Geelong: Let’s have some realistic perspective

 

I had the misfortune to go on Facebook on Sunday night and it was awash with unhappy Geelong fans complaining about all manner of things following our narrow win over Melbourne. I repeat, “our narrow WIN over Melbourne”. Now, I’m not blind to the fact that it wasn’t a great spectacle, that it was two goals each at half time, that Geelong had a goalless second quarter and that there was a succession of clangers that A. prevented us from winning more convincingly and B. looked dangerously like allowing Melbourne to snatch a dramatic victory. I get all that, but, the first priority of any team playing a game of football is to win. To get the four points. The ladder doesn’t have a column for “ugly” or “boring” or “lucky”, it just says you won or you lost, and I for one know which column I want to be in. It seemed from reading the endless stream of negativity and criticism on Facebook that people had forgotten that one simple fact. We all remember the “good times”, the free-wheeling, high-scoring, entertaining footy and the premierships and of course we loved them but we are well past them now and especially in 2020 we need a clearer vision of football reality.

 

The 07-11 team was packed with superstars on every line, some of the greatest players the club has ever had and a few who rank with the greatest in the history of football. The 2020 team cannot and should not be compared with them. There’s still some champions- Selwood, Dangerfield and Ablett- but there are many more who fit into the category of average to good footballers. There are plenty of kids yet to fully prove themselves- Atkins, Parfitt, Clark, O’Connor, Miers. There are several imports who tend to be inconsistent- Rohan, Dahlhaus, Stanley and Steven. There is talent and potential but as yet there is inconsistency rarely seen before, evidenced by our WLWLWL pattern dating back to the middle of last season.

 

I get all that and I’m not pretending that I enjoy watching boring footy, but, I am a realist and have a clear sense of perspective on this season. It is unlike any other season in modern times. The Corona Virus pandemic has turned the world, the country and football on its head. Massive interruptions, modified rules (16 minute quarters), a floating fixture, hubs, border restrictions, isolation, disrupted training, mostly empty grounds and the ever-present possibility of positive tests, cancelled games and even a season that may not be completed all hang over footy in 2020.

 

I posted the following on a couple of Geelong supporter’s pages.

 

“On the Coodabeen Champions on Saturday they made the point that fans feel the pain of a loss way more than the joy of a win. Facebook is flooded with cranky Cats fans tonight, despite the fact we won and are in the 8. Are we perfect? No. But have a look around, Richmond the reigning premiers have 2 points from 12 since the resumption, West Coast, pre-season fancies, 0 from 12, GWS, Grand Finalists 4 from 12. Adelaide, 2017 GF are winless. Have some perspective, it’s a weird unpredictable season and anything can happen. Only Port and Brisbane are showing any real consistency, along with the much-maligned Suns. People can call for the coach to be sacked all they like but trust me, IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Yes, people are entitled to their opinions but please, have some realistic perspective and strap yourself in for a wild ride. Go Cats.

PS. 39, 67, 66, 64, 89, 41, 93, 67, 51,52, 64, 51, 83, 46, 44, 4, 58, 54.

 

What is this? The scores from the rest of this round’s games, Notice anything? Low scores are the new norm, sixteen-minute quarters are having a massive impact on scoring.”

Most of the criticism was directed at Chris Scott and at the low scoring/lack of attractive attacking football. Let me put my cards on the table, I’m a Chris Scott supporter. I accept that he has made some mistakes and some poor decisions (yes, the 2019 finals/prelim final was not his finest hour) but his record is extraordinary, he is intelligent and passionate and widely respected. I also think he is under-appreciated. I flat out reject the oft-repeated claim that he was handed the 2011 premiership and therefore should receive no credit for it. How many arm-chair coaches have I heard claim they could have coached Geelong to the premiership in 2011? What a load of rubbish!! Cast your mind back to the end of 2010. Geelong was soundly thrashed by Collingwood in the preliminary final. Master coach Mark Thompson left the club despite having won two flags in the previous three years, feeling burnt out and disenchanted with football. (I know where he is at now and am saddened at how his life has fallen apart.)

 

The best player at the club and arguably the Greatest Of All Time left for a new challenge and lots of money at the Gold Coast. Please don’t tell me that Geelong was a shoo-in to win the 2011 flag or that the coach had nothing to do with it. He clearly brought something to the table that was lacking. Remember the fact that either of the assistant coaches Hinkley or Sanderson were widely considered to be certainties to get the job. Thankfully the board saw and heard something in Scott’s presentation that convinced them otherwise. He brought fresh eyes and ideas and the legacy of being part of the Lions/Matthews winning culture. History shows that he achieved something very rare, winning the flag in his first season.

 

Many people say he and the club have under-achieved since then and I agree we have had some very disappointing losses in finals, I’ve been at each and every one of them and the pain still hurts and has left scars. But, let’s consider a few stats that seem to be overlooked or disregarded.

