For a team that came within one good half of footy from winning a flag, Geelong improved itself markedly with the addition of three very proven veteran players during the just-concluded AFL Trade Week.
That’s the early verdict on paper.
Whether they wind up being the biggest beneficiaries of the wheeling and dealing remains to be seen – that’s why games are played, as it has been said, and the fruits of the Cats’ front office labour won’t be known for another ten months or so.
So let’s examine the Cats’ new acquisitions, of who’s coming down to Kardinia Park…
NUMBER ONE: JEREMY CAMERON
We’ll start with the highest quality blue-chip talent available during Trade Week.
And the words may not rank up there in context with what Paul Bremer or Barack Obama declared in their time, but Geelong recruiting and list manager Steven Wells would be right to declare about Jeremy Cameron, “Ladies and gentlemen, we got him!”
Instead, Wells actually said: “It is rare that a player of Jeremy’s talent becomes available, and we are thrilled that he will be playing for us for the rest of his career.”
The process went back and forth between the Cats and Greater Western Sydney for, literally, every possible minute of Trade Week. The Giants moved on their demands in exchange for the former Coleman Medal winner more than once – first demanding a key player and at least one of the Cats’ three first-round draft picks, then a definite of multiple draft picks, then multiple players with a draft pick… and variations in between… you get the idea.
That flexibility of negotiation was possible because as the Giants’ front office squirmed, it was Wells and the Cats who held the hammer.
Having three draft picks for leverage will allow that to occur.
And after stretching the process out for as long as possible, Wells and the Cats relented and sent all three of their first-round selections in next month’s draft – picks 13, 15 and 20 – in what was essentially a three-team trade which involved Essendon as well.
The Bombers sent a second-round pick to GWS in exchange for Jye Caldwell, and the Giants bundled that draft pick plus Cameron to the Cats in exchange for those three draft picks.
So is mortgaging the future worth it, to get a gun forward?
Wells and Cats coach Chris Scott would be of the opinion that “the future is now”, especially with a list that – despite the recent retirements of Gary Ablett and Harry Taylor – was already veteran-laden as it was.
It might be best to analyse the acquisition of Cameron from Scott’s probable tactical standpoint.
The Cats, despite the assertion that Tom Hawkins seems to get better the longer he plays on, have struggled to have a two-pronged tall forward combination in recent years. They want to emulate what Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch have at Richmond, and what Geelong themselves had in their premiership years with Cam Mooney and Nathan Ablett and then with what Hawkins and James Podsiadly offered in tandem.
Cameron gives them that option – and while it doesn’t exactly put to bed the debate over where Patrick Dangerfield is best suited to play, it does allow Mark Bliclavs to be more of a “stay at home” fullback and chief ruckman Rhys Stanley to concentrate on dictating contests around the ground. And in that latter respect, perhaps it does give one argument to the Dangerfield question that he is destined to line up in the centre alongside Cam Guthrie and Sam Menegola to make the clearances possible.
And not forgetting the mouth-watering proposition that Geelong now has the last two Coleman Medal winners in its forward line in Hawkins and Cameron, with a combined 1030 career goals between them. While younger forwards like Gryan Miers and Tom Atkins will learn from and feed off of the Hawkins-&-Cameron partnership, other forwards such as Gary Rohan will also benefit – and in the end, that will keep opposing defences honest, as being able to keep that much forward talent honest may be too big a task to achieve.
NUMBER TWO: ISAAC SMITH
Hawthorn supporters would have to feel filthy that one of their better players over the years this side of Buddy Franklin, Luke Hodge and Cyril Rioli has left the Hawks’ nest – and they’d have every right to be, leaving for a rival club that beats them in blockbusters virtually every year.
And to rub salt further into Alistair Clarkson’s wounds: as an unrestricted free agent, Hawthorn gets nothing in return from Geel