Six rounds into the 2015 AFL season and perhaps the biggest conundrum is that of the Geelong Cats.
Exiting the finals last season with consecutive losses to Hawthorn and North Melbourne, the Cats, despite a 17-5 home and away record, were seen to be on the downturn.
Two heavy defeats in the opening two rounds at the hands of Hawthorn and Fremantle had many pundits suggesting the Cats’ era of dominance was all over and that even a finals berth seemed unlikely.
However, the last four weeks have seen Geelong bounce back to a degree. They may have lost to the Kangaroos at Simonds Stadium, but the Cats have picked up three handy wins over sides that were all considered finals aspirants at the beginning of the season.
The 41-point smashing of Collingwood at the beginning of round six was by far their best performance of the season, especially given the Pies were sitting 4-1 and were in form, having taken down both Essendon and Carlton in consecutive weeks.
So, six weeks in to the 2015 season and Geelong sit 3-3. The question is, are the Cats just a middle of the road outfit, or just a bit better than that?
Put simply, Geelong’s losses this year have all been to top six sides of last year. In fact, the only side that Geelong has lost to in the last two seasons that wasn’t a top eight side last year were the Suns back in round 14 at Metricon Stadium, and at that stage, the Suns were actually inside the top eight, with Gary Ablett leading the way.
However, it does seem that the Cats can no longer compete with the very best in the league, and often suffer heavy defeats, such as the 110-point loss to the Swans last year, and the 62-point thumping they suffered at the hands of Hawthorn on Easter Monday. Still, the Cats have had just enough firepower to overcome the rest of the competition in this time.
It has to be noted that Geelong’s ability to win the tight games sets them apart from most other clubs and was a large factor in the Cats reaching 17 wins last season. In 11 matches that have been decided by 13 points or less over the course of 2014/15, Geelong hold a remarkable 10-1 win-loss record. Essentially, half of the Cats’ wins since the beginning of last season have been by less than 13 points, proving the Cats love the close ones.
With the Cats’ upcoming fixture comprising games against the Swans in Sydney, Carlton at Etihad, then a trio of tough encounters in West Coast in Perth, Essendon at Etihad and Port Adelaide in Adelaide, even two wins in the next five weeks would be seen as a terrific result.
More likely though, the Cats could well be sitting at 4-7 at the halfway mark of the season and it becomes immensely difficult to reach the finals from that far back, no matter how well a team is playing.
If, somehow, Geelong can defy the trend of the last year and a bit and start defeating the very best sides, of course they would be well on track to make the finals yet again, but given their exposed form against the real premiership contenders, this scenario still appears unlikely, even at this relatively early stage of the season.