Geelong’s 2022 review: The Hope, the Hurt and the Clanger

AFL

Not much else needs to be said but Geelong are the premiers of the AFL in 2022.

However, it would only be right to have a look at their season given the extraordinary stories all over.

Also, a shoutout to four-time premiership player and Cats legend Joel Selwood who recently retired after 355 games and this year’s flag.

Geelong’s season began in a flurry, taking care of Essendon by 11 goals as Tyson Stengle was unveiled unto his third AFL club with four goals.

However, Chris Scott and his men were victims to Sydney in round two, as Lance Franklin slotted his 1000th AFL goal and joined rare company.

The following three weeks saw some close battles with Collingwood, Brisbane and Hawthorn.

The Cats came out of that stretch with two wins, but fell to the Hawks in an Easter Monday classic.

Geelong sat seventh on the ladder after five rounds and questions arose as to whether they can endure the length of an AFL season given their age demographic (avg. 25.6 years).

Clashes with North Melbourne and GWS resulted in comfortable wins, however close losses to Fremantle and St Kilda rounded out their first nine games.

The loss to the Saints kickstarted an impressive run and stretch of form, which lasted until the last Saturday in September.

Leading into the bye, Geelong hosted both South Australian sides (Port Adelaide and Adelaide) down at Kardinia Park and were victorious whilst the Western Bulldogs put a scare into the Cats camp, until Jeremy Cameron took hold of the round 12 clash.

Returning from the bye, Geelong did not put a foot wrong as comfortable wins against the opposition came thick and fast.

However, round 15 caused Cat supporters’ blood pressure to boil, as a battle with Richmond presented itself as a game of the year.

Early in the piece, All-Australian defender Tom Stewart was reported for a high bump on Dion Prestia, sidelining him for four weeks.

Although it was going to be a big blow for Geelong, the club still managed to get the job done as some Jack Henry heroics saved the day.

From then on, the Cats had a winning average margin of 50, knocking off fellow contenders Melbourne and Carlton in the process.

Finishing the home-and-away season on top and claiming the minor premiership, the 2022 flag was Geelong’s to lose as the club put on a 13-win streak on the eve of the finals.

Mark Blicavs was joined by Hawkins, Cameron, Stengle and Stewart in the 2022 All-Australian team, capping off a brilliant season for the Cats.

Facing Collingwood first up was always going to be a challenge, given they generally match up well in the past.

After a slow start, Geelong finally got rolling in the third quarter, kicking three goals to trail by one point at the main break.

Quickly snatching the lead in the third term, it was the Pies who led by seven points at the start of the last and was quickly extended by a Jordan De Goey goal.

However, Cameron and Brad Close put the minor premiers in front as the fans were expecting it to go down to the wire. They weren’t wrong.

De Goey’s second goal came at 22 minute mark, before an epic contested grab by Gary Rohan and rocket from 50 changed the lead once again.

With scores level and two minutes remaining, Geelong managed to surge the ball forward from a kick out deep in their defensive 50, which resulted in a Max Holmes goal from the goal square and ultimately, the game.

Rewarded with a week off, the Cats took that time to freshen up head of a big preliminary final clash with Brisbane.

From start to finish, it seemed the Lions were not up to the task.

Patrick Dangerfield got Geelong going with two goals in the first term as the fat lady started singing.

Scott’s men cruised past Brisbane by 71 points and found themselves in the 2022 AFL Grand Final.

Sydney survived a Magpie scare the following day and were the opponents on the last Saturday of September.

Holmes – who was the match winner in week one of the finals – hurt his hamstring against the Lions and was shadowed with doubt about his availability for the next week.

Unfortunately for the youngster, he was forced to sit on the sidelines for the big dance as a heartbreaking story ensued.

Nevertheless, Mark O’Connor and Brandan Parfitt came into the 23 to replace Holmes as the Cats looked for their 10th flag.

After a slow and fumbly start, veteran Tom Hawkins broke the drought and slotted the opening major nine minutes into the first quarter.

From then on, it was an onslaught as Geelong were out to redeem the last decade of pain.

Six goals to one in the opening quarter to lead by 35 points, a margin that was increased by one at half time.

Then another half-dozen went through the big sticks for the Cats, as the Swans were left helpless and stunned.

The game was all but sewn up at the last change, with Geelong players, officials and fans savouring the final 30 minutes.

Skipper Selwood also joined in on the act, slotting an impressive check-side banana from 40 metres out.

Geelong claimed their fourth premiership in 16 seasons, fittingly beginning and ending Selwood’s career in the same fashion.

The Cats were able to defy all odds about their age, game plan and personnel as they became victors of the AFL.

Ironically, one of the oldest players on the field, Isaac Smith, who had previously inflicted pain to Geelong throughout his time at Hawthorn, was awarded the Norm Smith medal.

