CATS' SEASON 2005
- SUCCESS, FAILURE OR INDIFFERENT?
By Ben Jensen. WAS 2005 A SUCCESS OR FAILURE FOR THE GEELONG FOOTBALL CLUB? Did the Cats improve? Were we unlucky with injuries? Or, all things being equal, did we maintain the status quo? Those are the questions Geelong fans and indeed the Geelong hierachy have been asking themselves since the narrow defeat at the hands of Sydney in the second week of the finals. As we all know, the Swans went on to win the Grand Final by a narrow margin over the West Coast Eagles. If it were not for Nick Davis, would that have been us?
The year was capped of with news that the club had secured Gary Ablett and a player will wear number five in 2006.
WHAT WENT WELL
Despite the improvement of 2004, when the team lost by nine points to Brisbane Lions in the preliminary final, several new players made their debut and cemented a spot in the AFL side. The best debut of the season was that of defender Matt Egan. Formerlly of Oak Park in an Essendon league, Egan spent 2003 and 2004 on Geelong's VFL list (not even on the Rookie list!), and earned a spot on the main list via the 2004 draft. Egan made his debut in round one against Richmond, and from round .
Nathan Ablett's long-awaited and in the end unexpected debut generated hysteria but may turn out to be one of the saviours of the forward line in coming years. Nathan played in the opening final against Melbourne, but withdrew, apparently because of injury, before the ill-fated final against Sydney. Look for big Nathan to become a match-winner from season 2007 onwards, after playing ten or twelve games in 2006.
The new eastern grandstand, to be named the RJ Hickey Stand from 2006, signalled the club had not only survived, but will be a model league club for many years to come. Geelong is the only Victorian team to have its own playing arena, and has its fans, local, federal and state governments and of course the club's board and management to thank. The only worry is whether or not enough people can fit into the ground in years to come, and if they'll be prepared to pay high prices.
Cameron Mooney, while starting the season off in charactersistic style (being suspended, twice for stupid incidents) ended up one of the most valuable utilities in the competition.
The forward line is still a bit of a basket case. The likes of Henry Playfair made promising starts but still can't grab a game by the scruff of the neck - big H may have made more of an impact had he a. not had his jaw broken by the Crows in round 12, and b. could kick better. David Haynes has been moved on, as has mature-debutant Cameron Thurley.
The depth that carried the side in 2004 disappeared after round 11, when injuries saw shock losses to sides such as Fremantle at home and the Western Bulldogs, Collingwood at Telstra Dome. The backline suffered due to the loss of Tom Harley for much of the season. Full back Matthew Scarlett looked lost in the opening ten rounds but did come home with a wet sail, and was considered unlucky by most to not at least make the All Australian side's interchange. The midfield slumped as the likes of David Wojinski, Corey Enright and Joel Corey sat out games due to injury. And the ruck division, relying on the fragile Steven King and injury-prone recruit Brad Ottens, didn't quite work, putting added pressure on Mooney.
The Cattery thinks the season was indifferent. Considering the injuries we had mid-season and the 'arseyness' of Sydney's win in the last seconds of the semi-final, it is unfair to call the season a failure. On the other hand, we should have smashed the Swans when we had the chance. Should have beaten sides like Fremantle and Melbourne at home. Should have given Brad Ottens another fortnight's rest. All things considered, the season was indifferent - not really going backwards, and clearly not going forwards. That's on the field.
Off the field, things went from strength. Whilst The Cattery has reservations about the financial engineering evident in each season's Annual Report, the club is now clearly solvent and deserves to have thirty-thousand plus members and our own stadium. Of course, much of the off-field success is due to perceived on-field success, and fans are quick to jump off a sinking ship. When the likes of Frank Costa, Brian Cook stand down the future will be less certain.
The club has drafted capable youngsters, one or two of whom will play in 2006. As mentioned earlier, Travis Varcoe will wear the guernsey number made famous by the likes of Gary Ablett, Polly Farmer and Gary Malarky, Number Five. But don't expect to see Number Five in 2006, other than in the VFL. The real strength will come from the recruits of recent seasons (think Kane Tenace, Nathan Ablett, Matt Egan, Paul Koulouriotis, Mark Blake) who will play more regularly in 2006 after several retirements and delistings. The future is bright!
The Cattery expects the season to once again to be open to a bolter like the Swans this year or the Bombers in 1993.
GEELONG'S NEW NUMBER FIVE, TRAVIS VARCOE, PICTURED IN HIS CENTRAL DISTRICTS STRIP
ABLETT ONE SPECIAL SEASON
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