As a playing group, the Geelong Football Club sits at the crossroads in season 2017. They have arguably the best on-ball duo in the competition (DangerWood), but the team’s reliance on these superstars has become unhealthy. All players who rotate through the midfield need to raise their level of output and consistency. Chris Scott has moved two-time all-Australian defender Harry Taylor to the forward line. Is this desperation or inspiration? Will Peter suffer having been robbed to pay Paul? What does this all mean? Hell, even I’m confused.
As members and supporters, we place our trust in our football club and the coaches they employ to teach, lead and inspire this group of young men. So, will Geelong maintain their presence in the top 4 and push one step further than last year? Can they make their 5th Grand final in 11 seasons and perhaps win their 4th premiership over that time? Or will ‘DangerWood’ not receive the support they need, resulting in the club tail-spinning down the ladder? Let’s take a look at what’s happening at the Cattery.
B: Lachie Henderson, Tom Lonergan, Jackson Thurlow
Take your pick of Tom Ruggles or Thurlow in the third backline position. Those two will compete for that position all year. Injury prone Thurlow is the superior player around the ground and Geelong will hope to get some rebound from him off half-back. Ruggles is a solid backman who could slot straight into a team of the late seventies. His fist is always clenched which is great for spoiling opposition forwards, but not so good for other footballing necessities like marking, running and bouncing and the occasional high-five.
HB: Zach Tuohy, Andrew Mackie,l Jake Kolodjashnij
Let’s assume coach Chris Scott persists with his ‘Harry Taylor becomes John Coleman’ fantasy. If so, the half-back line will resemble this. This set-up will provide good run from Tuohy and Mackie (who loves sneaking forward for a goal – but mostly bombs it high and long if he senses pressure). Kolodjashnij, is a budding superstar. He now has 29 games under his belt and will hold down his position all year, having played 20 games in 2016.
*Jake Kolodashnij is currently injured so expect Josh Cowan or Tom Ruggles to be brought in to cover his absence.
C: Mark Blicavs, Joel Selwood, Cam Guthrie
Wing positions are obsolete these days. They only remain so players have somewhere to stand whilst awaiting the bounce of the ball before swarming around the footy like seagulls on a chip. The days of true wingmen - like Michael Turner flying down the ground in his Capper-tight shorts - are over. Expect these centreline players to alter positions with other on-ballers. Blicavs biggest performance issue is the introduction of the Third-Man Up rule. He was ranked number 1 in this area, coming over the top 154 times in 24 games last year.
HF: Daniel Menzel, Rhys Stanley, Steven Motlop
Expect Menzel to drift around the ground as he pleases, setting up play with clever chip kicks and breaking lines by shrugging tackles. Stanley will swap with Smith in the ruck and Motlop will rotate through the midfield. Motlop’s creativity and line-breaking speed is essential to Geelong’s forward thrusts. His contract expires at season’s end, so expect more hot than cold from this unpredictable superstar throughout 2017.
F: Harry Taylor, Tom Hawkins, Lincoln McCarthy
This is a forward line that worries the Geelong faithful. If top-eight hopes (let alone top four) can have an Achilles heel – apply deep-heat here. Geelong’s fortunes in season 2017 rest with the team’s ability to deliver the ball properly into the forward line, but it also rests with these forwards being able to lead and mark like forwards should. Hawkins often leads into the pockets resulting in difficult chances – or the ball being punched out of bounds. McCarthy is a capable forward, but he is learning the game (23 y/o, 24 games) and Taylor…well, he’s a backman (Attention Chris Scott!). Hopefully the ‘Under Construction’ sign 25 meters out from goal can be taken down in the first 3-5 rounds, but if not, expect Taylor to shuffle back to defence and Plan B to be rolled out. (Enter Aaron Black)
R: Zac Smith, Patrick Dangerfield, Mitch Duncan
Geelong’s engine room is its greatest asset alongside a reliable backline. Expect high rotations with other midfielders selected in the team, but when the going gets tough, DangerWood and Duncan (with Guthrie) will be asked to do the heavy lifting. Geelong’s top-eight hopes rest with the engine room. Geelong’s top-four hopes rest with this midfield linking up effectively with the ‘Under Construction’ forward line.
INT: Scott Selwood, Sam Menegola, Nakia Cockatoo, Jordan Murdoch
Scooter (Selwood) will claim a spot in the best 22 if he overcomes his injuries, Menagola is a beast in the middle and Cockatoo and Murdoch provide the outside run Geelong desperately needs.
EMG: George Horlin-Smith, Josh Cowan Tom Ruggles
Horlin-Smith had a great JLT Series and deserves a chance this year. Josh Cowan will play particularly while Kolodashnij is injured. Tom Ruggles will also be given opportunities after a strong 2016.
Waiting in the Wings: Aaron Black, Jed Bews, Cory Gregson, Tom Stewart, Brandan Parfitt, Zach Guthrie
All of these players will take to the field in 2017. Zach Guthrie should be elevated from rookie status due to his solid JLT Series performances. Chris Scott is a fan of providing opportunities to young/new players. If Geelong gets wins on the board early, expect senior players to be rested during ‘easier’ games (particularly at Kardinia Park) and these players to be handed their opportunity. Aaron Black will play in 2017 but this will be based upon the output of the forward line early in the season. The success or otherwise of the ‘Harry Taylor Experiment’ will dictate the timing of his curtain call. Brandan Parfitt will also play this year, and with Geelong’s pre-season injuries to Scott Selwood and Jake Kolodjashnij, he could be called on early. Keep an eye on Tom Stewart who may feature early for the Cats due to the same reasons. Opposition matchups will come into consideration regarding their selections.