Smith kicked three goals from his 32 possessions and was given 14 votes, slightly ahead of Dangerfield (10) and Stengle (4).

The Hope

Chris Scott

Beginning his coaching career in 2011 and a premiership, Scott has done a full circle and added another cup to his cabinet.

Missing finals once in his tenure (2015), the former Brisbane player has continued to evolve as the game does, proving to be one of the best coaches of the modern era.

Nine top four finishes, two minor premierships and two flags is Scott’s resume, which can only hold hope for the near future.

What is also another starting revelation is his ability to change the game plan on the eve of the 2022 season.

Geelong were known for their methodical and slow play, which has worked but never won them a flag.

Scott added speed and dare to their intercept ability, proving to be the winning combination.

The Cats proved that to be the best, you must adapt to the conditions of the game (rules, opponents, etc) and that is what Scott did.

What will he think of for 2023?

History

As mentioned, Geelong have rarely missed the finals and always given themselves opportunities to compete for the flag in September.

Aside from 2015 season, 2006 was the last time the Cats found themselves outside the eight, with a unique and uncanny ability to regenerate and rebuild on the go.

Scott has taken the club to top four on nine occasions since 2011 and continues to find a way to win, despite the ageing list.

Geelong continues to defy the odds and there’s no reason why they can’t go back-to-back.

The Hurt 

Selwood’s departure

As sad as it was to see one of Geelong’s greatest players retire, the premiership was the perfect ending to Selwood’s career.

After 355 games, six All-Australians, four premierships (one as captain) and 245 matches as the skipper (most in V/AFL history) is one for the ages.

Put up next to Polly Farmer and the Gary Abletts (Snr and Jnr), Selwood will be recognised as a legend of the club and will until the end of time.

The Clanger

Loss to arch rival Hawthorn

Not much went wrong for the 2022 premiers, but in an attempt to find something, it has to be the Easter Monday loss to Hawthorn.

Expected to towel up the younger side, Geelong looked to be complacent early in the season and it showed in round five.

Allowing Sam Mitchell’s side to jump out to 23-point lead at the first change, the Cats were forced to play catch up for majority of the day.

However, what would be the stick in the craw for Geelong fans was the last quarter, which saw Hawthorn pile on four unanswered goals to four behinds.

Despite Hawkins and Cameron combining for six majors, it appeared that the Cats needed more than their star power to win games, which ironically initiated a tremendous run toward the finals.

What do Geelong need?

It’s easy to say nothing given they won the premiership, but going forward, the Cats need to look at regenerating their list.

However, Geelong fielded the oldest list in V/AFL history against the Swans in the 2022 AFL Grand Final.

With Selwood retiring and a smattering of their stars closing in on hanging the boots, the Cats need to focus hard in acquiring some young talent to help continue make the club relevant for finals.

Bringing in Bruhn, Henry, Bowes as well as some draft picks is a good start.

But more will need to be done for 2024 and beyond.

Another area of concern could be Geelong’s leadership.

Selwood has now retired, which requires others to step up. 

It’s hard to replace such a player but is what will be needed if the Cats are to live in premiership relevance.

Players linked to the club

GWS’ Tanner Bruhn is all but set to join Geelong, following two years at Western Sydney.

Bruhn – who is from country Victoria – is keen for a fresh start and is out of contract, with the recent premiers poised to swoop for the high-end talent.

Oliver Henry hasn’t re-signed with Collingwood, despite a deal in front of him.

Henry’s older brother, Jack, who was a pivotal part in the 2022 premiership could be a luring factor in getting the young Pies down the highway.

Jack Bowes proves to be an interesting prospect, as Gold Coast are keen to get his salary off their books by providing their pick seven as a sweetener.

Geelong have been named as a potential suitor for Bowes (and the pick seven), with a link to superstar Patrick Dangerfield, according to 7 News’ Mitch Cleary.

Connor McKenna has also crossed the desk of the Cats as the club attempts to regenerate their list and provide some speed in the backline.

Richmond ruckman Ivan Soldo has been floated as a target for Geelong, who will need a younger ruckman as Rhys Stanley and Jon Ceglar are in the 30s.

Jacob Hopper was also linked to Geelong but has since requested a trade to Richmond.

Out-of-contract players

Player Name Status
Zach Guthrie Out-of-contract
Tom Hawkins Out-of-contract
Gary Rohan Out-of-contract
Sam Simpson Out-of-contract
Zach Tuohy Out-of-contract

Retirees and Delistings

Player Name Status
Joel Selwood Retired
Luke Dahlhaus Retired
Francis Evans Delisted
Shaun Higgins  Retired
Quinton Narkle Delisted
Nick Steves Delisted
Paul Tsapatolis Delisted
Zane Williams Delisted

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