Geelong and West Coast
Pre-season prediction

Geelong has a recent history of proving its doubters wrong. A finals mainstay since 2007, the three-time premiers since than had a fairly busy off-season. They brought in, amongst others, three key mature-age recruits in Jared Rivers, Josh Caddy and Hamish McIntosh with the goal of having one last effort at a remarkable fourth premiership in six years. Most viewers were fairly conservative with their predictions for Geelong in 2013. They were expected to remain around where they finished in 2012, when they lost an elimination final to Fremantle, and their scope for improvement or collapse was minimal.

2013 season overview

Chris Scott’s Geelong had an excellent year by anybody’s standards. They re-established themselves as a top four side in the competition, and fans saw old and young heads combine to execute an exciting, counter-attacking game plan that relied as much on intimidation in numbers as their prodigious skill. Despite being dead last for clearances for much of the season, the Cats built a successful year around being able to take the ball up the ground quickly and score.

On the recruiting front, they saw many of their players have tough first seasons with the club. Rivers and McIntosh both struggled to stay fit, with critics arguing that Geelong were negligent to pick up players who have had previous injury history.

Tom Hawkins struggled with a back complaint for much of the year, whilst James Podsiadly struggled to thwart an ageing frame. Premiership stars Paul Chapman and Jimmy Bartel both showed signs of their careers winding up, whilst new recruit Caddy found it tough to crack into an experienced midfield.

A huge win for Geelong supporters was the emergence of a couple of new stars to compliment their ageing battalion. Taylor Hunt, Cameron Guthrie and Steven Motlop established themselves as best 22 stars, whilst George Horlin-Smith, Marc Blicavs, Jackson Thurlow, Jordan Murdoch and Nathan Vardy also enjoyed promising cameos.

The Cats managed to lose just two games in the season proper, before finally falling over in the preliminary final to great rivals Hawthorn.

Positives:

Despite the signs of age from a troop of premiership stars, a number of young players stepping up to the battle was a huge positive for Geelong in 2013. They may never hit the heights of the 2007-11 team, but a talented next generation recruited by maestro Stephen Wells will no count reassure Cats fans that a fall to the depths of the ladder is some way off.

When players like Travis Varcoe, Rivers and McIntosh get confidence back in their bodies, expect the Cats to reignite once again.

Negatives:

Whilst it was an inevitability, many of Geelong’s older players struggled to play to their best in 2013. Bartel, Podsiadly, Chapman and many others looked bereft of the manic desire that was a highlight of the Geelong premiership sides. Having won so many flags, it was only natural that they would lose a degree of motivation and output – but what these three especially produced was sub-standard.

The aforementioned injuries also hurt, along with young talls Dawson Simpson, Mitch Brown and Nathan Vardy once again failing to get a consistent crack at senior football. Daniel Menzel did his knee a fourth time, and faces a tragic battle to enjoy a long AFL career.

Whilst it would be too early to suggest that the wheels will come off, the Cats will want to be wary of tired legs, because what was once depth is becoming crucial to their chances, and they need to replenish the bottom end of their list.

Key signings and departures

A deal for key target Taylor Adams couldn’t be reached, and as such the Cats had a very quiet trade period.

Importantly, Chris Scott decided the time for change was nigh, and premiership heroes Chapman, Podsiadly and Josh Hunt were traded for nominal sums, whilst Joel Corey called time on a brilliant journey. Trent West found pastures new at Brisbane.

The draft

Geelong held picks 16, 36, 41, 54 and 63. Geelong Falcons midfielder Darcy Lang was picked first up despite an injury riddled end to 2013. Medium forward Jarrad Jansen was picked at 36, and key defender Jake Kolodjashnij was taken at 41. Their final two picks were reserved to upgrade Josh Walker and George Burbury from the rookie list.

Overall grade: B+