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Cats showing all the signs of an era ending

Date

Robert Walls

Geelong's players are older and a lot less hungry.

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A DECADE ago, the Brisbane Lions were in their prime. They won their first flag in 2001. Two more came straight after and on their fourth attempt at premiership success, they were toppled by Port Adelaide.

For four years they had been the benchmark. Some of their heroes were Michael Voss, Nigel Lappin, Jason Akermanis, Justin Leppitsch, Alastair Lynch and the Scott twins Brad and Chris.

They were magnificent warriors who set a standard of excellence for a long time. But after that golden period, the Lions fell away quickly. The next four seasons saw the team plummet to 11th, 13th, 10th and 10th positions on the ladder.

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During this period of decline, many of the multi-premiership players retired. Gone at 30 were Brad Scott and Clark Keating. At 31, Craig McRae, Leppitsch, Chris Scott, Mal Michael and Chris Johnson hung up their boots. Going out at 32 were Marcus Ashcroft, Darryl White, Lappin and Voss. We saw the backs of Shaun Hart, Martin Pike and Akermanis at 33.

The reality was that of all those who played on into their 30s, after the four glory years, none could maintain their best form. A combination of age, injury and mental fatigue wore them down.

Now Geelong, which has played in four of the past five grand finals, faces the same problem. After last year's flag success, Cameron Ling (aged 30) and Brad Ottens (31) could no longer face the demands of AFL football. They retired and with them went premiership teammates Cameron Mooney (32) and Darren Milburn (34). That left behind 10 teammates who will be 29 or older this year. All of them, from Jimmy Bartel to Matthew Scarlett, are highly respected. But the facts are their best football is behind them and from here on, it will be a slow decline for some, and a quicker decline for others.

Last year coach Chris Scott, who saw the rise and fall of the Lions first-hand, did an outstanding job managing his ageing list. They lost just three games. Twelve months on, Scott's job is so much tougher.

Already this year the Cats have dropped four games. You pay a price for success. Because the likes of Steve Johnson, Paul Chapman, Bartel and Joel Corey have played finals in seven of the past eight seasons, they have amassed up to 20 finals games. That's an extra season of football at its most intense. So many times these Cats have come off the field exhausted.

Now, the question marks on Geelong's older brigade centre on whether they are still hungry for the contest after so much success and glory and, if they are, whether the body is capable of delivering what the brain demands. Cam Mooney has stated that as the premierships, marriage and children came, the fire in the belly wasn't as fierce as it once was.

Eight rounds in and the stats tell us the Cats are not the dominant force they once were. From last year to this, scores for have dropped from 115 points a game to 92, while scores against have risen from 73 to 91. Rankings for hard-ball-gets have gone from first to 18th, contested possession from fifth to 15th, contested marks from first to 16th and effective disposal from second to 12th.

Of the older brigade, Bartel, Chapman and Corey are slightly down on output in the midfield. Corey's disposal efficiency has dropped from 69 per cent to 62 per cent as he now hurriedly puts the ball to boot. In defence, Corey Enright and Josh Hunt are also a little down on normal output. Scarlett must be wondering if he should have retired nine months ago. He has already stated this will be his final season, but so far suspension and injury have restricted him to just three games.

David Wojcinski played 22 games last season but there's been no senior appearance in 2012. He, too, has been a victim of suspension and injury.

Up forward, Johnson has not been as damaging on the scoreboard. Last year's return was 2.2 goals a game - at present it's 1.0.

James Podsiadly hasn't the kilometres on the clock of the other veterans, but, in a less dominant team, his supply has dried up. Last year he was No. 2 in the AFL for contested marks. Now, he's not even in the top 10.

So the Cats have their problems. The pride and courage of the ageing champs may well mean they will win more games than they lose, so once again they will see finals action. But, has the window of opportunity closed on their chance to win that elusive fourth flag?

The Lions couldn't do it; nor, I fear, will the Cats.

48 comments

  • Its a bit like the housing crash though isnt Robert....if you predict it for long enough...you will evenutally be right...youve been calling for the demise of Geelong for years...and you certainly dont "fear" that this year you might be right...really Robert...its a bit like taking candy from a baby. Harden Up...How about the BLUES....how are they going...pittiful...given all theri draft concessions and threatneing to be good for so long...only to now be ruoled SOFT...HA Ha!!

