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Season preview: Geelong

Adam McNicol  March 28, 2013 7:00 AM

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Mitch Duncan looms as a key player for the aging Cats this year

Best 22
B: Taylor Hunt, Tom Lonergan, Jared Rivers
HB: Corey Enright, Harry Taylor, Travis Varcoe
C: Andrew Mackie, Jimmy Bartel, Allen Christensen
HF: Josh Caddy, James Podsiadly, Mitch Duncan
F: Steven Motlop, Tom Hawkins, Steve Johnson
FOLL: Hamish McIntosh, Joel Selwood, James Kelly
INT: Joel Corey, Paul Chapman, Trent West
Sub: Jordan Murdoch

Injury list
The Cats will start the season very short on ruckmen as Dawson Simpson (back), Hamish McIntosh (knee) and Trent West (knee) are all out of action for differing periods of time. West will be the first to return, although maybe not for round one. Daniel Menzel is on the comeback trail from his third knee reconstruction, while youngsters Lincoln McCarthy, Jed Bews and George Burbury have all been struck down by foot problems.

The big questions

Are the Cats on the way down? A club that has made the finals every year since 2007 should really be on the decline by now. Last year's disappointing effort in the finals against Fremantle suggested they might well be finally tailing off. But the honchos at the Cattery believe the club can rebuild its team and win games at the same time.

Are Geelong's young players as good as they say they are?

There are a stack of players on the club's list – Cameron Guthrie, Jordan Murdoch, Jesse Stringer and George Horlin-Smith among them – who have been hyped up as the future of the club. For the Cats to stay near the top of the ladder, they are going to have to deliver the goods.

Is the Tom Hawkins the best key forward in the game?

Hawkins was just about unstoppable at times during 2012, and he is expected to terrorise opposition defenders again this year. His bulk, agility and burgeoning confidence is a combination that's hard to stop.

Summer standout: Mark Blicavs

The former steeplechaser was a class above his teammates when it came to endurance exercises during the pre-season, which was hardly a surprise. But as his form in the NAB Cup showed, he's not just a good runner. Blicavs competed strongly against Fremantle giant Aaron Sandilands in round one of the NAB Cup and did a similarly good job against Adelaide star Sam Jacobs in the second. He has only played a handful of footy games since the under-14s, but he might well find himself in Geelong's round one team.

Fantasy cash cow: George Horlin-Smith

The smooth-moving South Australian midfielder, who is a midfielder worth $171,900, found a stack of the ball during the NAB Cup. He gathered a game-high 11 touches in the Cats' round one pool game against West Coast, then picked up 16 touches and kicked a goal against Adelaide in round two. And he collected another 15 possessions against North Melbourne in round three.

Sudden impact: Josh Caddy
After a slowish start to the pre-season competition, the former Gold Coast onballer produced a promising display in the Cats' big win over Collingwood in their final warm-up match before the home and away season. A tough in-and-under player who was a top-10 draft pick when taken by the Suns, Caddy is expected to hit the ground running when the real stuff begins.

It's crunch time for… James Podsiadly

The 31-year-old's form tapered off during the latter half of the 2012 season. Not needed so much in the forward line anymore, given Tom Hawkins has become one of the most dominant attacking players in the competition, Podsiadly might spend quite a bit of time in the backline this season. And he'll need to lift his output or one of the many talented young players waiting in the wings will grab his spot.

Pivotal match
Geelong started its 2012 season slowly, so coach Chris Scott is desperate for his team to begin well this time around. As a result, the club's round one clash with Hawthorn shapes as a crucial battle. The Cats have beaten the Hawks nine times in succession, but they'll need to be at their best to topple last year's runner-up for a 10th straight time.

The Cats will have a good year if…

Some of their third- and fourth-year player stand up and become genuine A-graders. Emerging guns like Mitch Duncan and Allen Christensen are threatening to become great players. If they do, Geelong will undoubtedly finish in the top half of the ladder. If they don't, the older stars like Jimmy Bartel and Joel Selwood will have carry too much of the load.

AFL.com.au predicted ladder finish:
5th