Geelong mid-season report card
Geelong have hardly put a foot wrong in the first half of their season but all judgments depend on their performance in September as they head towards a top two finish. Let's look at what has gone right and what has gone wrong.
It has been virtually all positive for Geelong in 2019 with the club making every post a winner since Melbourne unceremoniously dumped them from the finals in last year's elimination final.
The good decisions began during the trade period when the Cats acquired Gary Rohan from the Sydney Swans and Luke Dahlhaus from the Western Bulldogs to increase the pressure applied inside their forward 50.
They then drew a line under Lincoln McCarthy (Brisbane Lions), George Horlin-Smith and Jordan Murdoch (Gold Coast), and Jackson Thurlow and Daniel Menzel (Sydney Swans), who were popular clubman unable to consistently deliver what was required due to a combination of factors.
The Cats also kept star midfielder Tim Kelly – after West Coast failed to satisfy them with their offer – and adjusted the role of their skipper Joel Selwood and club legend Gary Ablett to ensure they could deliver more with less.
Selwood moved on to the wing, patrolling his side of the ground as well as moving into centre bounces when required while the mercurial Ablett brought his ball use forward of centre making life much easier for teammates around him.
Having trained with purpose in the pre-season they surprised Collingwood in round one – when they played four first gamers Charlie Constable, Tom Atkins, Jordan Clark and Gryan Miers – and were organised and determined.
They have not looked back since with the performance of their youngsters, which includes Jack Henry, Jake Kolodjashnij and Mark O'Connor, credit to their development program.
Now they lead the competition for scores and scores against, with a premiership profile in place as they are ranked in the top two for points from turnovers, ground balls inside 50 and stopping opposition scores from inside 50.
Rhys Stanley has been outstanding in the ruck -with Zac Smith and Ryan Abbott – stepping in well when required and both key position players – Tom Hawkins up forward and Mark Blicavs in defence – are in All-Australian form.
Constable the only one of the quartet of additions unable to cement a spot because of the strength of the Cats' midfield with Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield and last year's All-Australian Tom Stewart also in good enough form to once again be.
Kelly has improved if anything, his clean hands making him hard to stop with Greater Western Sydney Matt De Boer the only player able to get on top of him this season, with his quiet performance instrumental to the result.
Add strong performances emerging forward Esava Ratugolea and veteran Harry Taylor, who have both excelled after injury ruined their season last year, and the club can point to positives wherever they look.
With the toughest part of their draw negotiated it's all about September for the Cats who head into the bye 11-1 and wins over premiership rivals Collingwood and West Coast and a narrow loss to Greater Western Sydney.
Nakia Cockatoo is the absent friend that faces an uncertain future as Geelong and Cockatoo attempt to get on top of his knee injury.
They have been ultra-cautious with the explosive 22-year-old, who has shown what he is capable of in five injury-riddled seasons that have only yielded 34 games, admitting they are hopeful more than confident in getting him back and firing.
Not that their regard for him has dissipated with the popular Cat a potential x-factor on their list if they can get him right.
The other area that has caused concern at the Cats has been the propensity for their stars to find themselves scrutinised by the match review officer.
Initially it was Ablett who uncharacteristically attracted headlines for his attack on the man rather than the ball when his elbow collected Essendon's Dylan Shiel and North Melbourne's Sam Wright in successive weeks as he attempted to block them after they handballed. His technique let him down in those cases there was no excuse when he struck Suns' midfielder Anthony Miles and he copped the one-week suspension on the chin.
Then it was the turn of Tom Hawkins, a player who has found himself unlucky to be on the wrong side of the MRO in recent years, to face a nervous wait after round 11 when he collected the Swans' Jordan Dawson high and late after the Sydney defender marked.
The incidents should have been a wake-up call for the Cats who often sail close to the wind as the best football teams do.
WHO'S JUMPED UP?
It's hard to overlook former Swan Rohan who has exceeded all external expectations, not only kicking 21.6 in the first 12 games but setting up games early or changing the momentum of games late with his tackling and marking inside the forward 50. Arriving with a point to prove he has become one of the game's most watchable players.
Of course, despite his legendary status, the performance of Ablett in the first half of the season can't be overlooked when looking at players that have jumped up in 2019 kicking 22 goals and creating countless others.
The real surprise packets however have been Irishman Mark O'Connor who has played every game as a rebounding defender, either playing tight or creating overlap run out of defence, and local goalsneak Miers who combines his love of a goal with endurance.
The pair have gone from players that few outsiders imagined making the grade to live-wires in the new look Cats.
Nakia Cockatoo (knee) – 4-6 weeks
Jordan Cunico (ankle) – 4-6 weeks
Lachie Henderson (plantar fascia) – 1-2 weeks
Sam Menegola (knee) – 1-2 weeks
Quinton Narkle (hamstring) – 2-3 weeks
Esava Ratugolea (hamstring) – TBC
THE RUN HOME
Round 13 – bye
Round 14 v Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval)
Round 15 v Adelaide (GMHBA Stadium)
Round 16 v Western Bulldogs (Marvel Stadium)
Round 17 v St KIlda (GMHBA Stadium)
Round 18 v Hawthorn (MCG)
Round 19 v Sydney Swans (SCG)
Round 20 v Fremantle (Optus Stadium)
Round 21 v North Melbourne (GMHBA Stadium)
Round 22 v Brisbane Lions (Gabba)
Round 23 v Carlton (GMHBA Stadium)
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