Cameron Guthrie and Jordan Schroder are two Cats ready to take the leap to the next level
In 2013, Mathew Stokes celebrated his 28th birthday and what would be the greatest season personally of his already illustrious career.
A late bloomer, Stokes was drafted by the Cats at the age of 21, he had spent the three years prior to becoming a Cat playing SANFL football and working in a zoo.
So did Stokes’ late introduction to the rigours of AFL football mean that whilst most players begin to show a decline at 28 he was in fact hitting his peak, a peak most players reach at the age of 24 or 25?
This conundrum makes it hard to assess which Cat is most likely to have a breakout year in 2014 but we are going to try anyway. So here are the five Cats most likely to have a breakout 2014.
1. Cam Guthrie
Guthrie may make his long awaited move to the midfield in 2014 and the former first round pick has Cats fans and coaches excited. If 2013 was Guthrie showing the AFL he can cut it at the elite level, 2014 may be him showing he’ll set the standard. Guthrie has poise not seen on a young Geelong player since Joel Selwood and an increase in muscle mass over the offseason should see him become one of the Cats most dangerous midfielders. Guthrie will play game number 50 this season and at 21 is moving into the normal jump in development for an AFL player.
TOM HAWKINS ON CAMERON GUTHRIE'S PRE-SEASON
2. Josh Caddy
The Cats were very very keen to get Caddy when he indicated he would like to make a return to Victoria from the Suns at the end of 2012 and towards the latter end of 2013 it became apparent why. With 42 games under his belt now, Caddy has the body and the attitude to become a devastating midfielder in the AFL. A trip to the VFL mid-season provided Caddy with the necessary adjustments to the Cats game plan and when he returned he fit in much better to the Cats midfield spending time between the centre and the forward line. His greatest moment was without a doubt a superb goal from the boundary to sink the Hawks in round 15.
3. Jordan Schroder
With just five AFL games to his name it is a big stretch to say Schroder will have a breakout 2014 but all the evidence says he will. Schroder tied for the JJ Liston medal in 2013 and became the youngest player to win the award since Sam Mitchell did as a 19 year old. Schroder’s teammates are astounded by his goal sense, with many setting up for the next drill at training as soon as the ball lands in his hands in the forward arc. Despite the tender age of 20, Schroder’s body is not only up to AFL standard he also goes by the affectionate nickname of “Brick” amongst teammates. Often said to be a clone of former Cat Paul Chapman, Schroder may be at the top of the list to take his spot.
4. Nathan Vardy
Frustration may be the best way to sum up Nathan Vardy’s career so far. But it isn’t frustration in his abilities but more so in his ability to get on the oval. But after eight consecutive games to end 2013 and a full preseason, those frustrations may be a thing of the past for the big forward. With James Podsiadly’s spot up for grabs and a fit Hamish McIntosh and Dawson Simpson meaning he won’t need to combine forward roles with ruck work, Vardy may be ready to take hold of the Cats forward line. At 22 years of age, Vardy’s body is really starting to take on man-sized proportions meaning he will be able to cope with some of the game’s monster backmen.
5. Dawson Simpson
Much like Vardy, Simpson’s career has been full of frustrations. The gentle giant has suffered a plethora of back and knee injuries but managed to string six games together in the middle of 2013, including 55 hitouts against Melbourne in round 16, before he cruelly injured a knee in a ruck contest in round 18 against St Kilda. Now fit and participating in a rare pre-season, Simpson and recruit Hamish McIntosh may be the tonic for the Cats threadbare ruck line up of 2013. Turning 25 in February, and with a body only matched by a handful of AFL players look for Simpson to step up and make 2014 his own.