Young Cats have self belief

INTO THE BREACH: Geelong's Charlie Gardiner is among the crop of first-year players who continue to impress. Photo: GETTY IMAGES  
Monday, June 17

IT is about this time of year that the Cats were meant to fall over.

Kids traditionally tire mid-season and with a list so young, Geelong looked open to a massive letdown.

Young bodies grow weary after seven months of hard training. The honeymoon period gives way to a weekly grind that few first or second year players can ride and still perform at their best.

The onset of wet weather and heavy grounds usually doesn't help these nimble growing bodies.

But the Cats are surprising everyone the way they keep on keeping on.

Upset wins over Melbourne and Sydney in the past three weeks have many pundits re-rating them.

At 6-6 and with 10 rounds remaining, they are a realistic chance of making the finals but you won't catch Mark Thompson talking it up.

He knows the letdown could still come. And as we saw in the last quarter against Carlton in round 11, it can hit swiftly and without warning.

Saturday night's win over a highly motivated 14th placed Sydney was no giantkilling effort, yet it showed that from 28 points down, the young Cats had the self belief that they are never beaten.

Malcolm Blight took it a step further on Channel 10 when he said that rather than looking tired, Geelong's youngsters seemed to be growing in confidence as the season wore on.

When two of their best kids, James Bartel and Gary Ablett junior, were sent back to the VFL in the past month for a break, many believed it to be the start of the decline.

Yet into the centre stepped another promising draftee, James Kelly, whose hunger for the contest on Saturday night looks similar to that of a young Garry Hocking.

If during pre-season we were told Ronnie Burns would kick just one goal a game, Ben Graham would struggle through a form slump and Mitchell White couldn't get on the park, then predicting a wooden spoon would not have seemed so absurd.

Yet the Cats have been able to achieve a 50 per cent win-loss ratio with little input from their three highly paid stars.