I have been doing top ten players lists for the NRL recently, so I thought I would try my hand at the AFL, beginning with the Geelong Cats.
To get you up to speed, I choose ten guys from the entire list of any given team’s players (trust me this is no easy feat) and rank them according to games played, goals kicked and individual achievements earned while at the club.
I also have a ‘one club per man’ rule, so players like Gary Ablett Jr will only be eligible for one team, no points for guessing which side he qualifies for here.
Why start with Geelong you ask? Easy. I have lived in Geelong in the past, married a Geelong girl and they are the only team that I have seen live.
So on that note, here is my top ten list for the best Cats players of all time.
10. Billy Brownless
Billy Brownless is the fourth-highest goal kicker in the history of the club. Debuting in 1986, Brownless was a one-club man throughout his 198 AFL games, where he would plot an amazing 441 goals.
As a member of the late 80’s dominant force that was Geelong, he would play in four grand finals, 1989, ’92, ’94 and ’95 but sadly lost the lot. Despite this, he is still a living legend of the club.
9. Alistair Lord
Going way back to the retro days of the 1950’s, Alistair Lord debuted in 1959 and would play 122 games for the club, earning the Brownlow Medal in 1962 and was a part of the 1963 premiership-wining team, kicking two goals in the final.
He kicked 76 goals for the club and retired at the very young age of 26.
8. Bernie Smith
Smith came to the club in 1948, after a stint in the SANFL, and was a double premiership-winning player for the Cats in 1951 and ’52.
His efforts in the 1951 season won him the Brownlow medal and he became only the second man from the club to do so at the time.
He took over the captaincy in 1954, going on to be named in the Geelong and AFL teams of the century in 1996, the same year he was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame.
A defensive warrior for the Cats, he played 183 games for the club.
7. Paul Couch
Debuting for Geelong in 1985, Couch would win the Brownlow Medal in 1989 and was a part of the grand final team for that year, as well as 1992, ’94 and ’95.
He kicked goals in all of those grand finals. A part of the team consisting of himself, Brownless and Gary Ablett Snr, they made a formidable team on the field throughout the early 90’s.
Unfortunately, he never won a premiership for the club.
6. Doug Wade
Wade totalled an astonishing 834 goals from just 208 games for the Cats, becoming the leading goal kicker for the club at the time, this record would stand for over twenty years until it was broken by Gary Ablett Snr, who remains the only man to better Wade’s mark.
He would finish his career fourth on the all-time goal scorers list, with a mammoth 1,057 six-pointers after a short run with North Melbourne.
As a part of the 1963 premiership team, Wade was one of the best of his time. He became a member of the Team of the Century in recognition of an often underrated career.
A triple premiership-winning player, Chapman would earn himself the Norm Smith Medal for the 2009 grand final, kicking the winning goal in a thrilling final quarter against St Kilda.
A great hard player in the new glory days for the club.
4. Steve Johnson
Debuting in 2002, ‘Stevie J’ would also go on to become a triple premiership-winning player at the club and kick 452 goals across his 253 games at Geelong.
In 2007 he won the Norm Smith Medal for best and fairest in their grand final win over Port Adelaide. He has been a three-time All-Australian and the leading goalkicker for the club twice, in the 2008 and 2010 seasons.
3. Jimmy Bartel
Kicking off his career for Geelong in 2002, Bartel remained a one-club player throughout his 15-year career.
A member of the 300 club for the team, he finished with 305 games, kicking 202 goals before retiring at the end of the 2016 season.
Yet another three-time premiership player, Bartel would earn the Brownlow Medal for the 2007 season and the Norm Smith Medal for the 2011 grand final.
2. Gary Ablett Sr
Probably the best player to never win a premiership in the history of Aussie Rules, Ablett senior did everything there was to do in the AFL bar win a flag on the big day.
In the 1989 grand final, he booted nine goals and earned himself the Norm Smith Medal, despite suffering defeat to Hawthorn in what is regarded as one of the greatest finals of all time.
He has the all-time Geelong record for goals kicked, notching up an incredible 1,021 goals from just 248 games. He is also a nine-time leading goal kicker for the club.
He is one of just five players to pass the 1,000 mark in the history of the game.
He won Mark for the Year twice and was given Mark of the Century in 1994. He is also a member of the AFL Hall of Fame and the Geelong and AFL teams of the century.
Before I get to my number one, here are some honourable mentions. Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Harley, Cameron Ling, Joel Selwood and of course, Edward ‘Carji’ Greeves.
So who is the man to beat senior to the top? Well, junior of course.
1. Gary Ablett Jr
A real chip off the old block, Ablett junior succeeded where his father never could, winning two premierships and the Brownlow Medal twice (once with the Gold Coast).
Starting at the club in 2002, many would compare him to his father straight away, but he did not disappoint.
In his 192 games for the club, he would be instrumental in breaking the Geelong’s nearly fifty-year drought by slaughtering Port Adelaide in the 2007 grand final, guiding his side to a 24.19 (163) to 6.8 (44) win.
He would play in the next two grand finals in 2008 and ’09, winning the later.
He is an eight-time All-Australian and a two-time leading goal kicker for the Cats. It is just a shame that he didn’t continue his career at the Cats long enough to secure a third premiership.
Do you agree with my list? Who is your favourite Geelong Cats player?