Contrary about the Cats

So many pundits are predicting Geelong to storm into the top four it’s become like a meme, a clichéd observation people make without questioning the assumptions behind it – our recruiting coups.

Sure, we brought in good players that will both lighten the load for Joel Selwood and address the mid-twenties age gap, but we have also lost (discarded?) players of equal or better calibre with experience you can’t buy no matter how large the salary cap.

And with all the talk comes additional expectation and pressure, with all the hype comes the risk it will make its insidious way into player subconscious and dissipate action.

While last year was a test for Chris Scott, this season should prove, once and for all, if he is more than a good people manager and clear-thinking diplomat with an uncanny knack for choosing the right words. Can he motivate and strategize? Will he have us playing four quarters? Will we have plan B’s and gears?

The inability to stop teams when they get a run on re-emerged at times during the NAB Challenge, and in recent years we have performed lamentably in important games at the end of the season, including in finals. The boys need to be hungry to ward off those lapses.

It’s often stated that footy is a business these days and players are professional enough to motivate themselves, but it isn’t that simple. External inspiration is still required, even if it might take on different forms to the past. Desire still needs to be channelled in right directions, team ethos engendered, minds gotten right, goals clarified and reinvented.

I don’t claim to know a lot about the New Zealand cricket team, but I wonder how much their recent T20 performance against Australia was inspired by the death of Martin Crowe. That sort of external motivation might be short lived and only add a few percentage points to desire, but it reinforces that money and professional structures aren’t enough in themselves.

I have to admit, though, there is a level of excitement about the Cats that has been missing in recent years. It’s usually about the recruitment of Dangerfield et al but, for me, it’s also about the talented younger players that have been around awhile, but cruelled by injury (Vardy, Menzel, McCarthy etc), and about the potential improvement of other younger players (Gregson, Guthrie, Cockatoo etc.).

But with some of the more experienced younger players there’s room for betterment. Tom Hawkins is a great occasion performer, but at other times is inclined toward the lackadaisical. In the ‘farewell’ game at KP against Adelaide last year he showed what he could do when fired up – even running down and tackling players he would have, at other times, been less committed to chasing. Steve Motlop can be sensational, but needs a left boot, even if that could be wishful thinking. His inside-out passes often grub, look too cute and send the wrong subliminal message. Of course, I’m being churlish, and sometimes you have to take the sublime with the sloppy.

Essentially though, underneath the gripes, I’m a silver lining kinda guy, and will end by arguing against myself. Those older, experienced players we lost along with a little bit of principle, with the exception of Steve J., had probably become jaded anyway. James Kelly, in an interview a couple of years ago, said if he had to retire then, he would retire happy. Did that imply he was too satisfied? He may still have had the desire to play footy, but did he have the hunger required for ultimate success? Stokesy was stiff, but maybe his time was up and he eked out what he could from an AFL career when given the opportunity. (I’m trying to turn a blind eye to the fact they’re now playing for opposition clubs).

So, injuries aside, Chris Scott addressing some of the above concerns, and our remaining veterans being reinvigorated I’m looking forward to an exciting season, and to, at the very least, an improvement on last year (and to seeing some great footy whatever teams are playing).

We might even make the top …eight. With a bit of luck the top end of the bottom half of it …but I’m not mentioning any four letter ‘f’ word …let alone the longer ‘p’ one.

May your team prove contrary to devil’s advocacy and have a great year.

About Paul Spinks

I have writing published and performed in various mediums, but usually not enough of it to pay the rent. Had many jobs, travelled a lot, so I think this experience allows a broad perception of society. I'm not an academic, though did complete a BA as a mature-age student. Below are links to some published written pieces. https://newmatilda.com/2017/07/30/its-time-for-our-baby-democracy-to-walk/ https://meanjin.com.au/blog/the-elephant-in-the-chamber/ https://overland.org.au/2017/11/australias-workplace-laws-a-narrative-tragedy/ https://newmatilda.com/2019/05/16/the-green-blind-spot-on-australias-expanding-population/ https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/is-ashleigh-barty-the-saviour-australian-tennis-has-been-waiting-for-20200108-p53prl.html https://spinksytravelworld.com/pirate-of-padstow/ https://overland.org.au/2020/10/the-slow-death-of-a-public-institution/ https://overland.org.au/previous-issues/false-documents/fiction-paul-spinks/

Comments

  1. Cat from the Country says

    And I sincerely hope Commander Scott has a Plan B and can mzke it work

  2. Paul Spinks says

    Ditto Cat.
    An easy draw should also assist.

  3. John Quelch says

    Good article PS; but for me after 57 years of membership and barracking through thick, and mostly thin, I’ve never been so excited to see the start of a season. And, in my mind at least, it will be one to savour, like a fine wine in the making. The only strategic, and may I say, moral, error on the Cats part the untimely axing of the one and only Johnno, let me just say now for the record “This one will come back to bite us on the arse.”. At the end of the day for the Cats it will be about player management and injury. On a lighter note its good to see that the wheels have already fallen off the wagon of those March GF specialists, Carringbush, and this time in spectacular fashion too. Go Catter’s!

  4. Paul Spinks says

    Thanks, John. Hope it bites us on arse later than sooner, but I’m inclined to concur. Am off the ‘G now. Thinking it might take us a few weeks to hit form – but I didn’t see much of the pre-season, so hard to gauge. That didn’t seem to do much for the Pies once it got serious, though Swans played like it was a final. Hard to play all season with that intensity, but it’s a yardstick for them.

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