It wasn't a bad year for the Cats, but the real hope for Geelong lies with the young players who have been part of a long-term plan for sustainability. It should be an exciting season for them in 2021 as they reach the next stage in their development.
2019 finish: 2nd (Conference B)
2020 finish: 5th (Conference A)
In a Nutshell
From his first open-age signings back in 2018, it has been clear that Geelong coach Paul Hood has been playing the long game in building his team. A few peak-of-their-powers players were put on the wish list as the cream of the crop in Victoria’s south-west has been taken under the wing of seasoned veterans in the hope of developing a long-term, sustainable pathway for success. Whilst 2020 was not exactly an explosive success, the Cats have retained the nucleus ahead of the next stage of their development.
At times, the seams are all over the young Cats on match day. In its four losses, Geelong kicked just four second half goals as Brisbane (5.1 to 0.1) and North Melbourne (8.3 to 0.0) ran a train over the Cats after the main break. On the flip side, Geelong’s disposal was remarkably accurate for a side that spent much of the season on the backfoot: the efficiency was 64-67% across its six matches.
Hood could not be accused of being sentimental to his structures – the tall forward set-up of Phoebe McWilliams, Kate Darby and Maddie Boyd was pushed offstage for the speed and strength of Richelle Cranston, who spent more time than ever in front of the big sticks. Hood persisted with Georgia Clarke as a mid-sized forward and the 19-year-old kicked three goals in the Cats’ two victories. Meanwhile, erstwhile forward Jordan Ivey showed that her skills could be extrapolated to defence.
The Cats broke their duck against the Tigers in Round 4 with a club record score of 10.7, but it was a gutsy win on the road against the Gold Coast on an uncomfortably hot and humid Queensland night in Round 5 that was Geelong’s best performance for the season.
We can expect Geelong’s draft strategy to begin bearing fruit across the next two seasons. Half of the Cats are in the 18-25 year age bracket, including potential All-Australian midfielder Olivia Purcell, Denby Taylor, Rebecca Webster and Sophie Van De Heuvel. Also included in this stat is the perennially cursed Nina Morrison, whose second ACL injury in as many seasons is indisputably a blow to Geelong’s chances next season. Inaugural captain Mel Hickey’s retirement leaves a leadership void – early prediction is for her to pass the torch to another lynchpin defender in Meg McDonald.