Why the Cats need to get their hands dirty

Just who are Geelong?

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In recent years, we’ve known what the Cats have stood for, but right now they’re somewhat of an unknown. While Chris Scott has admitted they’re playing like an average team, I still believe their best is good enough to win the premiership.

At times they’ve looked untouchable, at times as vulnerable as anyone.

That’s why the Cats loom as the most intriguing side in the competition heading towards the halfway point of the season. There’s just so many question marks, and those question marks are becoming more pronounced by the week.

Over the past 12 months, Geelong have made a habit of struggling against sides they’re expected to beat, but regularly beating those around them in the top eight.

While it’s often said you only need to be one or two per cent off to be punished, is that a product of an even competition or, for the Cats, is it something more concerning?

Given Joel Selwood, Tom Hawkins, Tom Lonergan, Harry Taylor and Andrew Mackie played through the club’s great era, could the team’s inconsistency simply be the need for a challenge? Or could the Cats woes instead come down to structure? Are they too tall with Zac Smith, Rhys Stanley and Mark Blicavs in the one team?

Again, it’s a factor the club’s match committee would be grappling with, especially given the growing influence of the game’s little men in applying pressure around the ground and inside 50.

Geelong’s dependence on Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield is also much-hyped, but just how big is it?

Last year the Cats often got away with relying heavily on the pair, but already this year they’ve got away with it a lot less. While the coach has been keen to downplay the narrative surrounding his star midfielders, it is a very real problem.

With Dangerfield copping a knock early in the season, he perhaps hasn’t reached his Brownlow Medal-winning heights and that has again brought the reliance on him into question.

In basketball, a player like LeBron James can change an entire team, but for the Cleveland Cavaliers he’s one of just five on the court.

On the footy field, even the game’s best one-two punch is only two players out of 18.

We saw with the great Geelong side of recent times, as with Hawthorn and Sydney of the same era, there was no reliance on any one player. Alastair Clarkson knew that couldn’t be the case and prepared his team accordingly when it looked like Buddy Franklin was set to depart.

In this Geelong outfit, there’s not the same spread.

The next rung of Cats need to get their hands dirty and say to Selwood and Dangerfield: “Look, you boys have an afternoon off. We’ll do the heavy lifting.”

I’m talking about the likes of Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie, Blicavs, Steve Motlop and even Nakia Cockatoo. Duncan has been more consistent in 2017, but for the most part the performances from those types of players has been rather spasmodic. I reckon only once this year the Cats have won without either Selwood or Dangerfield really firing.

To a lesser extent Tom Hawkins is also isolated in the forward-line. When he is enduring a quieter period, who is picking up the slack?

Chris Scott has said a number of times you need your best players playing well to win games, and yes, that’s true. But the way the game is played you also need a posse of guys behind them pulling their weight.

Is that next tier really striving to reach the required level more often?

That will be answered as the season progresses and ultimately comes down to their mental application. The entire group needs to bring effort, intensity and desire every week if they’re to succeed.

Having said that, Friday night’s game against the Western Bulldogs might come at the perfect time. The reigning premiers on the Friday night stage could be the challenge Geelong needs to reignite their season.

While the Cats have dominated the Dogs in their past 10 matches, winning all of them, this clash will come as a huge test. In many ways the Dogs are their opposites, not necessarily in terms of style, but in team ethos. A great team, versus a team seemingly built on a few individuals.

That leads to the most important question of all: have these Cats got it in them to rise together as one?

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