    Commenter
    Charles
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    May 25, 2012, 8:11AM
    • Can't recall whether Walls has picked it before - probably - but the difference is, this time he's almost certainly right. There is no way on earth the Geelong of recent seasons would have failed to win last week's game, after (commendably) getting back into a winning position and on the rebound from a thrashing in Adelaide. The signs are clearly there - Geelong has lost its hunger, edge, whatever you call it, and I think you can forget about them making the Grand Final or flag. An early exit from the finlas is the most likely scenario.

      Commenter
      SteveR
      Location
      McKinnon
      Date and time
      May 25, 2012, 10:17AM
    • Yes Robert, brilliance is hard to sustain and flags are hard to win. Geelong and their supporters know this. The Cats' best season of the last five was 08' when they didn't win the flag. I doubt too many GFC people started this year with realistic hell-bent expectations of a 4th flag. The Cats would have started this year with the aim of getting to the business end and taking it from there..nothing more. GFC people aren't sitting back worried about the 'golden years' being over. They're savouring the brilliance they have seen and are looking forward to the future.

      Commenter
      Al
      Location
      Souf Yarra
      Date and time
      May 25, 2012, 10:26AM
  • All this sounds familiar...oh wait, I remember where I have heard it before...LAST YEAR!! So called 'experts' continue to write the Cats off year after year. I agree with Charles, I suppose if they keep writing it, one year it will come true.

    Commenter
    dmc_3009
    Location
    Sunshine
    Date and time
    May 25, 2012, 8:19AM
    • Running out of things to write about Robert? I thought the sensationalism was reserved for the Hearld S*n. And I am sure that this same article was written 12 months earlier. Geez, talk about knee jerk.

      Commenter
      Theo G
      Location
      Balaclava
      Date and time
      May 25, 2012, 8:20AM
      • For a side that has won three out of four premierships over the last five years, everything you describe is not so much a problem, but rather a natural progression of events. Other supporters can gloat all they want, but Geelong has nothing to prove to anyone now.

        They thought we were done when Hawthorn took the 2008 premiership, but we came back the next year and beat the highly favoured Saints.

        Everyone thought that was it when we failed to make the Grand Final in 2010. All through 2011, the cry was "too old, too slow", even though we only lost three games, and were the only side the highly favoured Magpies could not beat. "Too old, too slow, too good" is the new Geelong catchcry, regardless of what our level of success might be this year, and in coming seasons.

        Geelong is a great side that is now entering a period of rebuilding. It may take some time, but we have faith that we will reach the top again. Every successful team has cycles. Geelong's cycle of success is coming to an end for now. It's no reason to mourn, though. I guarantee the true supporters will always remember this wonderful legacy, and hopefully it will be used to inspire what is truly a plethora of up-and-comers, who only need some experience behind them to start making a real impact.

        Commenter
        blu
        Location
        Geelong
        Date and time
        May 25, 2012, 8:24AM
        • So you actually agree with Robert Walls then...

          Commenter
          Christos
          Date and time
          May 25, 2012, 9:58AM
        • Walls is being bluntly negative - you can practically see him rubbing his hands together with glee at the prospect of the Cats' so-called imminent downfall.

          I agree with him only in that yes - Geelong have lost some key players to retirement, and may lose more in the coming couple of seasons, and of course this is going to affect their placing on the ladder, and their finals prospects.

          However, I don't believe it's all doom and gloom, like Walls seems to be hoping for. Under Chris Scott's leadership, Geelong began the rebuilding process last year, and it has already begun to pay off with the likes of young Christenson. In his debut year, he has proven his worth many times over. We have also blooded a number of other young players who are showing real promise.

          With time and experience, and the mentoring of the senior players, the newbies will have a chance to make their mark. Geelong may be down, but we are certainly not out.

          Commenter
          blu
          Location
          Geelong
          Date and time
          May 25, 2012, 10:24AM
      • Wallsy, I was going to back the Dogs tonight and you write this to spur the Cats on you clown! Fair dinkum have a good look at yourself son.

        Commenter
        JB
        Location
        Glen Waverley
        Date and time
        May 25, 2012, 8:25AM
        • Yeah, Pods was number 2, but Tom Hawkins hadn't had a kick. This year it's shared between both of them. You can write off Geelong all you want, Wallsy, but if Carlton play Geelong in the finals, I know who i'll be betting on and it's not the downhill skiiers from Princes Park, but the gritty cats.

          Weren't you spruiking the Blues as a premiership favourite a couple of weeks ago and they've lost every game since?

          The opposite of your predictions is so often true that I'm glad you wrote this about the cats.

          Commenter
          Dean
          Location
          FNQ
          Date and time
          May 25, 2012, 8:38AM

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