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Season review: Geelong

Which Cat can't cut it in the modern game? Lyon and Barrett review what went right and wrong for the Geelong Football Club

What worked?
- Geelong often preferred youth to experience this season, taking the bumpy ride in the hope of smoother waters in the future. Cory Gregson, Darcy Lang, Jackson Thurlow, Jake Kolodjashnij and Nakia Cockatoo showed promise.

Against Port Adelaide, mobile ruckmen Mark Blicavs and Rhys Stanley showed the damage they could inflict as a tandem, dominating hit-outs and around the ground. They shape as a dangerous combination if Stanley can stay fit. 

- Daniel Menzel’s return after 1450 days absence was a highlight, and credit to both player and club. The fact he kicked four goals and had 20 disposals in his return game against Collingwood was unbelievable and hopes remain high his future is bright. Having both Nathan Vardy and Josh Cowan alongside him in the final round was a bonus. 

 

What failed?
- The forward set-up the Cats hoped for did not eventuate, with Mitch Clark and Tom Hawkins only playing seven games together. Neither really fired in 2015 but showed enough to keep hopes high. 

- Cam Guthrie, Josh Caddy and Steven Motlop matured rapidly but Joel Selwood's form was patchy and Mitch Duncan and Jimmy Bartel were missed. Geelong ranked last for stoppages and struggled with contested ball.

- Early-season injuries to key players combined with long-term injuries meant the list of available players narrowed. It gave opportunities to young players but Gregson, Lang and Thurlow fatigued by season's end.

What we said in the pre-season
The Cats have been sitting at the 1am mark on the premiership clock for the past few years, but never seem to fall over the edge. With plenty of premiership heroes still running around, expect Geelong to once again challenge at the pointy end of the season.

Overall rating: 6/10
On-field performances were inconsistent and their season never really gained momentum. Amid it all, the shifts in the background were significant as the list was reshaped and young players showed they had good futures.

The fans' rating

The coach
Obviously frustrated with performances at times, Chris Scott handled a testing year well. While there will always be some players who feel unloved in such a transition, Scott was respectful, always honest in telling as much as he could, and expressed confidence in the future. He's contracted until the end of 2017.

MVP
Steven Motlop. Kicked 26 goals and averaged 22 disposals after lifting his game in the second half of the season. Played great football despite being out of contract, highlighted by his 11-tackle, three-goal performance against the Western Bulldogs in round 16. The match-winner will benefit from Mitch Duncan’s return and the potential acquisition of Patrick Dangerfield.

Surprise packet
Mark Blicavs. Blicavs is yet to reach his limit even after setting a new standard this season. He handled the ruck without relief for much of the season, averaging 18 disposals a game. If he gets some support next year, he could take the competition by storm. 

Get excited
Nakia Cockatoo. Jumped out of the blocks early in the NAB Challenge but found the premiership season a huge jump early. However, by season's end he was showing improvement - his strength and skill a handy combination. Good judges at Geelong say his one-on-one work is elite.

Disappointment
Harry Taylor. Just didn't fire as we've come to expect in 2015. The vice-captain relies on a competitive midfield and struggled when his match-up ran him around. Few put as much work into their game as Taylor, so his struggles would have burned. Expect him to analyse what needs to change and rebound.

Best win: The 32-point win over Sydney Swans, round 19, Simonds Stadium.
With finals hopes on the line and Steve Johnson suspended, the Cats overcame a 13-point deficit at half-time to kick eight goals to one in the second half against last year's grand finalist.

Low point: Corey Enright's 300th game was meant to be a celebration of one of the club's all-time greats but the unexpected loss to Melbourne at Simonds Stadium ruined the party.

The big questions
- Can they have a relatively injury-free list? Just 17 senior games combined from recruits Stanley, Clark, Sam Blease and Cameron Delaney, while Hamish McIntosh didn't play and Jared Rivers played 12 games.

- Can the midfield gel? Even if the club acquires several big-name recruits, it will take time for them to work together as an efficient unit.

- Do they have an effective ruck combination? With Clark, Vardy, Blicavs and Stanley all mobile and talented, the use of their talls will be interesting. Removal of the substitute helps.

Season in a song: 'We'll Meet Again' by Vera Lynn

Who's done?
Retirements: Jared Rivers, Hamish McIntosh, Brad Hartman, James Toohey
Retirements were always going to be on the agenda at Geelong, with nine out-of-contract players over 30 years of age on the list when the season began. But the first two players off the list were talented youngster Hartman and rookie Toohey, who left the game of their own accord. Injuries and father time caught up with the others.

Delistings: James Kelly, Mathew Stokes, Steve Johnson
Strictly speaking, the trio was delisted but time will tell whether they go on after brilliant careers in the hoops. Cowan, Menzel and Vardy may have escaped being cut while Dawson Simpson looks in strife. The list became messy in 2015 and needed to be tightened.

James Kelly, Steve Johnson and Mathew Stokes farewell the Geelong crowd. Picture: AFL Media


Trades/free agents: Josh Walker, Dawson Simpson, Jarrad Jansen
Walker has not cemented his spot but he can play at AFL level. Jansen has been denied opportunities, but as he matures he looks capable of being a good inside midfielder. Simpson is a burly ruckman and a solid citizen who might be attractive to a club lacking depth in the rucking department.

What they need
Patience won't be enough. It needs to re-examine how premierships can be won in the modern era while retaining the elements that make Geelong a good club. That means stripping things back and rebooting, something it appears to be doing. More specifically, its scoring power needs to increase, the backline has to build some sturdiness and the midfield's numbers must improve.  

Premiership clock

8 o'clock, depending on their off-season recruits. Many expect the Cats to bounce back quickly and if they do they will be dangerous. Still long shots for a flag though - 2016 might be a stabilising year. 

Early call: 6-10th
The list is being rebuilt and they have work to do to get back into contention. This year was a tough haul and they did well to stick together and stay in the finals race for as long as they did.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs