One big question hung over the Geelong midfield heading into season 2020 – how could the Cats possibly replace Tim Kelly?
The All-Australian starter, top five Brownlow finisher and the AFLCA’s Best Young Player was going to leave a huge hole in the Cats’ midfield.
Right under the noses of Geelong fans lay some ready-made replacements.
Waiting in the wings were Cam Guthrie and Sam Menegola, ready to flourish with increased opportunity and drive Geelong’s charge to its first Grand Final berth since 2011.
On his own Guthrie would make up the All Australian hole left by Kelly, win his maiden Carji Greeves Medal and secure a top 10 Brownlow finish of his own.
Up and Comers
It was an interesting first season in the league for pick 16 Cooper Stephens.
Whisked away to an interstate hub to ply his trade in inter-club scratch matches, the young inside midfielder took everything in his stride.
Spending time at half back and through the midfield showing a clean pair of hands and strong attack on the ball, it was an important learning year for the prized draftee.
Charlie Constable returned to the senior side for two matches where he notched 16 and 19 disposals.
The clean inside midfielder spent the rest of the year playing consistent football for the Geelong Reserves.
Quinton Narkle played in five of the first games before injuring his hamstring and subsequently being unable to reclaim his place in the side.
At his best, the Cats have a hard-tackling, clearance machine if the 22-year-old can rediscover his best form.
The son of Billy Oscar Brownless was tried all over the ground in 2020, looking best using his hard running to push forward and hit the scoreboard from a wing.
A popular figure and leader amongst the young players in the hub.
The Numbers: 21 Games, 20.76 Disposals, 5.00 Inside 50s, 4.48 Clearances, 1.10 goal assists, 0.81 goals per game
The Stats That Matter: 23 Goal Assists (Equal First in AFL), 104 Inside 50s (Second in AFL) 44 Centre Clearances (5th in AFL), 233 Contested Possessions (2nd in AFL), 437 Disposals (7th in AFL), 8741 Metres Gained (Second in AFL)
Best Game: Round 18 v Sydney, Three Goals, Three Brownlow Votes, five marks, six inside 50s
Another year, another league-leading campaign for the All Australian captain.
The dynamic star could be reviewed with the forwards as well, swinging into the front half late in the year and winning multiple games off his own boot including round 18 against Sydney (three goals) and the Semi Final (four goals).
Few in the game can burst from a centre stoppage, put the ball inside 50 or put the ball through the big sticks like the 30-year-old Cat.
The Numbers: 21 Games, 21.29 Disposals, 4.52 marks, 4.10 tackles, 3.86 clearances per game
The Stats That Matter: 86 Tackles (10th in AFL), 447 disposals (Third in AFL), 332 Effective Disposals (Fourth in AFL), 361 Pressure Acts (Sixth in AFL), 57 Stoppage Clearances (Seventh in AFL)
Best Game: Round 13 v Adelaide, 33 Disposals, 7 Clearances, 8 Score Involvements
Carji Greeves Medal. Top Ten Brownlow Finish. All Australian starter.
What a year for Cam the humble Cat. The once oft maligned midfielder flourished when entrusted with the midfield role vacated by Eagle Tim Kelly.
Guthrie was hard edged, amongst the AFL leaders in tackles and clearances, and then silky on the outside.
The image of the softly-spoken midfielder holding back tears while he embraced his brother Zach in the rooms after Geelong’s Preliminary Final win shows just how much the club means to him.
At 28 years of age Guthrie has plenty of good footy to play.
The Numbers: 21 Games, 21.19 Disposals, 5.62 Marks, 3.10 Inside 50s, 2.52 Clearances Per Game
The Stats That Matter: 444 Disposals (Fourth in AFL), 299 Uncontested Possessions (Third in AFL) 118 Marks (Fourth in AFL), 7266 Metres Gained (Ninth in AFL), 104 Score Involvements (Eighth in AFL)
Best Game: Round 16 v Essendon, 3 Brownlow Votes, 30 Disposals, 2 Goals, 8 Clearances, 5 Inside 50s, 2 Goal Assists
After managing just 12 AFL games in 2019 and playing four games at VFL level, some were beginning to question where Menegola fit into Geelong’s best 22.
