AFL 1997 – Twenty Years On: Geelong Cats (5th)

The 1997 Cats had a dominant home and away season, losing only one of their nine games at KP (which included wins against Richmond and St Kilda with Hawthorn their one home defeat – take note fixturers).

Gary Ablett Sr. didn’t make it onto the park for the seniors after injuring a knee when selected in the magoos early in the year. Only thirty-two of their list were needed in the Ones, hence the bonus Buddha in these mug shots (courtesy of the Football Record).

Playing in the coveted Sunday 7pm slot in their 2v7 Qualifying Final against North, Geelong were on the wrong end of Wayne Carey’s seven goal haul. The following week at Footy Park, an appalling umpiring decision a sensational spoil by Simon Goodwin stopped the Cats in their tracks and they were out in, as they say, straight sets.

Mid table mediocrity was the hallmark of the next few years, despite a list containing such stellar performers as Glenn Kilpatrick, Marty McKinnon and David Mensch. Two of this roster did however hang on long enough to play in that record breaking 119 point victory against Port Adelaide, I repeat, Port Adelaide, ten years later.

Ok, Cats fans, your turn to have a crack back (before I get the sack). Who were your favourites from the 1997 list and what stories do you have of them before, during and after this regrettable season?



List Management

AFL Debuts 1997: Paul Corrigan, Adam Houlihan, Daniel Lowther, Darren Milburn, Cameron Roberts

Players Kept Under Wraps 1997: Gary Ablett, Gerard Bennett, Clint Bizzell, Leigh Brockman, Paul Brown, Simon Fletcher, Steven Handley, Stuart Lamond, Hamish Simpson, David Ugrinic

Never Heard of Him: Cameron Roberts

Delistings/Retirements end 1997: Gary Ablett (ret), Billy Brownless (ret), Paul Couch (ret), Simon Fletcher, Steven Handley, Stuart Lamond


You can review all of the AFL 1997 lists here

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. Swish i was still a Geelong supporter back in 1997. It was a year that started slowly, saw them finish top, then out in straight sets. Paul Lynch had his best year at the Cattery, though his hamstrings let him down in the first final, from there the Cats yera ground to a halt.

    Grant Tanner did his knee @ the G in the match against Essendon. I don’t think he returned.

    I don’t think Clint Bizzell played a senior game in 1997,. He ended up getting huge wraps on him. A level of recognition he never lived up to. He finished up kicking the dew at Melbourne.

    Adam Houlihan, once an apprentice Jockey to Richard Freyer; the late Richard Freyer.

    Jason Snellll always impressed though he suffered the horrible broken leg against Melbourne on Easter Monday 2001.

    Tim Hargraves a Berrigan boy, who ended up in Yarrawonga; not far from Berrigan.

    The late Paul Couch a wonderful player who was given such a great boost under Malcolm Blight. John Devine never seemed to rate him that highly, preferring Darren Troy in the pivot. One year under Malcolm Blight and he wins a Brownlow. John Devine coaching Geelong ???

    Good onya Swish, keep the sides coming.


  2. charlie brown says

    Swish, I’m a rabid (no, not Douglas) North Adelaide supporter but i had scarcely heard of Cameron Roberts either. I had to resort to the ABC and the NAFC history database for some clues:

    North – 24 games, 6 goals, 1996 and 2000-01.

  3. Where to start!

    Clint Bizzell’s family owned the servo on Latrobe Tce in Paddington just around the corner from our old Queenslander. There was a poster of Clint next to the Penrite Oil calendar. Clint was great to watch.

    Will return when time permits.

  4. Mick Jeffrey says

    Think Gerard Bennett ended up at Sydney, where his net contribution was a turnover in 2002 leading to Daniel Wulf hitting the post from point blank to draw a game. Also just how did Marty McKinnon get an SA Origin jumper in 1995, only to end up in Brisbane by the end of the decade (traded for Scott Bamford and Tristan Lynch)?

  5. Few blokes I admired here, on top of the obvious stars, were Paul Lynch and Jason Snell. Both cruelled by injuries.

    This year saw some of the greatest injustices ever in VFL/AFL history. The Cats finish the season first and get a Friday night gig against the “Friday night specialists” in North Melbourne (who played a lot of their footy on that day and at that time). Of course we got rolled. And then (remember we finished first) we play the Crows at Footy Park the next week. Colbert took a match winning mark which was denied. Umpire must have been picking his nose at the time.

    Revenge on the footy Gods came a decade later.

  6. Sorry Dips, i need be a pedant. The Geelong V North Melbourne match was on a wet Sunday evening . Yes i’m getting old, though i hope my memory is not going faster than my hair, but it was the last time i attended a Geelong final, thus i’m certain it was the Sunday.

    The Adelaide match was a Saturday night. I was in the bar at the Rose Hotel in Fitzroy.

    Then the Cats year was over.


  7. Dave Brown says

    Safe to say the finals series of 1997 and 1998 were the catalyst for changing the finals system. Can’t have those footy colonials winning premierships from unlikely positions or something [puffs pipe]. Tim McGrath was my favourite Cats player of that era (ginger solidarity etc)

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Gosh, thanks Glen for all of that.

    That makes two of us Charlie

    JTH – I’ll wait for the rest, but that’s gold in itself

    Mick – Marty McKinnon hit his high point at Centrals

    Dips – You finished second and it was a Sunday night and Colbert’s “mark” was in the third quarter

    Dave – Surprised that you didn’t bring this up:

  9. Many of this side had/have interesting post-Cats lives: Brownless (err, media, entertainment), Colbert, Graham (NFL), Pickering, Sanderson.

    Thanks Swish.

