Almanac Footy: Can a peculiar footy year stop Cat history repeating?


Where are the Cats at, as we prepare to take on Port in the City of Churches tomorrow night? Will this year see a repeat of our finals performances since 2011? Can you un-mea culpa a mea culpa? Not that I want to rescind the Chris Scott mea-culpa I made during the footy hiatus, in a mood of Corona kindness when we were all in it together. I lauded Scott’s leadership then, lined Cat clouds with silver, saw the bright side of mediocre success, and raised cellar-dweller expectations based on the Round 1 match against GWS (while a loss, there was promise in how we played). That mea culpa still stands.


Then again, the only thing more contradictory than the Cats are my assessments of Chris Scott.


Yes, once the season recommenced, for better or worse, un-mea culpa pens were occasionally hovered following Scotty reversions to presser deflections and flummoxed responses when the side had a go-slow no-show, such as against the Pies in Perth.


Then came a run of fine form: convincing wins as our bigger-bodied players dominated fancied opponents. I even found I could almost tolerate tempo footy when David King lauded it as a tactic to draw opposition players out of our forward line – at least that explanation justified it with something resembling acceptable logic. But, we also had gears, and balanced the go-slow with blitzkrieg bursts that were fun to watch. Percentage surged along with our climb up the ladder.


I started to believe. I even returned the dial to SEN. The media installed us as premiership favourites. Could this time be different? Warnings instantly flagged – isn’t that what investors claim during every stock-market boom, that this time there won’t be a bust? What’s that saying about folly and fools? Or is it pride before a fall?


Anyway, we immediately proceeded to stumble to the home-and-away line. But while the form fade-out appears similar to last year, those looks could yet prove deceiving.


The form turning point, however, was during a win against the Bombers – 10 goals up, little opposition and two quarters still to play out. During dead time, bad habits crept in, evidenced in wayward delivery and sleepy decision-making.


Concerns were realised when that play carried over to the following match, along with an overdose of tempo, which isn’t to deny how good Richmond were and why they’ll be hard to beat (and who also encountered the unexpected luxury of being underdog). Had I penned a post about that match it probably would’ve been titled: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!


Christ, Chris.


Better to get bad games out of the way now rather than in the finals was my silver lining.


Against the Swans, we needed an emphatic response, though a loss or a ho-hum win was also on the cards – but, it ended up being a come-from-behind fall over the line, which is kind of hard to place in the form scheme of things.


An Age columnist labelled it a wake-up call. He was a week late.


And so, we find ourselves [Port] Adelaide-bound.


Logic and history present several reasons the Power should win: home ground advantage and a parochial crowd (any crowd is a positive in these times), they’re hungry, in better form and with momentum, and they have a point to prove against us, just as Richmond did during the finals of 2017, and likewise, Melbourne in 2018.


Our recent end-of-year and post-bye struggles have been well documented. However, Port also have their demons against us. Our best chance is to draw on finals experience, get on top early and sow the first seeds of doubt.


Finals for us have become a bit like the last day of the US Masters for Greg Norman. Christo believes history is irrelevant – these are different players forging their own path. I think he said something like that last year too. What’s that about ignoring history? I think I responded something along that line as well.


Chris also claimed we’d be a better team this year. He could be right. In the Swans post-match presser, he also declared confidence in our ability to persevere, emphasising that we have to start again now …and steel ourselves. Apt words, and preferable to the odd player selections and mind games of last year.


Hope he doesn’t start Danger in the forward line. We also tried that, unsuccessfully, in the 2017 prelim against the Crows in Adelaide – shudder. Moves like that are best as an occasional surprise tactic. But then again, history might not repeat. This season is so different, perhaps the past has been made redundant and fate-clocks reset.


While I’m prepared for a loss against Port, it can still be a match to regain form, and I’m open to surprise. Either way, a ‘home final’ in Brissy beckons, and from then on anything is possible.


I’ll be watching the Port match via a smart phone on a rise along a dirt road, where there’s a mobile signal about 9 k’s from my Grampians/Gariwerd campsite. It is where I now type this. Not that I want to rub it in to those enduring Melbourne lockdown – but it’s nice out here in nature, even despite today’s inclement weather.


As for Chris Scott this year, he and the team exceeded my expectations, but after raising hopes once again and getting us into position to pounce, and ten years at the helm, a grand final berth is a pass mark. Falling short of that, he probably should walk, no hard feelings, because history will have become stuck in a loop.


Regardless, I won’t un-mea culpa the mea culpa.


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About Paul Spinks

I have had writing published and performed in various mediums, though not always with the luxury of a deadline. Below are links to some pieces published beyond this great site.

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