The hard-running Cat answered that question and then some in 2020.
Only three men in the entire league found more footy this season, as he burnt off opponent after opponent with his relentless running of the wings in Queensland.
Stiff to miss out on All Australian selection after making the 40 man squad and securing an equal career high, sixth placed Carji Greeves finish, Menegola will be a real weapon for the Cats once again in 2021.
The Numbers: 18 Games, 15.50 Disposals, 5.94 Tackles, 2.50 Inside 50s, 0.44 Goals, 2.83 Clearances per game
The Stats That Matter: 106 Tackles (second in AFL), 342 Pressure Acts (Second at Geelong), 132 Contested Possessions (Sixth at Geelong), 279 Disposals (Eighth at Geelong), 45 Inside 50s (Seventh at Geelong)
Best Game: Round 2 v Hawthorn, Two Brownlow Votes, 19 Disposals, 10 Tackles, 8 Clearances, One Goal Assist
Brandan Parfitt is a tackle machine.
The tough Cat hit hard all season long to lay the second most tackles in the entire league as the 22-year-old made another step towards becoming a bonafide mid.
His round two performance against the Hawks in an important milestone match showcases just what he can be as a full-time midfielder.
The Numbers: 19 Games, 16.63 Disposals, 0.42 Goals, 0.89 Tackles, 2.63 Inside 50s per game
The Stats That Matter: 316 Disposals (Sixth at Geelong), 50 Inside 50s (Fifth at Geelong), 234 Kicks (Fifth at Geelong)
Best Game: Round 8 v Fremantle, 26 Disposals, 5 inside 50s, 3 tackles
Zach Tuohy left the familiar surroundings of the defensive 50 in 2020, roaming high up onto a wing and finding himself a place in Geelong’s midfield unit.
The move resulted in one of the highest goal per game averages of the Irishman’s career as the strong runner clocked up kilometre after kilometre of high speed running.
With the acquisition of Isaac Smith and Sam Menegola locked into one wing at GMHBA stadium, Tuohy could find himself back in defence in 2021.
The Numbers: 20 Games, 20.35 Disposals, 3.40 Tackles, 2.80 Inside 50s, 0.80 Goal Assists per game
The Stats That Matter: 16 Goal Assists (Fourth in AFL) 296 Uncontested Possessions (Fourth in AFL), 406 Disposals (17th in AFL), 262 Kicks (Fifth in AFL)
Best Game: Round 1 vs GWS, Three Goals, 21 Disposals, Five Inside 50s
Despite missing a significant chunk of preseason with the knee injury that prematurely ended his 2019 campaign, Duncan produced another consistently outstanding season.
The skilful Cat’s ball use remains largely unmatched, put to good use in recording 13 goals and 16 goal assists from the midfield.
With a full preseason to get his body right this time around, we can expect more of the same quality from Mitch Duncan.
The Numbers: 15 Games, 17.20 Disposals, 4.20 Tackles, 2.40 Inside 50s, 4.13 Clearances per game
The Stats That Matter: Second at Geelong for Clearances per game, Second at Geelong for Tackles per game, Third at Geelong for Contested Possessions per game
Best Game: Round 2 v Hawthorn, Three Brownlow Votes, 28 Disposals, One Goal, Eight Clearances, Four Inside 50s
While hamstring and knee injuries caught up with the Cats talismanic leader in 2020, Geelong’s cautious recovery treatment paid off in the long run.
After missing Rounds 13 through 17, Selwood returned for the final game of the season and timed his finals run perfectly.
A broken finger did nothing to stop Selwood inspiring his troops to another grand final appearance.
It will likely be an approach that Geelong employs going forward as the iconic captain enters the twilight years of his career and the Cats hope to go one better in 2021.