AFL 2021 team previews: Geelong Cats

The coverage of the 2021 AFL season on Vendetta Sports Media continues with our latest team preview. Today we examine last season’s beaten grand finalists, the Geelong Cats.

For all of our previous team previews, click here.

Geelong’s home guernsey

Year after year, the veteran laden Cats continue to replenish their list with both young talent and veteran imports. Despite losing a pair of champions – including one of the very greatest to ever play the sport – this off season, the Cats have again restocked for yet another push towards a a fourth premiership in 15 years, though their first since 2011.

Season 2020

4th: 12 wins, 5 losses, 136.8%

Finals: Lost to Port Adelaide by 16 in week 1, defeated Collingwood by 68 in week 2, defeated Brisbane by 40 in week 3, lost to Richmond by 31 in the grand final.

With a mere two quarters left in the 2020 AFL season, the Cats had the premiership in the bag, leading reigning premiers Richmond by 15 points. Unfortunately, in the last games for club legend Harry Taylor and all-time great of the game Gary Ablett Jnr – the Tigers overran them with an inspired half of football.

The Cats have made the top four in each of the past five years, though this was their first grand final appearance since winning it all back in 2011. Despite their remarkable consistsncy and ability to continually replenish their list, 2020 was a massive missed opportunity for Geelong.

Key ins: Jeremy Cameron (Giants), Isaac Smith (Hawks), Shaun Higgins (Kangaroos), Max Holmes, Nick Stephens, Shannon Neale (all draft)

Key outs: Nakia Cockatoo (Lions), Lachie Fogarty (Blues), Gary Ablett Jnr (retired), Harry Taylor (retired), James Parsons (released)

As they always seem to do, the Cats have mined the trade and free agency markets with remarkable success. They’ve picked up a pair of outstanding veteran forwards in Cameron and Higgins to compliment reigning Coleman medallist Tom Hawkins, the occasionally brilliant Gary Rohan and young starlet Gryan Miers. Those imports will replace the inconsistent Cockatoo and the retired Ablett who was still able to produce genuine moments of genius, but at age 36 the Little Master was understandably unable to influence the game consistently.

How coach Chris Scott uses Cameron will prove interesting. The winner of the 2019 Coleman medal is a career full forward, but that’s Hawkins territory. Does the soon to be 28 year old have the motor to play at centre half forward? Does Scott employ twin deep targets? If so, will that work on the narrow confines of the Cats Kardinia Park home? No matter how Cameron is employed this season, the Cats have a forward line that is the envy of the entire league.

Veteran former Hawk Isaac Smith will step in on the wing, adding further depth to an already formidable midfield and potentially allowing ball magnet Sam Menegola to play on the ball more often. That move will help take the pressure from another ageing superstar in Patrick Dangerfield, meaning ‘Danger’ can play up forward more often, further strengthening that forward line.

The retirement of Taylor is a big loss to the Cats. Mark Blicavs has been a versatile Mr-Fix-It over the past few seasons but will likely step into Taylor’s old centre halfback spot on a full time basis. Cameron’s arrival means that Esava Ratugolea loses his forward line place – can he fill the utility player that Blicavs has so admirably occupied?

Prediction: 2nd

This is a team without a major weakness.

From a rock solid defense with a brilliant quarterback-type in Zach Tuohy, to a powerful and skilful midfield, feeding a star studded forward line, the Cats are loaded all over the field. If you wanted to pick nits, perhaps you could finger the Cats lack of outside leg speed, however Smith’s recruitment will help alleviate that.

Over the past few years, Geelong have – surprisingly – been unable to take care of business at the pointy end of the season. Given Geelong are almost a lock to be a top two side, how they handle that baggage could determine if the Cats are premiers in 2021, or are once again also rans.