Despite taking a big Friday night scalp and climbing back into the top four, albeit temporally, Geelong coach Chris Scott says he is confident there’s plenty of improvement left in his side when they return after the bye.
The Cats go into the break with an 8-4 record after holding off a rampaging Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium, and face West Coast, Richmond and North Melbourne after the break.
“It was a really good win against a very good opposition who outplayed us for stages of the night,” he said post-match.
“Obviously getting off to a good start and getting a bit of a buffer there was very helpful but on our side, the last four to six weeks we’ve been really undermanned and we’ve been really impressed as a coaching group and as a club with the guys that have been out there.”
Geelong lost key defender Jake Kolodjashnji pre-game to health and safety protocols and All-Australian Tom Stewart was subbed out early in the second term with a concussion, forcing the Cats to shuffle the magnets once again and arrest a Bulldog outfit gaining momentum as the game went on.
Scott said Stewart was symptom-free post-match, and should be on the flight to Perth in a fortnight, but it’s been the ability of other players to step up when others have gone down right across the squad that has him optimistic about the rest of the season.
"Dangerfield will come back after the break, that'll make a big difference, but the guys in there (the midfield) were up for the challenge,” Scott said.
“I don't like to individualise, but Tom Atkins going in there has really given us a lift.
“It's often the case when you are a little undermanned you find out some things you wouldn't otherwise, like Tom Stewart going down (last year) helps Jack Henry, Dangerfield going out, Tom Atkins gets his chance.”
You can easily add Zach Guthrie to that list, who did his best Tom Stewart impression from the second term onward, finishing the game with 19 touches and 11 marks, including nine intercepts.
With Dangerfield, Henry, Sam Menegola, and Max Holmes among a host of others available after the bye, the Cats are confident in their steady build toward September.
“History is pretty clear that the team that gets on a roll and nails the last five or six weeks wins the whole thing," he said.
“If you fall in and things go wrong and you have a bit of bad luck and muck a few things up, then you’ve just got to be so much better than everyone else and I don’t think that team exists, with the greatest respect to Brisbane, Melbourne and Freo who are going really well.
“Whoever wins it will need a combination of luck and the ability to hit their best form when it really counts – that’s what we’re trying to build but it’s more art than science.”