After the first week of the four-week battle royale that is the AFL finals series, we now have two sides that have been thrown over the top rope and out of the ring for 2012.
All that awaits now for North Melbourne and Geelong is the commiserations of Mad Monday, and then a review as to why each team’s seasons ended prematurely.
For Geelong, 2012 was a season best described as successfully average.
At many times the Cats looked great, and performed accordingly, but far too often failed to put in a complete four quarter performance.
The fact that of their fifteen wins, the highest margin was a 67-point defeat over the fast-fading Essendon, and that six of their wins were below 20 points, suggests the Cats had faded back to be genuinely beatable again, a large drop for them after the highs of their 2011 premiership triumph.
In suffering defeats against Sydney in Round 13 and again in their subsequent finals elimination by Fremantle, Geelong gave up horrific early deficits, and was forced to play catch up football, in order to get back into the match.
The first result arguably cost the Cats a top four berth, while the second ended their season.
At the Cattery, decisions will have to be made on certain players’ futures, and with veteran defender Matthew Scarlett the first to choose to hang up his boots, rest assured he won’t be the last.
Many won’t even have the opportunity to even decide for themselves, simply being offered up for trade or just plainly delisted.
The challenge is now for the Cats to respond and maintain their place as a finals contender, as opposed from slipping gradually down the ladder in coming seasons.
It appears that for Chris Scott, this will be the most difficult phase in his short AFL coaching career.
For the Kangaroos, a finish of eighth spot could be seen by outsiders as just a slight improvement from their pair of ninth place finishes in 2010 and 2011.
However, the positive isn’t just their ladder position, rather the comparison of the number of wins recorded by the Kangaroos from those years to now shows a much brighter picture.
2010’s ninth finish was achieved by recording eleven wins, albeit with the abysmal percentage of 87.4%, and while the Roos’ 2011 win-loss record was inferior (10-12), their overall percentage had improved to 101.2%.
Now the Kangaroos can springboard into 2013 on the back of a 14-8 home and away season and a much superior percentage of 112.5%.
North Melbourne’s year undoubtedly peaked after its stirring Round 22 defeat over its bogey side Collingwood, and to judge the Kangaroos’ overall season by the pair of heavy defeats to the sides from the West in Fremantle and West Coast, would be doing the Kangas a disservice.
The loss to the Eagles by 96 points in their Elimination Final was not an ideal way to complete their season, but the task is now there for the players to build from this defeat and launch into next year’s campaign full of hope.
Keep in mind, the 2006 Bulldogs side were smashed out of the finals by the Eagles in Perth and responded by making three consecutive Preliminary Finals.
This is now the benchmark for North Melbourne.
However, the step up will only be achieved by completing the hard work that the pre-season can provide in building up the bodies of North’s younger players.
A Kangaroos side at full strength is already able to challenge most teams in the AFL, and in 2013 they should most certainly be aiming to secure a top four berth, and to avoid a slow start, followed by peaking too early, as they did this year.
The expectations should be high at Arden Street, and the future of Brad Scott’s coaching career beyond 2013 may well depend on the Kangaroos continuing their improvement, and reaching that coveted double chance.
Now just six teams remain in the race for the flag; who will survive another week of eliminations?
Let the battle royale continue!