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Genius of Geelong summed up by capture of two superstars for ‘stomach lint and a piece of used chewing gum’

It’s only a few days on from the grand final, and as is always the way, the AFL caravan moves onto trade talk.

But it will be ever thus. One set of fans wants to bathe in the glory of a premiership glow, while 17 other sets are intent on how their club is going to improve so they may one day themselves experience it.

Every club that wins a premiership deserves it, but there can have been few worthier winners than Geelong this year. Not just for their exceptional season, which in hindsight will only get better, but for the decade that preceded it.

This is a club that has redefined what contending means.

We all know the stats by now: 17 finals series in the last 19 years. 13 top four finishes. Four flags. Many heartbreaks and humiliations in the last two weeks of the year. But always there. Always.

We’ve all wondered how many years they could keep going to the well with essentially the same group of players. Always old, and getting older! Older through the natural course of time, but also by the additions to the playing list.

At some points, it has felt like if you were an outcast, offcut, or over 30 and had a pulse, you were a target.

Jared Rivers. Hamish McIntosh. Mitch Clark. Sam Blease. Lachie Henderson. Zac Smith. Scott Selwood. Aaron Black. Gary Ablett, back to the fold. Luke Dahlhaus. Josh Jenkins and Jack Steven, which were really plumbing the depths. Shaun Higgins. Jon Ceglar.

But this same type of recruiting drive also brought in Rhys Stanley, Zach Tuohy, Gary Rohan, Isaac Smith and Tyson Stengle. They all have premiership medals around their neck, and there’s a Norm Smith medal and All Australian jacket in that crop too.

Isaac Smith of the Cats celebrates kicking a goal.

Isaac Smith of the Cats celebrates kicking a goal. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

We’d also be remiss to not talk about their development. It’s arguably the most mysterious and under-appreciated aspect of list management and what makes a successful club.

Jed Bews, pick 86. Jake Kolodjashnij, 41. Tom Stewart, 40. Gryan Miers, 57. Mark Blicavs, Jack Henry, Mark O’Connor, Zach Guthrie, rookie elevations. Tom Atkins and Brad Close, on the rookie list at the start of this year still. All premiership players.

And of course they’ve been able to manage their salary cap and used the benefits of their natural Geelong environment to lure the two biggest free agents of the last decade, Patrick Dangerfield and Jeremy Cameron. Restricted free agents though they were, both had to be traded for.

Paul Roos was perhaps the Godfather of the thinking that would value a known commodity much higher than a mere draft pick, no matter how much appeal the AFL industry attached to the latter.

Roos, and Chris Scott, would rather be better tomorrow, than hope to be better at some undefined point in the future. Just get better. Every day, every week, every season. Forget two steps back to go one step forward. Just keep going forward, always.

And when you think about what those two players have both done, it would be lunacy not to trade pick 11, 33 and Dean Gore for Dangerfield, and silly to not trade pick 15, 18, 25 and a fourth rounder for Jeremy Cameron.

As luck would have it, so far not one player taken with those picks has had a real impact on the AFL season, further emphasising the point. So Geelong got in two superstars, while Adelaide and GWS received stomach lint and a piece of used chewing gum.

Sydney, instigated by Roos, is the team most like Geelong in their ability to permanently contend without having to drastically bottom out. Maybe they’re onto something after all. Some luck along the way, like father-sons or academy picks, certainly helps, but they only help clubs that help themselves.

Richmond is seemingly following in the footsteps of Sydney and Geelong by deciding they are permanently in contention, targeting Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper. It’s the right move.

You have to laugh out loud at the thought of the fabled “premiership window” as it applies to Geelong. They have simply given the middle finger to convention, and never wavered when they had every right to.

They’ve been easy to mock, and nobody loves zeroing in on a target like us Aussies. The Cats gave plenty of ammunition, given how old and slow they have looked in some of those finals losses.

They gave up match-winning leads in both a preliminary final and grand final to Richmond in 2019 and 2020. Crushed by Melbourne to the tune of 14 goals last season. And plenty of other big time losses in finals along the way, always close to that trophy, but also never looking further away.

Oh, how we lined up to whack them. And did so with glee. They stood there as we kicked sand in their faces, and vowed to go again. They are truly a stunning football club.

For the last word on season 2022, let’s leave it to the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Surely he was talking about this iteration of Geelong under Chris Scott.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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