There’s a distinct new look about the Cats in 2022.
Football in many ways is as complex as it ever has been, but according to Cats assistant coach Shaun Grigg, Geelong’s seemingly simple philosophy of requiring all 18 players to attack, and all 18 players to defend has been one of the keys to unlocking the potential of the list.
At the very least it appears to have informed the non-traditional coaching structure down at GMHBA Stadium this season, where the Cats have moved away from the model of traditional line coaches in order to find improvement in a team coming off successive grand final and preliminary final appearances.
Speaking to the To The Final Bell podcast with Cameron Ling and Scott Gullan, Grigg said the input of all coaches into all aspects of the ground has been refreshing, and the result has been a Geelong team with a few extra gears.
“I’ve been working with Scotty and [James Kelly] and [Nigel Lappin] around how can we maximise our strengths as a team and individuals,” he said this week.
“I’ve really enjoyed not just looking after one or two things - the programs I’ve been involved with have been that traditional mids, forwards, and backs model and you can get a bit insular in your own area.
“But with footy, you need 18 players to attack and 18 players to defend so the decisions we make, and the plans we put in place are to affect everyone.”
With five games remaining before finals, the results have been encouraging with the Cats sitting on top of the table ahead of this weekend’s game against the Power in Adelaide.
So far this season the uptick in the Cats offensive output has been notable.
Geelong are 3rd for scoring, up from 7th in 2021, 1st for scores per inside 50, up from 11th last season, and critically, points from turnovers has jumped from 9th to 3rd.
According to Grigg, the challenge of the coaching group was about finding ways to be more dangerous within a framework that has served the club well in recent years.
“We’ve got some unbelievable strengths as a team and as individuals so for us, it was how can we maximise those strengths,” Grigg said.
“We’ve got some incredibly talented forwards so it does make sense to get it into them a bit more, or a bit quicker, and we’ve also got some great defenders and midfielders that can defend behind that as well.
“So we tinkered with a few things about how can we be a bit more dangerous, how can we let the players play on instinct a little bit more and let their talents shine through within a framework.”
As for Grigg himself, having moved down to Geelong in late 2019 to join the Cas staff, the journey has been as unique as it has been rewarding.
“Damien Hardwick saw something in me so the last couple of years as a player he really instilled that belief and let me help coach out on the field,” he told the podcast.
“My last year as a player, I didn’t play a game and retired halfway through the year. But I got a great experience that year, I did six months as an assistant coach and six months with the great Neil Balme in football operations.
“[But] I was really keen to go and explore somewhere else and go somewhere that’s been successful and had a reputation of a good culture and a good team.”