats have always been thereabouts for almost every year in the past decade and a half, having made finals in each season since 2006, barring 2015 - where they finished 10th on the ladder. Geelong's success has been driven by their star players and veteran leaders, but as they age, their next wave of younger names are coming through the ranks and are now taking charge.
The next generation is different at Geelong. It's not your typical high draftees and headlining figures. Selwood is the only Cat to come close to the Rising Star Award, having won it back in 2007. This year, defender Sam De Koning is in contention, and is the first Geelong player to secure a nomination since Jordan Clark in 2019.
Small forwards are just as important as the traditional 'big' forwards
Brad Close and key recruit Tyson Stengle have lit up the pockets for the club this year. They have created opportunities and taken the pressure off the dynamic duo of Hawkins and Cameron. Geelong is a top-four forward line in the competition. It is not just the pair of Coleman medallists but the young leaders' footy smarts and opportunity creation that has seen their spear sharpened this year.
Cameron has kicked the most goals for the club, and Hawkins is following very close behind him. However, they couldn't have done it without the small forwards creating opportunities and taking the chances whenever they appear. As a team, they have won 11 in a row and have the highest percentage, as well as ranking as one of the best attacks in the competition.
The midfield is now more than just Selwood and Dangerfield
Winning the hardball is derived from the work and input in midfield. Tom Atkins, aged 26, has led the team in tackles with 117 tackles this season and is ranked 10th in the competition for most tackles. Brandan Parfitt, aged 24, has averaged just over 20 disposals. Max Holmes, aged 19, has been a game changer, and on the weekend against St Kilda, he put up 24 disposals, 6 marks and a goal.
Selwood and Danger may be closer to retiring. They are now the cream, and the young group is doing the heavy lifting. The midfield is only getting more cohesive and consistent. Both players did not play against the Saints, and Geelong still won the inside 50 counts and had a higher disposal efficiency. It is from the younger players knowing their role. They have played enough games to win the key matchups and show their on-field leadership.
The number one defence in the competition won't get worse anytime soon
Geelong's backline is the key to their premiership window extending. They are the number one defence in the competition, and it is not overly littered with stars. Tom Stewart is one of the best defenders in the competition right now. Yet when he didn't play due to suspension, Geelong did not drop a game.
There is a bevy of leaders stepping up, and each backmen will continue improving their game in the years to come.
In his first full season at this level, Sam De Koning has played a key role in this supremacy. He has taken 97 marks and has 112 one-percenters. This season, he is ranked seventh in the competition intercept marks with 52. Jake Kolodjashnij, Zach Guthrie, Mark O'Connor and Jack Henry are the artists in the production and are yet to meet their peak years.
The Cats' defence isn't going anywhere and will only be improving in the coming years.
Extending a dynasty? or building a new one?
Geelong aren't working through a traditional rebuild. Their excellence in recruitment has seen the premiership window extended almost every time doubt over their credentials is raised.
Once they made the Grand Final, they were back to being predicted in the finals frame for the 2021 season. However, after another preliminary final loss, Geelong were again having their credentials questioned. The same was said ahead of this year, and funnily enough, they are favourites to claim the flag and potentially extend their dominance into 2023.
In recent years, Geelong has been written off and labelled a 'retirement village'. Yet, they're the most consistent team in recent history, and their success isn't just a result of the same old names.
Their emerging talent has bought into the culture, which will only bode well for their chances in the coming years.
Ultimately, the older star players have set the standard and are looked up to, but they can support the next generation to succeed, rather than be the only way for the Cats to succeed.