Geelong has been written off a countless times during the clubs golden years from 2007 to 2011. Nevertheless, in that time they’ve been involved in four grand finals, winning three of them and continually proving even the best of the AFL’s analysts and experts wrong.
The most diehard Geelong supporters however, were beginning to feel that the dynasty that has been Geelong may have been coming to an end at the halfway point of the 2012 season. The Cats were sitting at 7 wins and 4 losses – hardly a “Geelong-esque” outcome, and it seemed that the whole AFL community were writing them off, saying they looked too old and slow.
Even myself, a diehard Cats fan, began to believe that the Cats amazing last 5 years might possibly be coming to an end, especially with some particularly poor showings against GWS and Gold Coast.
But to their credit and to the city of Geelong’s relief, they seem to have bounced right back and are on the verge of pushing for a top four spot by the time September comes around. Geelong’s form in the past few weeks has been immaculate, with victories coming against Essendon, Adelaide and of course Friday night’s 2 point thriller against Hawthorn.
Despite stacking on 9 goals in the first term, the Cats were always going to be in for a rough game.
We all know about the Geelong-Hawthorn rivalry that’s been going on since the 2008 Grand Final, so it’s not surprising the Hawks mounted a spirited comeback. What made it such an enthralling contest was that it came down to the last kick of the game, for the second time in their last 9 meetings (Jimmy Bartel’s point in 2009 was the other), after the Cats at one point held a lead of 51 points in the second term. We all heard what happened, and if you didn’t, then you must’ve been living under a rock since Friday night, but for anyone that missed it, Tom Hawkins kicked a monster 55 metre drop punt to snatch victory from the Hawks, after the siren had sounded. Of the past 9 meetings between these two celebrated clubs, 7 of them have been decided by less than 9 points.
I won’t harp on about the game, but you really to commend big Tom Hawkins development since emerging as a force in last year’s finals series. The young man currently sits in fifth position in the race for the Coleman medal, with 47 goals (6 on Friday night) to date and while he may not win it, the signs are certainly good for Geelong. They now have an aggressive young power forward capable of taking strong contested marks, they have a core group of experienced leaders in the likes of Joel Selwood and Jimmy Bartel and what’s more they have invested in a promising future, with Geelong playing the second most debutants in the league this year (GWS is first).
With all these positives, it is hard to write off the Cats just yet and while they may have to go through a rebuilding phase in the next two or three years, you get the feeling that as long as the Cats are in finals contention come September, they are in with some sort of a chance to take away the big one.
There is no doubting that the departures of Brad Ottens, Cameron Ling and Darren Milburn have hurt this year and while some of the younger players have stepped up to fill the void, it is impossible to replace such class. Champion full back Matthew Scarlett has also indicated he will most likely retire at seasons end and veterans Joel Corey and co can’t keep their engines going forever. It’s near impossible to replace these champion players and even if you can find players with a similar skill set, it still takes years of experience to get to where those players are right now and takes even more dedication and hard work to gain the “clutch” that Geelong has become so recognised for. The boys from Kardinia Park have simply learnt how to step up in big games, and when you lose that, even a champion team like Geelong will struggle.
In saying that, however, the club will presently be focusing on the season at hand and simply taking each moment of each game as it comes. The players will be concerned about getting as far as they possibly can in September and won’t stress about the future until the future becomes the present and needs to be worried about. What does matter is that the last few weeks have not only restored the faith down at Kardinia Park, but have reignited the belief that the Cats can bring home their fourth flag in six years. In building the current dynasty Geelong has continued to silence their critics so who’s to say they can’t do it again this year? Look out for the Cats when September comes around.
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