Of all the teams to finish in the top eight, the Geelong Cats threw up the most questions in terms of their dominance, ability and chances.
After a slow start early in the season (the Cats were 4-4 after eight rounds), just three more losses saw them finish a respectable sixth on the ladder. The 5 years before had yielded four grand finals, three flags and preliminary final.
Questions had been raised at the start of season 2012 as to whether the Cats would continue to assert their defensive and attacking dominance they had displayed for so long. And in those first few rounds, it was a little lacking. It began to surface that the Cats wouldn’t make finals. And then it all changed, albeit not as some might have liked.
There is, however, some shining light to the cause. All of Geelong’s seven losses came against top 8 sides including West Coast, Sydney and Collingwood.
It was a much quieter season for a lot of players, but first-season captain Joel Selwood showed exactly what was needed to lead a team, finishing with 511 disposals for the season. It was also the breaking of the shell for forward Tom Hawkins, who bagged 62 goals in his most consistent season. Now 24, Hawkins’ body has become far harder, and his ability to win out in contests dramatically improved from 2011.
Another player who went incredibly underrated for the entire season is defender Corey Enright. At 31, and with Matthew Scarlett’s retirement, Enright will most likely lead a much younger backline into 2013, with the likes of Harry Taylor and Taylor Hunt. Booming kick Josh Hunt will be able support.
Jimmy Bartel’s season was a lot quieter, but he was there when it counted, and the same goes for the likes of Andrew Mackie, Paul Chapman and Matthew Stokes. Even Steven Motlop, who played a full season, stepped up and showed the potential he has.
As for 2013, Geelong can look forward to more of their young brigade stepping up to take some of the burden off the veterans. However, the obvious lack of a back-up ruckman to Trent West will be something to address in the off-season. Their shock elimination final loss to Fremantle saw their sixth consecutive finals series stopped short at the first barrier. The big question will be: can the Cats do it for the seventh time?
(Image source: geelongcats.com.au)