Retired Geelong champion and aspiring list manager Jimmy Bartel provides a forensic look at your team at the end of the 2017 season and what it needs to kick on.
2017 record: 15-6
Position: Second on ladder after home-and-away season. Beaten in preliminary final.
Season review: The Cats vowed redemption after last year’s preliminary final flame-out against the Sydney Swans. But when all was said and done this year, it was a similar tale, but this time it was the Crows who handed out the punishment. Patrick Dangerfield had another stand-out season, Mitch Duncan elevated his standing as a midfielder, while Joel Selwood was typically robust. That he returned in time for the finals from ankle surgery was a testament to his character, but he was not the same player. Using Harry Taylor as a forward paid off at times but he is not the long-term answer for a marking tall alongside Tom Hawkins. While Hawkins finished the year with a team-high 51 goals, he would only have two goals in the finals. He is yet to prove himself a club great. Zach Tuohy was a great pick-up from Carlton, while Jake Kolodjashnij, Sam Menegola and Jed Bews continued their development. Wylie Buzza showed promise.
Unsigned free agents: Daniel Menzel, Josh Cowan, Steven Motlop
Retirements/delistings: Tom Lonergan, Andrew Mackie
Key draft picks: No.20. The Cats don’t have a first-round draft pick.
WHERE THEY ARE AT:
If Ablett is a lock to finish his days back back with the Cats, and either Jake Stringer or Devon Smith join him, they will have addressed their graveyard position, that being at small forward.
– Jimmy Bartel on what the Cats need to do
A top-two finish and eighth preliminary final in 11 years meant the Cats continued to put themselves in a position for another premiership. It’s hard to judge where they are at but they were overwhelmed in two finals, with flat starts against the Tigers and Crows. The Tigers and Crows applied the blowtorch around the ball, with this pressure making it difficult for the Cats to settle. Their highlight was beating bogey side Sydney. Dangerfield raised his game to extraordinary levels, Duncan had a brilliant season and would be a lock for a podium finish in the best and fairest, alongside the inspirational Selwood.
WHAT THEY NEED:
If Ablett is a lock to finish his days back with the Cats, and either Jake Stringer or Devon Smith join him, they will have addressed their graveyard position, that being at small forward. Injuries to Cory Gregson, Lincoln McCarthy and Nakia Cockatoo meant there was great reliance on Hawkins, Daniel Menzel and a resting Dangerfield to produce winning scores. They may also need to address the key defensive posts. Taylor turns 32 next year, while the retiring Lonergan and Mackie will leave big holes. Kolodjashnij, who began as a defender, has shown promise on the wing, with the Cats hoping rising defender Ryan Gardner can continue to develop.
WHO THEY SHOULD TARGET:
If the Cats are meeting the Suns over Ablett, it would be worth asking whether they would also part ways with Rory Thompson and Jack Leslie. Thompson is a red-headed version of Lonergan – tall, has a long reach and defends the lead really well. Injury and form issues restricted him to seven games this year. Leslie managed 13 matches and it would be worth asking him – and the Suns – if he feels he is behind Steven May and Thompson.
WHAT COACH CHRIS SCOTT SAID:
“Our season has ebbed and flowed in terms of the cohesion of our group and our injury list. We probably thought that we had a few holes right throughout the course of the season that we were always battling to fill. We had eight or nine debutants for the year. We had a lot of players used across our list. While it’s a credit to the players that are able to still get us to the point where we still finish second on the ladder at the home-and-away end, it would be much more preferable to be playing 25, 26 players across the course of the year instead of 36, 37.”