Tom Hawkins and teammates celebrate his after-the-siren goal to down the Hawks in 2012
Every year that I've been here, I've honestly thought we could go all the way, and this year's no different
GEELONG star Tom Hawkins says the Cats are confident they can surge back into premiership contention this season.
After winning the 2011 flag, Chris Scott's team slipped down the ladder in 2012, ending the home and away season in sixth place.
They were then bundled out of the premiership race when they suffered a shock loss to Fremantle in an elimination final at the MCG.
But the arrival of midfielder Josh Caddy, defender Jared Rivers and ruckman Hamish McIntosh has injected additional class and experience into Geelong's squad.
As a result, Hawkins and his teammates are brimming with confidence as they step up preparations for their round one NAB Cup games against West Coast and Fremantle and their home and away opener against Hawthorn.
"Every year that I've been here, I've honestly thought we could go all the way, and this year's no different," Hawkins told AFL.com.au.
"I think we've got some fresh faces into the group, and none of them are going to get easy games, but they're earning their spots and training really well.
"Hamish is getting his body right and Jared and Josh have been training the house down, so they'll be great.
"Getting games into young guys last year was also fantastic and holds us in really good stead.
"And I think the younger players at the club have all matured a little bit. Guys have really taken it upon themselves to go out of their comfort zone, be more vocal and have a bit more presence."
The clash with the Hawks on Easter Monday is a mouth-watering prospect for the Cats.
Hawkins has especially fond memories of the last time he took on Hawthorn, as he slotted the winning goal from 55m out after the siren.
That straight kick handed Geelong its 10th straight victory over the Hawks.
"Hopefully round one is another good game, like we've had over the last few years," Hawkins said.
"It'll be interesting to see how it pans out, but to have a big game first-up is a great way to start our year.
"We need to be ready from the word go, so it's going to be great for us."
With Caddy, Rivers and McIntosh all in the mix to take on Hawthorn, there's a real sense of expectation at Geelong.
"Nothing but positive things down here at Simonds Stadium at the moment, so it's an exciting time," Hawkins said.
"Once we get through the next 20 or 30 days, then it will be a really exciting time.
"We here to play footy, that's what we do, and we can't wait to get into it."
Adam McNicol covers Geelong news for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter at @AFL_AdamMcNicol