Almanac Footy: Best Geelong team for 2021?



Mad Cats fan, and astute footy judge, Deakin Uni student Chris Mangos, turns his hand to picking Geelong’s best 22 in position. Not an easy task. And one that will generate debate.



The hardest thing to do as a sports fan, is to be rational and fair when it comes to your own team. The Geelong Cats have been my team in the AFL since I could even remember. My earliest memory is my Dad telling me how he became a fan after meeting the great Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer as a kid. Every year, my infatuation with the club has always had me asking the question: who are the best 18-22 players on the list? In previous years where Geelong dominated with their performances each week it was easy to slot players into positions without much thought, but that was not the case this season.


There are many players on the 2021 Geelong list who’d believe they can get a game and play a role every week.


These are my best 22 Geelong players for the 2021 season, picked with position and team balance in mind:


FB: Tom Stewart                        Mark Blicavs                             Jack Henry


HB:   Tom Atkins                        Lachie Henderson                     Jed Bews


Backline players like Stewart and Bews, have established themselves as essential and consistent contributors. Blicavs as the full back, is pivotal when playing against key forwards in teams like Richmond, West Coast and Brisbane, who like to play multiple tall forwards. Henry has gone to another level of performance in this 2021 season, looking more composed and confident in all aspects of his game, it looks like he is locking his spot.


Players who could be developed for backline positions that I see having potential in the future are, Kreuger or De Koning.  They are potential possible replacements for Lachie Henderson, who is doing a great job right now as a second key defender.


Henderson has his moments where he looks slow but on the right matchup, shows his value playing the ‘Harry Taylor role’ as the veteran defender. Atkins, who has been in different positions for the last few years, looks settled down back, using the ball well and puts manic pressure on his direct opponents. He can win a one-on-one contest and is one of the better tacklers on this team.


Now for the centre line…


C:         Issac Smith                   Cam Guthrie                             Sam Menegola


The addition of Issac Smith on the outside has been such a revelation for Geelong this season. Smith allows the Cats to be able to be freer flowing and attacking, with his great leg speed and beautiful kicking. Not much needs to be said about Guthrie, who has backed up his impressive 2020 season into this year. Being all Australian last year, Guthrie has been leading the charge in Geelong’s middle, and his form indicates he is having another All-Australian calibre season. Menegola, who can drift in and out of games, plays a pivotal role like Smith, is a great user of the ball when it is in the forward half of the ground. Geelong likes to use wingers to help defensively, with Menegola being exceptional working back, with tremendous conditioning to be able to maintain for four quarters. This is an elite centreline that can be damaging offensively and defensively. Now to the Forwards…


HF: Brandan Parfitt       Jeremy Cameron                      Shaun Higgins


FF: Brad Close               Tom Hawkins                            Gary Rohan


The hardest part of picking this Geelong team was identifying the best options down forward, when many could fit into this position. Parfitt has been great all year, and his ability to play midfield, improving on his ball use either by hand or foot and work off-ball, gets him this spot. Higgins’ injury early in the season disrupted the development of chemistry with his new teammates. An elite ball user, especially by foot, Higgins in the ‘Ablett role’ brings a little class and composure when hitting beautiful passes to Cameron and Hawkins.


The battle for the other forward pocket next to Gary Rohan was the most challenging. I had to choose between Brad Close and Gryan Miers. Close won the spot, not on pure talent but his ability to deliver. Close regularly puts effective pressure and has excellent speed. The one ability he has over Miers is that Miers tends to struggle with quick decision-making. Close will get the handball or kick and not hold the ball for too long, whereas Miers can overcomplicate situations and try to do much with the ball. With the consistency of Close’s performance, we know what to expect each week.


With Hawkins and Cameron, no explanation is required with these two star key forwards who can dominate any game anytime, by either taking marks or on the scoreboard. Gary Rohan, often takes the lead, applying pressure down forward and inspiring others across the ground. He is also a barometer for this team; if he is playing strongly, the team is; if he is not, the team usually is not going well.


Now for the Ruckman and followers.



Fol:       Esava Ratugolea            Joel Selwood                 Patrick Dangerfield


With Stanley showing flashes of great performance one game and the next is non-existent, Ratugolea is the man for the job. He has the athletic ability to compete with most ruckmen, very mobile for his size, and works very hard. With Ratugolea needing experience and time in the position, Sav can handle the middle, Blicavs seems better suited back and Hawkins can pressure of Ratugolea by take forward 50 ruck stoppages. Selwood is the leader, looks rejuvenated and is having a solid season. Selwood doing Selwood things will never stop. He can draw free kicks, frustrate other teams’ players, and get the contested ball at an elite level when needed.


To add a Brownlow medallist to the middle needs no justification; Dangerfield can still be one of the best players in the competition if healthy and on his game. His explosive speed and talent are on display regularly, hitting the contest like nobody else in the AFL can. Having him in the midfield will help Geelong win more centre clearances and create more one-on-one contests for Hawkins and Cameron.


Bench: Mitch Duncan, Zac Tuohy, Jake Kolodjashnij, Mark O’Connor.