 

First, Chris Scott has the highest winning percentage of games coached in HISTORY for anyone who has coached over 100 games. His 68.95% win rate is better than McHale, Sheedy, Malthouse, Smith, Matthews, Clarkson, Jeans, Hafey, Barassi, Parkin or Kennedy. He’s done that over 219 games, a model of consistent and unparalleled high achievement. Under Scott Geelong have missed the finals only once, only Sydney can match that record and they too have won one flag in that time. He has coached the team in 18 finals for a 7-11 win/loss record. In the same period, Sydney are 10/10 for one flag, West Coast 9/7 for one flag, Richmond 7/4 for two flags, Collingwood 6/7 for no flags, the Bulldogs 4/2 and one flag. Meanwhile, Adelaide 5/5, GWS 5/5, Melbourne 2/1, Port Adelaide 3/3, North Melbourne 4/4, Fremantle 4/5, Carlton 2/2, Brisbane 0/2, St Kilda 0/1 and Essendon 0/4 haven’t won flags in the same period. The standout coach and team in the same era is Alistair Clarkson at Hawthorn with a 12/8 record and three flags.

 

Only 12 coaches have won a flag in their first season, most of them between 1897 and 1934. In the last 50 years, only John Nicholls 1972 and Allan Joyce 1988 have done it apart from Scott.

 

Again I say, the finals losses hurt, but put in perspective, Chris Scott’s record stands up well in my opinion. Premierships are the ultimate goal but they are not the only things that define success or bring pleasure and satisfaction in football. A simple hierarchy goes something like this: winning a game, winning successive games, winning more games than you lose, finishing higher than the previous year, finishing in the top 8/making the finals, finishing in the top four/getting the double chance, finishing in the top two/double chance and “home” finals, finishing on top of the ladder/double chance/“home” finals, winning a final, winning two finals/making the prelim, making the Grand Final, winning the Grand Final. There is plenty of scope for success and satisfaction in this hierarchy, bearing in mind that ONLY ONE team can win the flag per season and it’s INCREDIBLY HARD TO DO. Everything has to go right: form, injuries, luck, timing, even the bounce of the ball. Premierships are never won easily, they are the culmination of hard work, good management and good fortune. More than one 2011 Geelong premiership player has credited Chris Scott with winning the flag and said it wouldn’t have happened without him.

 

Those calling for him to be sacked are deluding themselves if they think the club is going to agree. There are no guarantees in football. Chris Scott may not win another flag at Geelong but until he uterly fails in his job I’ll back him. Only two lots of fans get to go to the big dance each year and only one lot go home happy, for the other 17 teams we need to find happiness and satisfaction in the journey, not just the destination.

 

Marcus Holt

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Marcus,
    well researched, well written, and makes a lot of sense.
    It also seems a well-polished defence of mediocrity. (That last word a bit stronger than required.) One must rail against being an also-ran. Your acceptance of a shiny win-loss ratio is bordering on Shinbonerism, or Buddhism. Get your things packed, when the current Dalai Llama carks it I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re plucked from suburbia and flown to India and handed a robe. Carn The Cats.

  2. Thea Allan says

    Thanks Marcus. I know the comments are often negative on fb and I try to find the positive.
    Losses are not always the coaches. The players have to take responsibility and step up.
    I do believe that high scoring game against the Hawks is having some hangovers.
    It is a mad season. I thought I was doing OK not having foot, but, oh my … I love watching again.

  3. Sorry Marcus but I’m in the ajc camp. Scott is a reactionary without vision, a manipulator of perceptions, a chap who always regards himself as the smartest in the room. He is a master of doing enough to get the Cats into the 8 but has neither the game plan nor the coaching nous to step up in the finals heat. My main criticism is his inability (and this might be a bit harsh but he must carry the can) to bring on the young talent. Thee are a few exceptions (Stewart and Blicavs and Parfitt perhaps) but his record of improving young footballers is poor, relying instead on imports.

    I regard him as the quintessential corporate coach; pleasing to the Boardroom and sponsors and sod the rest. The histrionics in the box are embarrassing. But I will give him one thing: he’s a survivor.

  4. Andrew Gaylard says

    I’ll put up my hand in Marcus’s camp. I’d add to his case that I recall a coaches’ poll from a few years back where Scott’s contemporaries rated him highly – possibly highest, I forget – as hard to coach against on match days. Apart from that, Marcus has pretty much said all the things that I say when I get into a discussion about him, but in a far more structured and articulate fashion.

  5. Stainless says

    Marcus I’ll weigh in on your side as an outside observer.
    Most clubs would kill to have a coach with a nearly 70% success rate over a decade. For Scott to have achieved this while presiding over the decline of a genuinely great side to merely a very good side is impressive.
    I’ll grant Dips’ point about nurturing young talent, but perhaps Geelong’s track record is the price you pay for being near the top of the ladder every year. Or maybe it’s wistful thinking from a fanbase that regards recruiting the early 2000s Golden Generation as par for the course?
    Yes, Scott’s finals record since 2011 isn’t great, but as you point out, it’s not dire. In how many of those years could you honestly say Geelong was the best team in it and underperformed? Maybe 2016?
    What I will say is that Geelong as a club and a supporter base has done itself no favours in constantly carping about where finals are played. It’s turned what should be a non-issue into a psychological barrier. Scott has been a ringleader on this and has done himself and his club no favours.

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