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1:42pm  Oct 19, 2017

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AFL Media's Geelong season review

Jennifer Phelan - AFL Media  October 4, 2017 12:22 PM

The Washup 2017 AFL Media looks at what went right and what went wrong in 2017

In a nutshell

Started with a bang, trailed off for three weeks from round six, and then from round nine gathered momentum. With Patrick Dangerfield's form exploding and a few against-all-odds wins when injuries and suspension hit, they finished second, but bowed out at the preliminary final stage for the second year running.

What we said in the pre-season  

The consensus had the Cats finishing in the eight, but not in the top half. Just one of our reporters – Lee Gaskin – tipped a top-four finish (third), and everyone but Ashley Browne said they'd play finals although two reporters suggested they'd be the team to fall. Dangerfield was tipped by three to win back-to-back Brownlows and by one to kick 30-plus goals, which he did (45 in total).

What worked 

Dangerfield as a deep forward, a move toyed with in the season (mainly when he was sore), but really honed in on during the finals. Harry Taylor as a moveable swingman; the experiment to play him as a permanent forward didn't always work, but at times it netted important swags of goals. The recruitment of Zach Tuohy and Tom Stewart to the backline, the unveiling of eight debutants including the promising James Parsons and Brandan Parfitt, and Mitch Duncan and Sam Menegola thriving on expanded midfield responsibility. 

What failed

They didn't handle the occasion of a hot first quarter in the preliminary final for the second year running, which saw the game all but over at the first break. Injuries were an issue, which robbed them of the type of forward line consistency Adelaide was able to build this season. Joel Selwood hurt his ankle on the eve of the finals and got back for week one, but had reduced impact until the prelim. 

Overall ratingB

They finished second, despite a stack of injuries forcing them to paper over cracks, but they fell in disturbingly similar circumstances to last year a week short of the Grand Final as they simply couldn't fire when the heat turned up.

The coach

Murmurings about Chris Scott's extension started before the season, but the contract wasn't officially signed until the end of April. He's now locked in until at least the end of 2019. His best moment came in the semi-final against Sydney when he successfully parked Taylor on Lance Franklin after Tom Lonergan's late withdrawal, and moved Dangerfield to full-forward, a tactic the Swans had no answer for and essentially cost them the game. 

The leaders 

Joel Selwood remains one of the best captains in the competition and has two quality deputies in Dangerfield and Taylor in his eight-man leadership group. Selwood was named skipper of the All-Australian side three years running (2013-2016), Dangerfield is one of the competition's most respected players and Taylor is a composed figure whichever end he plays at. It's fair to say their on-field leadership is in good shape.

MVP

Patrick Dangerfield: Would have been a closely run race with Selwood until the captain missed the last three home-and-away games with an ankle injury. He started the season well but was simply devastating after the bye and even following his round 20 suspension. Averaged 29.9 disposals, 17.9 contested possessions, 7.1 clearances, kicked a career-high 45 goals and polled the second most votes behind Dustin Martin in the Brownlow Medal. The ultimate midfielder who has a future home at full-forward.

Surprise packet

Tom Stewart: Plucked from South Barwon by backline coach Matthew Scarlett, the mature-aged backman was playing in the Cats' VFL team and working as a carpenter 12 months ago. Now he's played 21 AFL games in his debut season, and a quiet qualifying final aside, showed he's got the poise and ability to take on more responsibility in the backline next year.

Get excited

Brandan Parfitt: Played 15 games in his first season despite a high-grade hamstring injury in round six cutting a huge chunk out of his year. The Territorian is loved at the club for his defensive pressure in the forward line and wasn't overawed in the finals, despite the Cats losing two of them.

Disappointment

Steven Motlop: Although his finals campaign restored some credibility, it was a frustrating year for Motlop. The Cats spruik his ability to play a "selfless" role across half-forward that doesn't get recognised every week on the stats sheet, but it's hard to dismiss his really quiet games where he goes unsighted for long periods. Remains on the trade table and has been linked to Port Adelaide.

Best win

Semi-final: Geelong 15.8 (98) d Sydney Swans 5.9 (39) at the MCG

After they managed just five goals in their qualifying loss to Richmond, the move of Dangerfield to full-forward was bold but gave the Cats the spark they needed, especially when Taylor had to go back to cover the loss of Lonergan. Dangerfield kicked 4.3 and helped set up a second-quarter blitz that meant the game was all but over at half-time in a remarkable turnaround from week one.

Low point

Their loss to the Swans in round 20 was costly and could have seriously destabilised their charge into the finals. Joel Selwood hurt his ankle, which needed surgery and an incredibly brave rehabilitation for him to play just 32 days post-operation in the first final, and they lost Tom Hawkins and Duncan to silly suspensions. 

The big questions

Will they land Gary Ablett, or will Gold Coast demand too much?
Ablett has declared he wants to wear hoops again, but the Suns are sure to play hard ball with the Cats over the contracted two-time Brownlow medallist.

Do their defensive stocks run deep enough to lose 489 games of experience?
And 44 finals, including six Grand finals? Lonergan and Mackie will leave gaping holes in a backline that lost Corey Enright just 12 months ago. Stewart is a find, Jake Kolodjashnij has re-signed and Taylor can go back, but the raw fact remains – that's a lot of experience to lose in the space of a year.

Were the forward line's issues injury-related, or is a revamp required?
They had injuries and suspensions run through their attacking half, which saw their firepower drop dramatically at times throughout the season. Considering everyone available, will they look at their forwards and be satisfied or think it's time to bring in fresh – experienced or new - talent?

Season in a song

History Repeating - The Propellerheads (ft. Shirley Bassey).

Premiership window

Three-quarters open: Dangerfield didn't come home to rebuild.

Who's done?

Retirements: Tom Lonergan, Andrew Mackie
Delistings: Josh Cowan
Unsigned free agents: Daniel Menzel (unrestricted), Steven Motlop (restricted) 

llonerganmackie.jpg

How should they approach trade and draft period?

Go hard and take no prisoners. If they want Gary Ablett, they need to make it happen. If they can fit Jake Stringer in, they've got to do that too, especially with Taylor likely needed down back. Their backline has lost plenty of experience and should hold up for now, but key defenders need to be on the shopping list with the future in mind. 

Early call for 2018

They need to make the Grand Final and exorcise their preliminary final demons before the window shuts.