(Medical Sub: Gryan Miers)


Mitch Duncan would normally be a player I would place on the wing, but he has been rotating in the middle more often. Duncan is an elite ball user, an under appreciated midfielder with an ability to win and hit targets at the highest level, who would make any team’s best 22. Zac Tuohy is still a tough, versatile player who can play back when needed, forward, and, if required, midfield. Tuohy is still incredibly fast, works hard off-ball and has a beautiful kick of the ball (best torp kick in a long time). Kolodjashnij provides some additional size to the back if needed, also having the ability to play on small guys; he has strong overhead marking and tough around the contests. O’Connor has established himself as a good midfield tagger and defender. O’Connor is fantastic at lining up on a critical player for the other team and locking them down; if not required, he can go back and help the backline. Very composed when under intense pressure and such a great user of the ball. As the medical substitute, he is on the fringe; Miers can get a spot if he can tighten up on his unnecessary turnovers and, attack the contest can get back in the side.


Emergency: Jordan Clarke, Charlie Constable, Quinton Narkle, Francis Evans


These four youngsters have the absolute right to think that they are justified to get a game. Jordan Clarke has excellent speed and improved his kicking but has moments like many youngsters; he tends to drift in and out and not impact the contest. Constable must be the unluckiest younger player at Geelong; If Guthrie, Duncan, Menegola, Dangerfield and Selwood were not on the team, he would get a chance. Constable is a solid inside midfielder and if anyone is hurt, the first man up. Narkle, who has been playing well since coming into the side, needs to show a consistent high-level play to force Chris Scott and the coaching staff to find a spot for him. Narkle has had issues running out of games, but he is playing a consistent four-quarter performance this year. Evans, who is younger and recovering from a severe ankle injury, has shown that his capable of playing the small forward role. His ability to pressure hard and goal awareness. The injury will cause Evans to probably have to wait for the 2022 season to shine again, but if there are injuries to small forwards, Evans can come in and do the job.


Guys Like Rhys Stanley, Zac Guthrie could also have something to say about getting a position, but their inconsistent play means we have a decreased confidence in their consistency and this and makes it hard to put them in the team.


In this 2021 season, Geelong has 28 players who make a valid argument for selection, and it is hard for a fan like myself to pick. I could not imagine having to do this every week. The best issue to have as a coach is having too many players, fighting for positions which helps create a strong competitive culture. There is a long way to go, but the 2021 Geelong Cats are a very talented side with a good mix of youth and maturity, and if they can stay healthy, the sky is the limit.


The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE



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  1. Happy to see Kolodjashnij in there. Very underrated when he’s on. He and Bews have improved leaps and bounds over the years. I think what we learn from this is that if you are willing to put in the hard years, you’ll earn a permanent spot in the best 22. Great read.

  2. Colin Ritchie says

    I’m not a Geelong supporter but I’m always impressed by Rhys Stanley when I watch them. Mobile and agile he can take a vital mark and/or kick a crucial goal. If I was a Cats fan I’d have Stanley in my side.

  3. chris_mangos says

    In theory, Colin, I would agree with you. Stanley will have games where he looks fantastic, and then others he disappears. The best example of this was against West Coast Eagles this year; Stanley looked terrific and dominated Nick Naitanui, then the next week struggled to perform against an injured Tom Hickey in Sydney. If Stanley could maintain performances like against West Coast, then he would keep a spot. Having Ratugolea develop into the role is the best thing for Geelong.

  4. I’d have Duncan in,but who for? Atkins is solid, but having him in might driven by the approach. Should Geelong try to win games,or not lose them.

    Stanley is so hot and cold – and such a confidence player.

  5. Rulebook says

    Well played Chris and for mine,Ratulogea adds the desperately needed physicality.Dalhouse is the one that I will be surprised if he’s not in the side,I better add my bias love to see Ben Jarvis and Cam Taheny get a chance

  6. roger lowrey says


    I admire your bravery in venturing where faint hearted other souls like your current author wouldn’t dare to tread.

    That said, I reckon you have almost nailed it. Take it that I agree with everything else you say except for two question marks.

    First – the achilles heeled elephant in the room if I could grotesquely not so much mix my metaphors as slaughter, bury and cremate them – is our first ruck position. Hello! Emperor, you are wearing no clothes! Neither Stanley nor Ratugolea is a dominant premiership winning ruckman hence why I very much doubt we will win the flag this year. Buggered if I know which one to go with but they both have frustrating strengths and weaknesses. With Blicavs/Hawkins providing pinch hitting back ups at each end of the ground, you can’t have both.

    Secondly, it’s a really hard call but, at least on exposed recent form providing it holds, I can’t have Narkle out of the side. My only pragmatic suggestion therefore is to eliminate the Close/Miers spot, move Higgins into it and play Narkle in the spot you now have Higgins.

    Two other separate but related comments. Dalhaus doesn’t feature in my side either. He was barely adequate last year and he has been invisible this year. His best years seem to be behind him.

    And finally, may Zach bloody Guthrie have a long and uninterrupted VFL career!

    Again Chris, our differences are minor so well done. Go Cats!


  7. chris_mangos says

    I agree Roger! Clearly, Geelong has issues finding a ruckman since having Brad Ottens 10 years ago. Hopefully, Ratugolea can grow into that, but it’s been holding the team back for a long time now.

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