Patrick Dangerfield looks dejected after a loss during round two, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Ins and outs


Mitchell Edwards (No.32 draft pick), Joe Furphy (Category B rookie), Lawson Humphries (No.63 draft pick), Emerson Jeka (Rookie Draft), Shaun Mannagh (No.36 draft pick), Connor O'Sullivan (No.11 draft pick), George Stevens (No.58 draft pick), Oliver Wiltshire (No.61 draft pick)


Jonathon Ceglar (retired), Flynn Kroeger (delisted), Sam Menegola (delisted), Esava Ratugolea (trade, Port Adelaide), Osca Riccardi (delisted), Sam Simpson (delisted), Isaac Smith (retired), Cooper Whyte (delisted)

Medical room

Barring injury in pre-season hit-outs, the Cats could have a full squad to pick from. Cam Guthrie returns in a huge boost, after the 2022 club best and fairest had his last campaign ruined by a foot injury. Jack Henry appears to be over an issue with his Lisfranc ligament, which connects bones in the middle of the foot with the toes. Exciting youngster Jhye Clark hasn’t played since his AFL debut in round nine last year but is set for a clear run into 2024.

Jhye Clark at Geelong training in November, 2023. Picture: Geelong FC

Three burning questions

Can the Cats keep ageing veterans fit and firing?
Cam Guthrie, Mitch Duncan, Mark Blicavs, Tom Hawkins and a banged-up Patrick Dangerfield all battled injury at different stages last year. That group still looks crucial to the Cats’ fortunes. They’ve had an extended pre-season because they failed to feature in September for the first time since 2015, and that extra conditioning could fall in their favour.

Can the next generation step up to keep Cats in the fight?
Is Father Time finally lurking outside Kardinia Park with scythe and hourglass in hand, or will the Cats’ rock-solid culture usher the next generation through to keep the club competitive? Max Holmes and Tanner Bruhn have teased with their talent, and with both around the 50-game mark they could be set to explode. Big man Toby Conway is now in his third season and should start pushing Rhys Stanley for the no.1 ruck role, while Shannon Neale should have more chances to step up.

Is captain Danger still needed for bulk midfield minutes?
Blue-collar midfielder Tom Atkins finished runner-up in the club best and fairest last season, fringe onballer Brandan Parfitt has a point to prove as he comes out of contract and the elite Cam Guthrie returns. Jack Bowes is in the mix, while there are high hopes for young guns Max Holmes, Tanner Bruhn, Jhye Clark and George Stevens. If most of that group fires, it could free Dangerfield up for longer periods in the forward line, where he has been so damaging previously. At 33, more breaks from the crash and bash may help keep him fresh.

Toby Conway during Geelong's match against the Western Bulldogs in R24, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Track watch

First-round draftee Connor O’Sullivan has impressed from the get-go. A 198cm swingman, O’Sullivan was a star centre-half back in his draft year and is being used as an interceptor in training. The Cats have been careful not to place expectation on 2022 no.8 draft pick Jhye Clark, but he is this year enjoying an injury-free run into his campaign. The 207cm behemoth Toby Conway is starting to excite onlookers as he grows into his frame. Tanner Bruhn is impressing in the midfield and Max Holmes has been spotted dashing off half-back.

Fantasy lock

Tom Stewart (DEF, $869,000) maintained his streak of 90-plus averages, recording his fifth on the trot with 96.3. He once again showed an elite ceiling for a defender, recording 12 hundreds which included nine scores over 110 and three over 120. He is an elite defender and the Cats love the ball in his hands.

Tom Stewart during Geelong's match against St Kilda in round 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Instant hit

O’Sullivan looks a solid chance for an early debut after turning heads in his first pre-season. His running power – he clocked a 6min 11sec 2km time trial at the draft combine – allows him to play a variety of roles. Mature-age recruit out of Werribee Shaun Mannagh should also feature early, slotting into a half-forward role to add more potency to a strong front-six. Mannagh at times looked like he was playing with cheat codes through the 2023 VFL season, including the grand final where he paired six goals with 28 disposals.

It’s a big year for…

Max Holmes has the weapons to become the best player in the League, skipper Dangerfield previously said. Armed with extraordinary speed – obvious to anyone who watched the grand final sprint – Holmes explodes from stoppages and applies defensive pressure, having ranked above average for tackles and intercept possessions in 2023. His kicking efficiency (57 per cent in 2023), however, will need to improve as he looks to lift his disposal average from 19 into the mid-20s. Out of contract at the end of 2024, the Cats will be looking to lock him away early.

Pass mark

Forecasting the fortunes of a team that was crowned premiers in 2022 before missing finals completely in 2023 is no easy task. However, Geelong’s incredible record over the last two decades means this club simply expects to play finals. The Cats haven’t missed September in consecutive years since 2003.

Geelong players leave the field after a loss during round 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Best 23 for 2024

B: Mark Blicavs, Sam De Koning, Jake Kolodjashnij
HB: Zach Guthrie, Jack Henry, Tom Stewart
C: Max Holmes, Tom Atkins, Mitch Duncan
HF: Gryan Miers, Jeremy Cameron, Ollie Henry
F: Tyson Stengle, Tom Hawkins, Gary Rohan
Foll: Rhys Stanley, Patrick Dangerfield, Cam Guthrie
I/C: Tanner Bruhn, Connor O’Sullivan, Jack Bowes, Brad Close, Shaun Mannagh (sub)
Emerg: Brandan Parfitt, Jhye Clark, Zach Tuohy