  10. Dips, It was definitely a Sunday night. I remember it well. It was a week after Lady Di died – which occurred the same day that Courting Pleasure won her last race – led all the way at Mildura to fall in. And, that’s right, I was given the shove by a woman who had eventually worked out I was never going to keep her in the manner to which she was accustomed.

    So many players to love in this team. Loved when the Cats were down by four goals. G. Ayres standard move: Brad Sholl to the guts. A bit like where he was sent at times by A. Jeans.

  11. I used to use a video featuring a Derek Hall speccie – as text book as you will ever see – when teaching Bruce Dawe’s superb poem The High Mark. Anyone got footage of that Derek Hall mark? Mine’s in some school library somewhere I reckon. Here’s the poem

  12. Friday night, Sunday night who cares. It was an outrage.

    JTH – who the hell is Lady Di?

  13. Ben Footner says

    I’ve got a Cats mate who still bangs on about the unpaid Colbert ‘mark’. Even the 3 flags they’ve won since haven’t seemed to have dulled the pain of that night for him (I’ve never stirred him up about it of course).

  14. Dips-Lady Di, I think he played for Collingwood. Seems to feature a lot in the little paper.

  15. Always had a soft spot for Bazza. Stems from chasing him regularly over 800 metres at Landy Field in the mid 80s. A very handy 400/800 runner, as was his sister, Clare.

  16. Luke Reynolds says

    Of course Paul Lynch went on to greater fame as 2014 premiership coach of Colac in the Geelong FL.

  17. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks all

    Mixed emotions JTH, I’ll see if I can track down Derek (Up There Derek?)

    Mickey – it was nearly Brownless MP

    Dips, glad to see that you are over it finally

    Don’t let up Ben

    Bazza is still kicking around in the IT consulting caper Belly

    Luke, was he better than Dwayne then?

  18. Derek Hall, a top player. One of those unobtrusive chaps who whist not a’champion’, always gave 100 % and a bit more. He didn’t have a long career at Geelong. Where did he finish up?

    Yes JTH, Sholl often found himself move down the ground to give the team a bit more G O. Managed quite a few goals for a ‘specialist’ back pocket.


  19. Dips, didn’t D. Spencer start out as Lady Di?

    Glen, no idea on D. Hall.

    Carl Steinfort played so well on N. Buckley every time that the Pies eventually recruited him.

    D. Mensch copped it – but I recall him turning not one, but two, games v North around that time. We didn’t get replays until after midnight in Qld, and I reckon I was screaming my love for mensch at the TV in the wee hours when he put W. Carey to the sword and then went into the ruck. That’s how I remember it – but it was 2am.

  20. Hitchens on Lady Di: “It’s as well she was an ambassador for the removal of landmines, for she was easy to lay, but damned hard to get rid of.”
    I think Hocking was denied a mark in that same game wasn’t he?

  21. I’ve been waiting *weeks* to see that Hitchens line revived… thanks ajc.

  22. ajc – that is brilliant.

  23. Swish. Not the greatest year for us Cats fans, but probably worse for Bullies and Saints supporters. And Lady Di. Things clicked for the Crows when it counted.

    A few memories:

    Cats thrashed by Blues in the pre-season cup final at the MCG, in front of a huge crowd. Ugh.

    Gary Ablett eased into the season in the ressies against Richmond in R1. Just needed a run to overcome what seemed to be a relatively mild knee twinge. Kicked six on Scott Turner and never played again. Double ugh. Cats lost the main game too.

    Those finals. Enough said.

    Ronnie Burns had a terrific year. Crowd roared every time he got the ball. Kicked some unbelievable goals.

    Grant Tanner (aka The Rifleman) never played again after the Essendon game (knee injury). A good tough player. The Bombers won the game narrowly after Blake Caracella kicked a late goal. Came to Geelong as an assistant coach about 15 years later. Now with the Tiges.

    David (he will be anything) Ugrinic. Clogged the list for five or six years. Played the odd rare game in the ressies. Always injured. Similar to one or two at the Cattery now.

    David Mensch. Saw him come off the bensch and kick seven one day (not that year). Good clubman who played over 150 games. Not the worst big bloke at the club in that era.

    Carl Steinfort. Mazenod boy. Good stopper who drew blood when he whacked Nathan Buckley one day. Buckley immediately smeared his blood on Steinfort’s jumper so that he had to go off as well. Both got rubbed out for a week. Pies liked the cut of his jib (surprise, surprise) and recruited him a couple of years later.

    Billy Brownless. Retired absolutely cooked. Could be brilliant or woeful, sometimes in the same game. Loved the brilliant bits though.

    Cheers, Burkie

  24. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Glen et al re Derek Hall – according to Wiki

    “He returned to the WAFL after leaving Geelong and played at Peel Thunder.

    Hall was playing coach of Mooroopna in the Goulburn Valley Football League from 2005 to 2007. He then coached Katandra in the Picola & District Football League until 2010, taking them a grand final in 2008 and preliminary finals the following two years.”

    Burkie – great stuff there, thanks, gives some more insight into the ups and downs of a Catter.

    ajc, Litza, Dips – I remember the quip about Will Carling commencing his acting career as the star of “Pokeahighness” – ahh the 90s

  25. Dennis Gedling says

    Bit late to this one but I am one of the Cats supporters still seething about what happened to us in the finals. Grant Vernon that four eyed snake. He looks a lot like our new Premier in WA too which as a Labor voter saddens me.

    What hurt for me when we went out in straight sets was the deep down knowledge that was it for the 1989-1995 boys that were left. This season was their last shot before we dipped down for a while and licked our wounds, made changes and prepared. I was also very happy that the likes of Hall, Burns et al were West Perth boys which game me some WAFL/VFL semblance.

    Thank Christ 1997 was a good year for music. It was gash for everything else.

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