Last night’s 110 point drubbing at the hands of Sydney confirmed a silent feeling I’ve had about Geelong for a while. A feeling I’ve kept close to my chest because I don’t want to believe it. It’s a feeling that the great run since 2007 is finally coming to a slow end.
Last night the cats were completely battered. Slaughtered in the middle and in defence. The Swans ran rings around them while the usual suspects, Selwood, Bartel, Kelly and Johnson, did their best to stem the bleeding, but to no avail.
It would be easy and comforting to pass this off as just a bad night – and I really hope this turns out to be the case. But I doubt it. The signs have been there for a while.
In the wake of last night’s loss, a friend of mine left a message saying that it’s an unfortunate reality check for the cats. The inevitable reality that comes with being up for so long – it can’t last forever. He noted that Geelong have about a dozen really good players, a few also rans, and some spare parts. My initial thought was to put this guy back in his box and point out that only fools write off this great side and that he just has sour grapes – he is a doggies supporter, after all.
Yet in my heart of hearts, I couldn’t help but find some truth in what he said. I left no reply.
I thought about his comment while reading the match report this morning. It made for interesting reading. I looked at Geelong’s top ranked players last night and I couldn’t help but ponder my mate’s reading of the play.
Consider the top players last night:
I’ll note that Corey Enright and Tom Lonergan were out last night – but they’re usually in the mix. McIntosh, Stokes, Mackie, and Varcoe made up the rest of the top ten. The usual names, apart from maybe Tom Hawkins, who fluctuates from top rank to bottom rank by the week. These are the guys who get the job done week in, week out. But that’s also the problem – Geelong no longer have the depth underneath.
The rest of the list consistently appear in the middle to lower rankings every week: Horlin-Smith, Motlop, Rivers, Guthrie, Simpson, Stringer, Murdoch, Sherringham etc. Granted, most of these players are only young, and I believe Guthrie and Horlin-Smith have lengthy careers ahead of them, and Murdoch has shown plenty of promise.
Yet in the context of premiership talk for 2014-15, these blokes don’t quite cut it. It’s the Selwoods, Bartels, Taylors and Johnsons getting the cats home every week. Without their heavy lifting, the cats fall down.
Granted, there are superstars in every team who lift their side over the line. Yet premiership teams are defined by their depth, particularly the quality of their middle and lower tier players. I suspect that Geelong’s crop in this category is too underdeveloped. They’re by no means terrible, in fact they’re serviceable players, but serviceable is not enough in September.
The club sits neatly perched at 7-3 nearing the midway point of the season. Apart from the victory against Hawthorn, their wins have not been convincing, and they have been significantly beaten by Port Adelaide and Sydney. In both games, Geelong were outclassed.
All dynasties start with a symbolic beginning, and looking back on this great era, I can pinpoint the very day that it all began. It was the emphatic 157 point victory against Richmond in round six, 2007. Prior to that, the cats had a win-loss record of 2-3 and their season was looking like it could be a repeat of 2006. After that, Geelong enjoyed a fifteen game winning streak before going on to win three flags, play in four grand finals, and fall agonisingly short in last year’s preliminary final.
I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect last night’s 110 point loss is the symbolic end. The day that the inevitable passage of time caught up with this great team. Consider the stars that have been lost through the years: Ablett, Scarlett, Corey, Mooney, Milburn, Harley, Ling, Rooke, Chapman, Wojcinski, Ottens – hard to replace.
So if this really is the end, let me be the first to say, thank you Geelong. Thank you for what you have been. From the boy who grew up worshipping your team and always praying for that dreadful premiership drought to end, thank you. Thank you for the three premierships, the Brownlow medalists, the seventeen All-Australian players, the 147 wins in 183 matches – thank you. It’s been better than I could have dreamed.
The punters have written Geelong off several times during the past glory years. The 2009 grand final was seen by many as their final shot at the big prize. Likewise, at the end of 2010, Geelong was football’s forgotten club after Ablett jetted north and Bomber Thompson returned home. The cats then went on to claim the 2011 premiership. After a modest sixth finish in 2012, the pundits again called Geelong’s demise before they rose again to reach within five points of Hawthorn in last year’s epic preliminary final.
Can they do it again? Does this great team have one final chapter to write in one of the game’s most epic dynasties? Sadly, as one of Geelong’s most passionate fans, I think the story might finally be over. But heck, what a story it has been.