Geelong Cats can go back to back, but it will be difficult
As happened after the last three Geelong flags, a new skipper will try to lead them back to back to the flags.
This new skipper, Patrick Dangerfield, has been telling people that going back-to-back isn’t as much a concern as winning a flag for a new group.
That’s fair enough, but they shouldn’t shy away from that ambition to race back-to-back, as it was that ambition that propelled them to last year’s flag – a title won through persistence, faith and skill.
Winning a second consecutive Premiership would be even more difficult, and for one good reason: Geelong have gone from being the AFL’s hunter to being the hunted.
This creates dangers that are often easier to recognize in hindsight than at the moment.
It’s easy to think you’re as disciplined as you are towards the Premiership, but often you’re not quite there, especially when you fall into the trap of thinking you could just flick the switch to reverse underperformance.
When my mindset got out of hand, my focus shifted from doing what was best for the team and fulfilling my role, to gaining more possession and scoring goals. I ignored the small parts of my game that made me a valued member of the team and I was tempted to make excuses for things I didn’t do well. I scored in 11 straight games before the 2008 grand final, but not a single goal in the decider. My tackle average went from 2.6 in the first 15 games to 2.1 in the last seven.
We’ve heard it all before – teams use the absence of a few key players to explain a loss or justify a win by saying they just play along without going into the details of what’s behind each performance.
For firsts, each team studies what you’ve done and puts you on their hit list. You’re no longer challenged every few weeks, you’re challenged every week because every team stands up for you.
Combine that with marquee time slots, more eyeballs and the expectations that rise when you’re now known as a Premiership player.
As an individual, you can imagine getting going at any time; try to repeat what you did instead of trying to get better.
One benefit of the cats is that they now have the depth needed to make changes on a regular basis. They used their depth well last season and have the capacity to do so again in 2023.
Despite the retirement of Joel Selwood – an absolute superstar – they refreshed the list. There is still plenty to improve on from many young players on the list including Sam De Koning, Max Holmes, Tanner Bruhn, Jack Bowes, Ollie Henry, Esava Ratugolea, Brandan Parfitt, Gryan Miers, Brad Close and Shannon Neale.
That will keep the pressure on for starting XI spots high, an important part of any successful campaign. It will also allow the Cats to try different styles of play, retain an element of surprise for their opponents and allow them to react quickly when a team throws something unexpected at them, as Hawthorn did successfully in the 2008 Grand Finals.
Scott is a master at matching playstyle to the talent at his disposal, so different combinations allow the cats to play in different ways.
And they’re also looking for the right people to ensure the club remains a fun place to be, whatever the results. This is an important ingredient; It encourages people to focus on continuous improvement instead of protecting their patch.
It all starts for the Cats on Friday night with a massive duel against Collingwood that will keep Geelong honest throughout the year, along with the Brisbane Lions, Melbourne, Sydney and Richmond as legitimate contenders.
While Friday’s result will matter, the way Geelong play will matter because they need to focus on getting this right throughout the season and somehow accept that undue attention to detail is required could be to keep everything on course.
Mathew Stokes is a player from Larrakia who has played 200 games with Geelong and Essendon. He played in Geelong’s Premiership teams in 2007 and 2011.
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https://www.smh.com.au/sport/afl/post-premiership-perils-facing-the-cats-in-going-back-to-back-20230315-p5cs8w.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Geelong Cats can go back to back, but it will be difficult