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Season review: Geelong

Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield says the Cats' AFL preliminary final loss to Sydney was tough.
Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield says the Cats' AFL preliminary final loss to Sydney was tough.
Photo Source: AAP

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Despite a strong record against quality teams – Sydney were the only top-eight side Geelong didn't beat in 2016 – question marks hung over the Cats the entire season. Upset losses to Carlton, Collingwood and St Kilda were costly and hinted at major issues with Geelong's depth. The midfield dominance of Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood covered the inconsistent performances of too many Cats.

Recruited from the Crows, Dangerfield thrived in his new environment. His Brownlow win, claimed with record-breaking 35 votes, was a fitting reward for one of the all-time great individual seasons. But too often he and Selwood were required to carry too much of the load.

There were impressive wins, including some big victories over other finalists, but being smashed by Sydney in the preliminary final seemed a truer indication of where Geelong were at. Jimmy Bartel is yet to make a call on his future but Corey Enright has already given the game away after earning his sixth All Australian guernsey. The inconsistent Steven Motlop is bound to be on his way out, and Geelong look like they will strengthen their list well with Brett Deledio and Zac Tuohy seeking trades to the Cats. How the list team and coach Chris Scott manage the off-season will determine whether they are genuine contenders in 2017.

Six games that shaped Geelong's season
Round 1: Geelong 18.8 (116) d Hawthorn 12.14 (86)
There were plenty of promising signs in the Cats' opening-round win over the Hawks, none bigger than the best-on-ground performance from hot recruit Dangerfield. He was simply sensational, racking up a career-high 43 disposals and pulling in a screamer in the final quarter in another ripping encounter between these fiercest of rivals. Some errant kicking in front of goal was the only blot on an otherwise dominant showing. Ruckman Zac Smith also impressed in his first game in the hoops, kicking three goals. The final margin did not do justice to the quality of the game. After kicking five goals to none in the third quarter, an undermanned Hawthorn went into the final break two points in front, but couldn't hold off the fast-finishing Cats, who kicked the last four goals of the game.

Round 7: Geelong 18.15 (123) d West Coast 12.7 (79)
The Cats’ fifth straight victory and best win since Round 1 took them to the top of the ladder, with Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield again the driving force behind the 44-point win. Steven Motlop booted three of his four goals in Geelong’s blistering second term, in which they kicked seven goals to one and seemingly put the result beyond doubt. The Cats were forced to withstand a spirited Eagles comeback in the third, however, as the visitors piled on five goals in seven minutes to reduce the margin to 19 points. A costly Matt Priddis turnover resulted in a goal to Josh Caddy, and from there the Cats kicked away.It wasn't all good news for Geelong: Lincoln McCarthy went off in the first quarter with an ankle injury.

Round 14: St Kilda 14.9 (93) d Geelong 13.12 (90)
Geelong were consistently inconsistent in 2016, beating all top eight sides bar Sydney, but also dropping games against also-rans Collingwood and Carlton in Rounds 9 and 10. Their shock three-point loss to St Kilda a month later was another game that on paper they should have won, but again the Cats struggled to match it with a lower-placed opponent. St Kilda’s early pressure was too much for the Cats, who found themselves five goals behind midway through the second quarter. Three big goals from Lincoln McCarthy got the Cats back in it, who hit the front briefly in the third quarter and again in the last. Geelong blew some golden opportunities in the final quarter to win the game, however, and despite being nine points up at the 18-minute mark, they couldn’t hold on, St Kilda kicking the final two goals of the game to steal the four points and dislodge the Cats from the top of the ladder.

Round 21: Geelong 10.22 (82) d Richmond 12.6 (78)
Another costly loss to a bottom eight side seemed on the cards as the Cats went into three-quarter time trailing a spirited Richmond by 35 points, Geelong having kicked just four goals for the game. But a remarkable final quarter comeback saw the Cats kick 6.9 to one goal to break Richmond hearts. Geelong had looked terrible early, and despite leading the inside 50 count 47-31 at three-quarter time, their ball use had been sloppy and pressure non-existent. But all that changed in the final term as coach Chris Scott moved Harry Taylor and Lachie Henderson forward and players finally found some run. Patrick Dangerfield was instrumental in the fightback, with nine last-quarter possessions and four inside 50s, as the Cats kicked six consecutive goals to take a 10-point lead, and then hold on after a Ty Vickery goal got the Tigers back within four points with less than a minute to play. 

Qualifying final: Geelong 12.13 (85) d Hawthorn 12.11 (83)
The Cats booked themselves a preliminary final appearance with this lucky two-point win over their arch rivals, after Isaac Smith’s shot on goal after the siren to seal a Hawks win drifted wide. It was another thrilling encounter between the teams; the Cats kicked two goals clear in the second quarter, the Hawks took ascendancy in the third, before a late Geelong fightback saw them take a two-point lead into three-quarter time. The lead changed four more times in the last. Dangerfield and Selwood were both mighty, Guthrie played one of his best of the year and Hawkins, despite only kicking two goals, gave the Hawks plenty of headaches up forward.

Preliminary final: Sydney 15.7 (97) d Geelong 8.12 (60)
An extremely disappointing end to a Geelong season that at times promised so much. The Swans blew the Cats out of the water in the first quarter, kicking seven majors while keeping their opponents goalless as Geelong struggled to cope with Sydney’s intense speed and pressure. Cats coach Chris Scott refused to blame the bye after the loss, but whatever the cause his men looked slow, sloppy and well off the pace as the Swans opened up a lead the Cats never looked like pegging back. Dangerfield and Selwood fought as hard as ever, but too many of Geelong’s second tier players went missing, a charge frequently levelled against the side throughout the season. The Cats dominated the inside 50s 72 to 40, but their hurried, imprecise ball use cost them and they were never seriously in the contest.

Can the Cats challenge again in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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