Make no mistake about it – Geelong has a deep squad.
And whenever a club has quality up and down its list, there are benefits – it can cover for injuries and suspensions, and blood players who wouldn’t otherwise have the chances to get a game.
Such has been the case with the Cats so far in the 2021 AFL season.
With Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Rohan previously having missed time while copping respective three- and two-match bans from the league’s Match Review Officer, Sam Menegola being out injured with a shoulder complaint, and prized recruit Jeremy Cameron yet to play his first game in the blue-and-white hoops as he recovers from a preseason hamstring injury, coach Chris Scott’s reserves have been tested.
As a result, the studs and duds within the Cats’ set-up have been unearthed – or, in the case of the duds, exposed – in what’s been an up-and-down season so far for Geelong, especially after a lacklustre 30-point win over North Melbourne last Sunday.
And naturally, with Cameron a lead-pipe lock to take his place in the goal square against West Coast on Saturday, debates will rage among Geelong’s passionate fans as to which of the reserves should also wedge their way into the Cats’ best 22.
And that’s at the expense of the likes of Zach Guthrie, Luke Dahlhaus and others who may lack the form at this stage to consistently contribute to the Cats’ fortunes.
So here are a few players who should be receiving greater considerations of matches:
Remember his great running goal in the Easter Monday win over Hawthorn? That glimpse represents what he brings to the party – speed to burn, can take a strong mark with spring in his step, and can kick strong across his body from either side. While the complaint over the Cats’ tactics has been in preferring slow possession-type play, players like Clark with his speed and elusiveness would be essential for a more direct approach to take the game on.
There’s been a good reason for Ratugolea’s missing-in-action status from the Cats’ best 22 this season – he’s missed out with a leg injury incurred during preseason. Currently building his case through improving his fitness, the 22-year-old Ratugolea performed strongly in the Cats’ opening-round VFL game on the weekend, a 79-point win over North Melbourne where he was among Geelong’s best with 14 disposals, a goal, and a dominant display in the ruck.
Also among the VFL Cats’ Round 1 best players with four goals, the ex-Crow Jenkins can provide another tall target up forward alongside Cameron and Tom Hawkins – 200cm players do not exactly grow on trees. And being a proven goal-kicker with 296 goals in 149 AFL games, he would provide a key asset in the way of depth later in the season, especially if he establishes form upon an immediate recall.
It’s a close call between Narkle and Charlie Constable for any needs of a midfielder with game-breaking potential, but give Narkle the slight edge. The 23-year-old West Australian can get his hands on the pill – averaging nearly 14 disposals a game in limited duties over the last three-plus seasons – but can also break a game open with his ability to change directions and his flashy speed. Like Clark, his pace can allow the Cats to play route-one footy.