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Why Geelong is primed to win the premiership

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Footy tips: Bombers or Eagles?

Rohan Connolly previews the weekend's AFL action, including Essendon's clash with West Coast at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

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If the race to the AFL flag was for runners, it's fair to say Geelong has been ever so slightly off pace over the past few years. The Cats have been thereabouts, but when it's come to the final straight, they've lacked that extra gear needed to get over the line. Not this year.

The Cats have got their mojo back and anything less than a premiership will likely be considered a disappointment for the heirarchy at Skilled Stadium. Their coach Chris Scott knows it. So do the players.

The Geelong machine has been gathering momentum in 2014 and over the past month, the Cats have proven their credentials. They may have only just snuck home against Fremantle last week, but they showed enough in three quarters of football to demand attention. Flags are won and lost in defence and the Cats' back six is purring.

Harry Taylor: back to his best form.

Harry Taylor: back to his best form. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

After a start to the season that, by his own standards, Harry Taylor would consider average, he's back to career-best form. I've said it before and it remains the case. When Taylor is firing, he is easily one of the most dangerous players in the competition, smothering his opponents while regularly getting his own ball and running forward to kick goals. His numbers tell the story, as do the numbers of fellow defenders Jared Rivers and Tom Lonergan. Between them, they dominate their opponents in one-on-one contests. Coupled with the support of teammates, such as Andrew Mackie, James Kelly and Corey Enright, this is one of the main reasons Geelong is back as a force.

But it is run on the outside, specifically speed, where the Cats have improved significantly.

We all know what Mackie is capable of and his run and carry is now being matched by others like Mitch Duncan, Travis Varcoe, Steve Motlop and Allen Christensen, who is nearing full fitness. Sure, we all know Geelong got belted by Sydney earlier this year, but it's been the only blip on their radar. They have otherwise been one of the most consistent and best-performed teams in the league.

It is easy to apportion credit to James Bartel, Joel Selwood, Steve Johnson and Tom Hawkins, who are in the elite category, but it really has been a team effort. Selwood may have been carrying an injury, but he's back to his best. Stevie Johnson is Stevie J. The harder it gets, the more he seems to like it, while Bartel is enjoying a new role up forward.

While Bartel may have been a revelation for the Cats in attack, their forward line is probably the one area that needs attention before September. They have become too reliant on Hawkins and therefore too predictable.

Hawkins is now, without a doubt, one of the best big men in the competition, if not the best. He showed what he was capable of when he booted three goals to help lead the Cats to their 2011 flag against Collingwood. His confidence has grown ever since. There isn't a defender in the competition Hawkins would fear. He's simply too big for them, using his hulking frame better than any other player in the AFL. Not only does he crunch packs, but he's also become adept at protecting an area, allowing the Cats' fleet-footed forwards time to pounce.

But, if he's not kicking goals, do the Cats have the artillery to get the job done? The modern game demands variation up forward and while the dominance of the Cats' backline will help to mask any shortcomings at the other end of the ground, Geelong will need its other forwards at their very best to compete in September.

On Friday night the Cats come up against the Blues, who are finally showing signs of promise under Mick Malthouse.

Carlton has been really competitive over the past month and Jarrad Waite has been the No.1  forward in the competition. They're playing free-flowing, attacking footy and it's working.

Chris Judd's recent form was the catalyst for his decision to shelve retirement plans, Bryce Gibbs is easily in the midst of his best season, Dale Thomas is finally justifying Malthouse's decision to poach him from Collingwood, while big men Sam Rowe and Levi Casboult are having breakout years.

Rowe got the job on Hawkins when these teams last met and really struggled. He got schooled on how "not" to play on monsters. You don't get caught in wrestling matches. He'll likely get the chance to redeem himself. Watch for a different approach.

The Cats are the obvious favourites, but don't discount Carlton. The Blues will go into this match believing they can win. 

28 comments so far

  • If Freo had kicked straight, and the umpires were not so swayed by the hordes at Kardinia park.. ( Harry Taylor's deliberate tap out of bounds not paid in the last quarter anyone?), would this article be so optimistic Wayne? Im still not fully convinced by Freo, my team, but not much made me think this Cats team can do it all the way.. Freo waxed them in the last quarter.

    It's Sydney's and Hawthorn's to lose. Geelong are good, but really, you must have been scratching for an alliterative headline.

    Commenter
    Fyfedog
    Location
    Victoria
    Date and time
    August 14, 2014, 5:55PM
    • Yes, Geelong were lucky and I don't think they can win a flag. Think it's a two horse race between Hawthorn and Sydney. "Don't discount Carlton". LOL.

      Commenter
      Paul
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 7:05PM
    • We controlled the game for 3 qs.Had Bartel converted his two shots and Varcoe kicked his before Freo realised the quarter had started the game was over.Your right though its Syd/Hawks to lose….here we come.Meow.

      Commenter
      michael
      Location
      mount martha
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 8:57PM
    • If Freo learned how to tackle below the head, then maybe the free kick count wouldn't be so out. Typical Docker whinging through those purple glasses. Total bunch of sooks who never get over it.

      Commenter
      Tiga Balme
      Date and time
      August 15, 2014, 9:25AM
  • ...and now its bound not to happen, thanks Carey

    Seriously though, we are a VERY long shot to win given our inconsistent and often bafflingly bad form..

    Commenter
    Damn
    Date and time
    August 14, 2014, 6:01PM
    • Really Wayne, the things you come up with! Two weeks ago the Hawks were going to miss the top four. Geelong is going ok but not good enough to win the flag, and I am sure the coach and players have realistic expectations for this year. They have been up there for eight years with the loss of Ablett, Ottens, Ling, Scarlett, Corey, Mooney, Chapman and a few others. Of course they can still win a final or two and that will be a good result. If you thought Geelong was that good your last comment "don't discount Carlton" would not be there.

      Commenter
      Jack
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 6:26PM
      • The cats are adept at covering their weaknesses and will push the likes of Hawthorne and Sydney but it's hard to see them winning the flag. Wayne you mentioned Varcoe as one of their best players but he hasn't played a really good game since the 2011 GF.

        Commenter
        Tom
        Date and time
        August 15, 2014, 10:07AM
    • Wayne, your assessment on Harry Taylor is far more accurate than Brian Taylor's. There again I wouldn't put yourself in the same category, as a player or commentator as BT. I also apologize for having put you and BT in the same sentence.
      For what it is worth, I believe Cats and Swan's for this year's GF. Maybe then the cats can redeem themselves of the humiliation of earlier in the season.

      Commenter
      Webfeet
      Location
      Quackery
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 6:41PM
      • "I also apologize for having put you and BT in the same sentence."

        Ha! Funny. After Brian Taylor's last two matches I watched (Geelong/North and Geelong/Fremantle), I resolved that next time he's the commentator, I'll be turning off the sound and turning on ABC radio.

        The puerile muck he dishes up.

        Commenter
        cuts both ways
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        August 14, 2014, 7:40PM
      • And so you should apologise. Fancy putting Wayne Carey and that numbskull BT in the same sentence!

        Commenter
        Catherine
        Date and time
        August 15, 2014, 9:13AM

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