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This is Geelong’s premiership to lose and that must scare the heck out of them

Momentum is everything heading into finals’ campaigns and there have historically been few teams with as much on board as the Geelong Cats, as they head into the final month of the AFL season.

Winning 13 matches in succession places Chris Scott’s team in rarefied air and makes them clear flag favourites, yet it also dumps a heck of a lot of pressure on a squad containing plenty of players all too familiar with the failings of the past.

It is no secret that when the stakes have been the highest during Scott’s reign, his charges have faltered, back-fired and capitulated on numerous occasions. Whilst nothing can take away from the coach’s ability to have his team in the running when the whips are cracking and in with a chance at glory in September, the cold data suggests that doing so and moulding a team capable of winning it all are two very different things.

Across 12 seasons under Scott, Geelong have a winning record of over 72 per cent in home away play. In finals, that falls dramatically to 40 per cent, with just ten wins achieved across 25 matches.

Despite the Scott-coached Cats possessing the most envied record of consistency in modern football, with six preliminary finals across the eleven years prior to this current tilt at the flag, the final or penultimate hurdle has frequently exposed Geelong as a perennial team yet not a champion one.

2021 saw the Cats succumb by 83 points to a rampant premiership-bound Demons in the preliminary-final, a year earlier, Scott’s men could manage a mere 50 points in the grand final against the Tigers and that result closely mirrored the one 12e months prior, when Richmond outlasted them to win by 19 points and advance to the decider against the Giants.

Joel Selwood and Chris Scott

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

As eighth seed, the Cats were swarmed by the Dees in the elimination-final of 2018, where they mustered just 46 points and a 61 point loss to Adelaide in the preliminary-final of 2017 adds weight to the view that the Cats are caught well short when it comes to the business end of the season.

2016 told a similar story, when the Swans belted the Cats by 37 with a spot in the grand final on offer against the Bulldogs and despite entering the finals as the number three seed in 2014, consecutive losses to Hawthorn and North Melbourne sent the men in hoops home with their tails between their legs.

After a 22 win season and premiership glory in 2011, the Cats were bundled out by the Dockers in the opening week of finals in 2012, before doing a lot right in 2013 and falling to eventual premiers Hawthorn with the grand final in sight.

There have been just a handful of close losses, with the majority convincing and the general pattern reflects Geelong’s home and away form simply not being able to cope with finals’ opponents able to find new levels of performance.

Many will cite the distinct advantage of GMHBA Stadium as a potential reason for the obvious failings at the pointy end of the season, with the broad expanses of the MCG perhaps problematic to a Cat defence that masterfully controls the back half on their home deck.

However, Geelong have won plenty of big matches at the MCG and will most likely continue to do so in the future, with the reasons behind their failed bids at history likely more closely linked to psychology and stage fright, than the dimensions of the ground itself.

With a 2022 squad that blends the experience of Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield, Mark Blicavs and Tom Hawkins with the solid consistency of Tom Stewart, Zach Tuohy and Isaac Smith, the Cats appear to have all bases covered.

Along with the next wave in the form of Brad Close, Jack Henry, Tyson Stengle and Sam De Koning, Scott appears to have struck the perfect balance, in a team capable of moving through an array of gears when required.

With Jeremy Cameron arguably the best player in the game adding a cherry to what has looked like the most delicious of cakes for the majority of the season, it is tough to imagine Geelong being anywhere but at the MCG on grand final day.

If they are not, it will be an abject failure and history does tell us that the Cats rarely take the calm saloon passage through September.

Once their mojo was found mid-season, Geelong have done everything right in 2022. Sure, Melbourne loom as a danger, yet the Cats are deserved favourites with bookies.

Just as the Demons will fear nothing as they embark on a quest for consecutive premierships, knowing full well exactly what it takes on the final day, Geelong minds will be well aware of history and the chance they have to right it.
The pressure to do so is immense.

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