In a nutshell
A season that promised so much but delivered little. Added a dual Brownlow Medallist (Gary Ablett), the competition's best first-year player (Tim Kelly), a top five placegetter in the NAB AFL Rising Star (Jack Henry), plus enjoyed breakout years from Tom Stewart and Mark Blicavs. Yet the Cats went backwards.
What we said in the pre-season
Fell well short of the AFL.com.au ladder prediction of third. Even the Cats admit the midfield balance with the Ablett addition took time to adjust. Once it did, it looked sparkling at best but was often exposed by younger, hungrier teams. Kelly delivered on the sudden impact tag, but high hopes for Cory Gregson never eventuated with further injury. Rhys Stanley flew past Zac Smith for the No.1 ruck mantle.
Have your say: Give your season verdict on the Cats using the form at the bottom of this article.
Finding young key position talent
Esava Ratugolea turned heads in his eight matches as a second-year forward/ruck and 20-year-old Henry looks set to be a lock in defence for the next 12 years.
With Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie retiring, second-year defender Stewart (named All Australian), Blicavs and Henry stood up. It even forced Harry Taylor to fight for his spot in the latter stages of the season.
Rhys Stanley in the ruck … when fit
Played the best football of his life from rounds 13-19, with All Australian No.1 Max Gawn even admitting Stanley gave him headaches. However, he broke down twice with calf injuries and missed the final three matches.
Performances at the MCG
Just two wins in eight visits to the home of football. Failed to find avenues to goal on the wide expanses, averaging 72.9 points for, compared to 100.5 in all other matches.
Falling asleep early
For the third time in their last five finals performances, the Cats were goalless at quarter-time. Caved in to Melbourne's manic pressure, much like last year's two finals losses. As was often the case during the season, the early buffer provided to opposition sides was too much to rein in.
Highlighted by just one tackle to half-time in the elimination final loss to Melbourne. Didn't help that young small forwards Gregson (22), Nakia Cockatoo (22) and Lincoln McCarthy (24) combined for just 14 games this season. Daniel Menzel looked the shadow of the player he was before a groin injection from the club went wrong in round five.
With one of the most talented lists in the competition, the Cats shouldn't be preparing for 'Wacky Wednesday' in the second week of September.
Chris Scott always going to be judged on how his team stood up in September, and they failed dismally. With the Cats now 3-9 in finals following a premiership in his debut season (2011), even CEO Brian Cook has questioned the game style for finals. Cook extended Scott's tenure until the end of 2022, and he will need at least one serious premiership assault in that time for it to be considered any form of success.
Chris Scott's team failed dismally in September. Picture: AFL Photos
Joel Selwood again led brilliantly during the home and away season, voted the fourth best captain by his peers. It was often Selwood doing the heavy lifting in losses, but his season will be long remembered for a brainfade in the elimination final loss to Melbourne.
Tom Hawkins: The elimination final loss to Melbourne proved that without Hawkins firing, the Cats lacked any presence in attack. When the Cats transitioned quickly, he was able to go to work one-on-one. Too often the slow ball movement this year meant he was triple-teamed
Mark Blicavs: Thrown into defence with injuries to Taylor and Lachie Henderson, Blicavs excelled with his reach and closing speed on opponents. A full pre-season under the tutelage of Matthew Scarlett will do wonders to his game.
Tim Kelly: Even Chris Scott suggested he was performing better than the 'Big Three' of Gary Ablett, Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood in the second half of the season. Smooth moving around stoppages and kicks goals. Given the lure of returning home to Perth, convincing him to stay beyond his two-year deal looks a near impossible task.
Nakia Cockatoo: Out of his control, but another season lost to injury. With back-to-back PCL setbacks, the 22-year-old added two games to take his tally to 34 in four seasons. The silver lining is that it wasn't more soft tissue.
Round 16: Geelong 8.23 (71) d. Sydney 9.5 (59)
On the road with a top-four berth in sight, the Cats kicked clear in the final term in a memorable win. Tim Kelly kicked the sealer in a night of domination
Best individual performance
Tom Hawkins. Round 18 v Melbourne
With the Cats trailing by 29 points early in the final term, Hawkins took it upon himself to will the side back into the contest. He celebrated by kicking four of his seven majors in the space of 22 minutes, Zach Tuohy clinching the victory after the siren.
Kicking three goals to three-quarter time against Essendon at the MCG in round nine. After impressive wins against Collingwood and Greater Western Sydney, the Cats delivered an all-time stinker.
The big questions
Can Harry Taylor and Gary Ablett be key contributors next season?
Will Chris Scott develop a game style that stands up in big finals?
Can Esava Ratugolea deliver on his potential and provide Tom Hawkins a foil in attack?
Season in a song
Caught In The Middle – Paramore
Delistings: Aaron Black, with more to follow on Tuesday afternoon.
Unsigned free agents: George Horlin-Smith, Daniel Menzel
How should they approach trade and draft period?
Outside of finding free agents that cost nothing, go to the draft and load up on top-end young talent. If a first-round pick presents itself for Tim Kelly, take it and run because if it's not this year, he's leaving in 2019.
Early call for 2019
Top four or bust. With stars Patrick Dangerfield (28), Zach Tuohy (29), Joel Selwood (31), Tom Hawkins (31), Harry Taylor (33) and Gary Ablett (35) closer to the end than the beginning, there's no time to wait.
Cats fans: what's your season verdict?
Share your views via the form below and we'll publish the best responses on Thursday, September 20.
Having trouble on the app? Click here to open the form in a web view
THE WASH-UP More season reviews