Joel Selwood celebrates a goal in Geelong's preliminary final against Brisbane at the MCG on September 16, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

WHEN Geelong coach Chris Scott was asked on Friday night about the importance of his lesser light players going into the Grand Final, he took the opportunity to highlight one of the Cats' great strengths in 2022.

No longer was it straight forward identifying who his team's superstars were, Scott said, and the "great depth" built at Geelong through hard work had left highly talented players outside the 22.

If Grand Finals can be decided as much by the nominal bottom six players in a team as they are the stars, then both teams should feel good about their depth going into Saturday's 2022 decider at the MCG.

Assistant coach Eddie Betts, Tyson Stengle and Gary Rohan celebrate after Geelong's preliminary final win over Brisbane at the MCG on September 16, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"The players we don't have in our team at the moment, if you had have said that to me 12 weeks ago, I just would have flatly refused to believe you," Scott said.

"A couple of those guys I would have up in the top 10-15 players on our list.

"It's the worst part of coaching. But I was asked a question during the week about our superstars, and I was going to say, 'Who do you mean?' Because our team has changed, and it's been happening for a while."

So, who are Geelong and Sydney's 'bottom six'? And what can Scott and John Longmire realistically expect them to deliver on the biggest stage?

An unbiased starting point is to use Champion Data's AFL Player Ratings, and then consider recent performances to take into account short-term form.

The approach only highlights the Cats' depth further, with their likely bottom six in the Grand Final identified as Sam De Koning (8.4 player ratings average), Gary Rohan (8.1), Gryan Miers (7.9), Zac Guthrie (7.8), Jake Kolodjashnij (7.1) and Jed Bews (5.6).

Sam de Koning during Geelong's match against St Kilda in round nine, 2022. Picture: Getty

In the preliminary final win against Brisbane, Miers and Kolodjashnij ranked No.1 and No.2 respectively for Player Ratings points and were clearly among the best handful of players on the ground.

The players ranked among the Cats' bottom six in the preliminary final included leading midfielders Cameron Guthrie and Tom Atkins, emphasising that the Cats don't always rely on their best players. 

Sydney's likely bottom six in their Grand Final 22, according to Player Ratings points, is Jake Lloyd (8.4), Robbie Fox (6.9), Dylan Stephens (6.7), Dane Rampe (6.1), Logan McDonald (5.7) and Ryan Clarke (5.4).

Logan McDonald in action in Sydney's qualifying final clash with Melbourne at the MCG on September 2, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Again, it is a group that includes role players who have delivered during the finals, particularly shutdown specialist Clarke, and experienced players who are no longer relied on to the extent they once were.

The bottom six in the Swans' preliminary final win against Collingwood included star forward Isaac Heeney and important intercept defender Paddy McCartin.

Collectively, the Swans' bottom six from their preliminary final team averages 6.5 Player Ratings points, while Cats' averages 7.5.

Paddy McCartin is challenged by Ash Johnson in Sydney's preliminary final against Collingwood at the MCG on September 17, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

As Scott hinted at, sorting players in any order can be flawed, and roles and team balance will be critical on Saturday.

But Grand Finals tend to highlight the importance of depth and getting a return from all in the 22.

You only need to go back 12 months for the perfect example when premiers Melbourne contributed just three of the bottom 15 ranked players in the 2021 decider at Optus Stadium.

Geelong player ratings




 1  Tom Stewart  13.2
 2  Jeremy Cameron  12.8
 3  Mark Blicavs  12.7
 4  Tom Hawkins  12.3
 5  Patrick Dangerfield  12.1
 6  Cameron Guthrie  11.6
 7  Tyson Stengle  11.2
 8  Joel Selwood  11.2
 9  Tom Atkins  10.7
 10  Max Holmes  10.5
 11  Rhys Stanley  10.5
 12  Zach Tuohy  10.4
 13  Isaac Smith  9.3
 14  Mitch Duncan  9.2
 15  Brad Close  8.9
 16  Jack Henry  8.5
 17  Sam De Koning  8.4
 18  Gary Rohan  8.1
 19  Gryan Miers  7.9
 20  Zach Guthrie   7.8
 21  Jake Kolodjashnij  7.1
 22  Jed Bews  5.6
 Sub  Mark O'Connor  5.4
   Brandan Parfitt  9.7
   Sam Menegola  7.7



 Team average  10.0
 Bottom six average  7.5 



 Team average  10.0
 Bottom six average  7.5 



 Team average  9.9
 Bottom six average  7.3


Sydney player ratings




 1  Chad Warner  13.4
 2  Callum Mills  13.4
 3  Luke Parker  13.4 
 4  Isaac Heeney  12.4
 5  Tom Hickey  11.9
 6  Nick Blakey  11.6
 7  James Rowbottom  11.3
 8  Errol Gulden  11.2
 9  Lance Franklin  10.7
 10  Tom Papley  10.6
 11  Sam Reid  9.4
 12  Will Hayward  9.2
 13  Justin McInerney  8.9
 14  Paddy McCartin  8.9
 15  Tom McCartin  8.8
 16  Oliver Florent  8.7
 17  Jake Lloyd  8.4
 18  Robbie Fox  6.9
 19  Dylan Stephens  6.7
 20  Dane Rampe  6.1
 21  Logan McDonald  5.7
 22  Ryan Clarke  5.4
 Sub  Braeden Campbell  4.5
   Hayden McLean  6.9



 Team average  9.7
 Bottom six average  6.5 



 Team average  9.6
 Bottom six average  5.4