Steven Motlop is arguably a Geelong fan’s favourite whipping boy. The midfield/forward with 133-games under his belt combines immense frustration with electric ability in a side which has been in and around the top of the ladder for the best part of a decade.
His best footy is a mix of speed, skill and elusiveness, while his worst footy is riddled with turnovers, half-efforts and a tendency to go missing.
When he steps onto the field, he is like the proverbial box of chocolates, you never know you’re going to get.
But where many players have form patches where their worst footy is balanced by their best, Motlop’s career has been defined by his middle-ground.
He is very capable of producing exciting footy, but at best, can only produce it once or twice a season. When he isn’t unintentionally reducing Geelong to 21-men, he is chipping in with 20-disposals and a goal a game.
Admittedly, this isn’t a bad return, but in their push for a premiership, can the Cats afford to take the good with the bad? They need a consistent performer and Motlop has been anything but that in his career.
His best this season was Geelong’s round four win over Hawthorn where he kicked three-goals and collected 33-disposals in a masterful exhibition of the football he is capable of.
But last weekend’s qualifying final against Richmond was a perfect example of Motlop’s career so far. He caused several crucial turnovers at critical moments in the game, but had a number of positive moments, getting on the score sheet with a goal to keep the Cats in the game and laying six tackles.
Motlop’s former coach Mark Thompson was puzzled about how he could have such erratic form.
“Where has he gone? He was a jet,” Thompson told AFL360 in July.
Thompson suggested an attitude problem may be the reason behind Motlop’s performances.
“Three years ago … we were planning against him, because he used to push up the ground, get the ball and just beat three or four blokes.
“He’s obviously not going to play if he keeps playing like this. But he’s got to try and find out why is he playing like that. Why isn’t he motivated?”
For all his issues, Motlop is a staple of the Geelong side, having only missed two games this year because of a groin complaint.
This fact tends to be a sticking point among Cats fans, with many questing why he has not be dropped and some calling for the club to finally be rid of the 26-year-old forward.
With Motlop out-of-contract at the end of the season, their campaign will undoubtedly ramp up in the coming weeks as Geelong stare down the barrel of yet another straight-sets finals exit.
Further complicating matters for Geelong’s list manager is the fact that several contracts are up and will need to be renegotiated this year, so the Cats must make a firm decision soon as to whether Motlop remains part of their plans.
Given coach Chris Scott’s reluctance to drop him despite his wayward form, it is not likely Geelong will let him leave, unless they receive exceptionally attractive compensation, either from his departure as a free-agent or from a rival club in a trade.
With Motlop reportedly attracting interest from the Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne, Geelong will want a bidding war to increase his value and invite greater compensation.
He is at a crossroads. He’s a flashy player, the cherry on the icing on top of the cake, but perhaps is not the type of player to build a forward line around. He’s the type of player a contending team looks for to add the edge and sneak a few goals on Grand Final day.
“Stevie, it relies on you mate. Come on. Cats are going to win that premiership if you get going,” Thompson said.
The remainder of the finals series is a chance to show the club what he can do and why he deserves another contract. It’s also a chance to show prospective clubs what he can bring to their side.
At just 26-years-old, Motlop has at least another four years left at the elite level. He obviously has the talent, but whether he has the drive and determination to continue playing AFL-football is up to him.