At the end of a 2020 season for Geelong, now that emotions and passions have settled down just enough after last Saturday’s 31-point loss to Richmond in the AFL Grand Final, it is time to take stock of the season just concluded.
And taking stock, just in time for the “Trade Week” shenanigans which signal the start of the AFL’s offseason parade.
So here we go… questions about Geelong’s season in review, answered. And I’ve limited it to five.
With Gary Ablett’s retirement now official, are there any other Cats players on the way out?
This, like death and taxes, may be inevitable.
And that is because Geelong, by average age, possesses the oldest list in the AFL.
The current word is that stalwart defender Harry Taylor is considering retirement – but no others, especially not among the group from the Cats’ last premiership-winning side of 2011, seem to be within that radar.
And for good reason: they all have some value to offer to the club for 2021, at the very least.
Tom Hawkins – won a Coleman Medal. Easily justified.
Joel Selwood – besides being the type of tough player who embodies the Cats’ overall toughness all over the ground in contested footy battles, he’s a returning captain. Enough said.
Mitch Duncan – veteran guile, and also provides a time-weathered link between defence and attack. Good influence to younger players, and still provides pace up and down the wings.
And not forgetting Cam Guthrie – while not dot-pointed as he was an emergency on Grand Final Day in 2011, he arguably had his best season in the blue-and-white hoops, and that’s even as a ten-year veteran.
Jeremy Cameron’s arrival from Greater Western Sydney is imminent. So who do the Cats give up to get him?
First of all, the thought of having two Coleman Medal winners in a single forward structure exists as a mouth-watering proposition.
And having Cameron – at 196 centimetres – as another tall option alongside Hawkins not only adds to raised eyebrows, but also allows other tall players such as Rhys Stanley and Mark Bliclavs to play more minutes in their natural positions, and play around the ground as well, instead of up the ground.
So, as Cameron would prefer to come to the Cats as a restricted free agent, GWS would like to force a trade – and the conventional wisdom out there has Geelong giving up a high draft pick and a key player, at the very minimum, or otherwise two first-round draft picks outright.
If the former scenario winds up being the case, look for either Esava Ratugolea or – if the rumour mill is to be trusted – Jack Henry being in Giants colours in 2021.
The Ratugolea speculation makes more sense, as a like-for-like swap, one tall centre half-forward with a massive “up” side for another. However, as much as Geelong would prefer not to part with a defender from its successful back six who started all 21 games for the Cats, the old axiom of “you have to give up quality to get quality” applies in the case of Henry, who would also fill a defensive need for Leon Cameron’s Giants.
Henry also comes out of contract at the end of next season, so that may be weighing on the collective minds of the Cats’ brains trust.
For what it’s worth, Geelong has three first-round picks in the upcoming draft – No. 11, a mid-round concession selection acquired from Gold Coast in 2019; No. 13, received from West Coast in last year’s Tim Kelly trade; and its own, at No. 18 – as well as the next-to-last pick in the second round.
Fair to say that in the pathway of Chris Scott, Brian Cook and company are rubbing their hands in anticipation of picking up Cameron, they have leverage on their side when it comes influencing a trade.
Speaking of Scott, is there any way he does not come back in 2021?
With apologies to the pockets of Geelong supporters and fans who cite the Cats’ past shortcomings in finals as a motivation to earn him the sack, it’s not happening.
First of all, merely getting to the Grand Final, and winning two finals where elimination was a penalty for losing in the process, can be viewed as a sign of progress from 2019 and years past.
Also, the 2020 season was seen as one of transformation for Geelong – in addition to a back-six set-up that got increasingly stingier in the way of points allowed as the season progressed, the Cats’ approach and results towards the contested footy improved, and was often a delight to watch.
Scott has also blooded new players quite well, as Brad Close was a revelation, for example, and managed to get good use out of Lachie Henderson down back when it was thought that Geelong, and others, would have left his career for dead after last year’s delisting.
And Scott managed to get Geelong into a double-chance position amid all of the challenges the 2020 season brought, influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. (The latter portion of that premise, meanwhile, may result in no other coaching turnovers in this offseason.)
Which is not to say that the Cats’ coaching panel will remain intact for 2021, as it is rumored that assistants Matthew Knights, Matthew Scarlett and Nigel Lappin may be in high demand for vacancies elsewhere at some point, with James Rahilly already departed for Adelaide.
Can you see any players being promoted from the rookie list, or elsewhere?
The lack of an actual VFL season in 2020 made it hard for Scott and his assistants to evaluate talent coming through. However, 2020 did present a fair amount of competition for places, and in addition to Close, others may see more playing time in 2021.
Ben Jarvis, Sam De Koenig, and Stefan Okunbor are most likely those from the current list to challenge for regular places in Scott’s best 22. And with the club also linked in the rumour mill to other veteran players, from Essendon’s Joe Daniher to North Melbourne’s Shaun Higgins to Adelaide’s Brad Crouch, some level of turnover will occur. The only limitations may come from Geelong’s salary cap.