Should the Cats have had a review last year?

Yes, I know rhetorical question headlines can be annoying so I’ll say right from the start that I think Geelong should’ve had a review of some sort. Initially, I’m suggesting it because one was held at a similar time during Mark Thompson’s reign and resulted in minds being refocused and the coach receiving additional support.

 

I wouldn’t expect one to be repeated by such on field success, though.

 

In previous posts, I praised Chris Scott as a clear thinker and people manager, though raised a question about an aspect of his coaching philosophy and our inability to be psychologically up for matches that matter at the pointy end since 2011. Even during seasons, four-quarter efforts have been rare, in tandem with a tendency for too much predictable handball. Urgency and passion has often been missing. To what extent are the players expected to produce it themselves, and to what degree is a coach responsible for bringing it out of them?

 

The 2006 review wasn’t just about Mark Thompson, nor should any review be just about Chris Scott. But the outcome might’ve been that he could benefit by receiving additional assistance.

 

I expected 2016 to tell us once and for all about Scott’s coaching status, but by the end of the year was no wiser. We had progressed, aided somewhat by a favourable draw, but ultimately ended the season like every other since 2011.

 

We showed brief season-end improvement though, by winning a final against Hawthorn (some may say falling over the line was a more accurate assessment), only to go completely missing in the prelim against Sydney. In my mind we failed to ‘turn up’ then because issues hadn’t been addressed – in fact there seemed to be denial any problem existed.

 

Prior to the Sydney game, Scott was adamant we would be ready, and suggested after the match we were ready, when clearly we weren’t. The players trotted out the familiar line about that being what happens if you’re a little off your game. A review may have helped bring out contributing factors.

 

While writing this I’m keenly aware of the Scott family tragedy following the sudden death of Chris’ brother. By comparison football is trivial. So, this needs to be read in that context. Footy’s just a game we take seriously when there are less important matters to worry about.

 

If a review had been held last year it would’ve likely been interrupted and/or cancelled by the family loss, so in hindsight you could say it was wise not to have one. My writing of this article was postponed as well.

 

And I’m not being entirely literal – circumstances in 2006 were vastly different to now. Club history was weighing a lot heavier; issues ran deeper. Call it a review or reflection or refocus – whatever helped pennies drop to prevent trends continuing through to 2017. No doubt, in house, they did have discussions of some sort – whether it was probing enough time will tell.

 

Speaking of this season…

 

Will the loss to Sydney be the spur the players are publically claiming, or are they just saying the right words?

 

I haven’t seen any pre-season hit outs, though they are now even less an indication of real form than in the past. But one statistic has glared from Geelong games – an increase in the number of handballs! I read a report saying we’d been focussing on fast ball movement during the off-season. Mmm. I’ll reserve judgment, but have to admit to being a little concerned.

 

I’m happy for doubts to be proved unfounded, however.

 

But the season will be interesting whatever happens – as always – along with anticipation about new recruits and younger players reaching potential.

 

Ultimately, footy’s a tough gig, which is why players and coaches are so well remunerated. Competition is fierce and premiership success can’t be perennial. All that we hope for is to reach, or aim for, our best – and if our best is good enough, to be at our best when it matters.

 

A Carlton coach once famously blurted in frustration that, “Fifty percent of footy is half mental” (or words to that effect). We knew what he meant, and not much has changed.

 

Comments

  1. MGLFerguson says:

    Let me offer the perspective of a Geelong fan from the other side of the world. I am a guy who did not grow up with the game, so perhaps my observations are naive (and please feel free to tell me so); but it looks to me like the problems with the Cats aren’t the coaching as much as their personnel.

    In a nutshell, the Cats’ list looks, on average, really slow. And a few of the guys with some speed (Jordan Murdoch, fr’instance; perhaps Josh Cowan…) look like they may have had enough ability to be effective around the perimeter when most of the multi-premiership core was around, but look very exposed when they are put into more central roles. (And the same might be said of the guys with less speed; Mitch Duncan, I might be looking at you.) Making up for the lack of speed (looks like) has meant setting up defensively a kick behind stoppages, which in turn (until Dangerfield got here, at least) meant that they struggled to get clearances. Being (at least) a half-step slow has led to a lot of frees against.

    And what has frustrated me most over the last couple years has been the number of unforced turnovers leading to easy goals. Maybe I am seeing that through a biased eye – maybe the Cats’ don’t actually give the ball away more often than any other above-average side – but in any case, it’s hard to blame that on the coach.

    The other thing about the Cats which frustrates (but I don’t know enough to know if it is a coaching thing or an inevitability-of-player/list thing) is the way they tend to bomb the ball into forward-50, without any apparent plan other than a hope that Hawkins will fight off three defenders to mark or bring the ball down to a crumber (who mostly don’t seem to exist on their side). Maybe they just don’t have the quicks necessary to create enough space to mark the ball in a crowded forward-50.

    I think that they are really going to miss Enright and Bartel, and that this could be a long season.

  2. Looks to me the club doesn’t have a clear plan of how it wants to play and its list management particularly of forwards is haphazard. What does it say about the development of our forward line in the last few years that we now try to make a champion defender in the twilight of his career into an CHF? Why release Kersten and Vardy but recruit Black from North Melb? It’s obvious we don’t have issues with getting the ball inside 50 (2nd highest in the league 2016) but our goal kicking accuracy is poor. Take the time to compare our forwards with those of Hawthorn ie Breust, Gunston, Roughhead, Rioli, Puopolo and you’ll easily see that we don’t have an efficient or effective forward line. This has been the case for too long now.
    I think Paul Spinks’ call for a review is right but probably a year or two too late.

  3. Dave Brown says:

    Not a Cats fan, Paul, but I believe they overachieved last year. The real state of the squad papered over by a generous draw and the best player in the comp landing in their lap. The issue I keep coming back to is Geelong only had two current or former rookies (Blicavs & Ruggles) getting any game time in 2016. Compare that to 14 for Sydney and 11 for the Bulldogs. The Cats either have an issue with drafting or player development which may effect depth if they need to use more than 33 players in 2017 (used the 2nd fewest number of players in 2016).

  4. Paul Spinks says:

    G’day, MGL, Joe and Dave:

    Apologies for the tardy response – been sans web. You all make excellent points.

    Yes, MGL, it does have a lot to do with personnel. some of whom may have also had the misfortune to land at the club as champions were getting a little satisfied. I reckon a lot of the turnovers have been due to out tendency to overdo the handball, go sideways and backwards. “Finessin'” as Tom Hafey would call it.

    Joe, we always look much better when we’re direct (as do most sides). Danger is one of the bombers and could improve his game even more with smarter delivery. We seem to have lost that team play ethos forged under Mark Thompson. Share your concern about HT. Our end of season trading can sometimes resemble a bargain basement sale- this one with so much last minute haste it left some fans perplexed. In reviews, that sort of thing would be included I’d imagine. But Wells has so many runs on the board he has to be cut some slack.

    Dave, the draw and Danger did imbalance matters. Though there were some games we played poorly and still won and you’d think “gee, if we could just get our act together”.

    Sometimes the penny drops for a group of players. Not sure if it will for the Cats this year. But I’m looking forward to seeing how the Bullies follow-up and how GWS respond – not to mention Sydney and Freo – all the teams for that matter. And despite any misgivings it’s still: GO CATS!

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